Suicide-prima facia. Suspect death
March 31, 2019 at 12:51 pm, No comments
Have all the circumstances of death been established, including any other scenarios other than suicide?
At the end of the investigation, are there any elements that could create doubts about the conclusion of suicide?
Did the judicial authorities do everything in their power to remove any doubt about the cause of death?
Are there any procedural omissions or irregularities on the part of the judicial authorities that would have compromised the investigation or the possibility of a full explanation of the case?
The victim's relatives were involved in the procedure to the extent necessary to protect its legitimate interests?
The investigation was promptly conducted, and ex officio?
Authorities considered the event as a suicide prima-facia, and, if so, for what reason?
Did the investigators take reasonable steps to follow the investigation lines proposed by private and official sources about the real cause of death?
Is there enough evidence to exclude the hypothesis of a dissimulated murder in the form of a suicide?
These are just a few of the key questions to establish if the State has fulfilled the procedural obligation to conduct an effective investigation into the death of a person. Sure, not every death, can "activate" the State's obligation to conduct an effective investigation, but only those violent deaths, which at first seem to be a suicide.
Death from a forensic and legal point of view can be considered violent or non-violent. Between these two types, there is also an intermediate option - which is only maintained until the investigations are completed - namely the suspected death of being violent.
Suicide- at first sight- death suspected of being violent.
There have been situations where homicidal acts have been "disguised as suicides", so the acts have been disguised.
Unconventionally, we have called this "suicide-prima facia" situation to designate, the hypothesis of which, at first sight "seems" to be a suicide, and here is the question: What conduct must be adopted by state judicial authorities?
Evidence or clues should not be searched to research the homicide investigation version, but on the contrary, in order for this version to be abandoned, there must be clear evidence to exclude it. However, until it is determined if some evidence exists or not, they must be identified and administered, in other words, the investigation must be initiated without delay and ex officio, as in the case of a crime.
The state's obligations to protect life
Life is the most fundamental right of any human being and enjoys the highest legal protection, both nationally and internationally, where states have compelled to respect all human beings the right to live.
The State has a set of procedural obligations arising from Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely to initiate and conduct an effective investigation, on the circumstances of a person's death, in order to identify and punish those responsible.
The procedural obligation to conduct an effective investigation
Basically, we could say that in any deadly situation suspected of being violent, the state has an obligation to engage in an investigation to clarify the circumstances in which death occurred, and to accountability to those guilty.
Standards required for an effective investigation
1) Adequate character of the investigation. Authorities are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure evidence of the incident, such as: testimony of eyewitnesses, forensic evidence, an objective analysis of clinical findings, including the cause of death. Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to exhume the deceased's bodies, despite the opposition of the family.
2) Promptness of the investigation and initiation ex officio. Two aspects are required to be verified under these aspects, namely: when the investigation was actually started and its duration. It is worth pointing out that a possible slowing in the investigation, or even delaying, affects its credibility, and even worse, can be interpreted as an act of tolerance of such facts, or even complicity.
3) Independence of investigators. If the initial appearance, prima facia, is that of a suicide, the acceptance of this version by the investigator, from the earliest researches, clearly proves a lack of independence and objectivity that affects the effectiveness of the investigation as long as other “leads” run the risk of being unchecked or not enough researched.
4) Public control and involvement of the descendants of the victim. Authorities are not required to disclose all the data of the investigation file, but some information on the course of the investigation and the results must be given to the public, this for the fact that the protection of life represents a general social value that interests the entire society. In particular, the descendant of the victim must be involved in the procedure to the extent necessary to protect his legitimate interests. Their involvement is not limited to giving access to the investigation file but they must be able effectively to express their position on certain aspects of the investigation.
CONCLUSIONS In the case of suicide -prima facia- the authorities have an obligation to conduct an effective investigation, this being considered as a suspected death of being violent. The requirements of the investigation should be similar to that of murder.
Undeniable, the findings of the investigation must be based on an in-depth, objective and impartial analysis of all relevant elements.
Thus, if a suicide is presumed to have taken place, the authorities will demonstrate that they have done everything in their power to remove any doubt.
At the end of the investigation, family doubts, which are reasonable and justified in relation to the facts of the case, related to the real causes of death, must be removed.
Artin Sarchizian, Attorney at Law