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Torture by Police - understandable?

 
 
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 02:17 am
Quote:
20.02.2004

Frankfurt Deputy Police Chief Charged in Torture Case

Prosecutors on Friday filed charges against Frankfurt's former deputy police chief for ordering threats of violence against the chief suspect in the kidnapping and murder of a prominent banker's 11-year-old son.


Wolfgang Daschner, who has since been moved to an administrative post within the state interior ministry, is being charged with "serious coercion." The detective whom he asked to threaten a suspect is facing similar charges, according to prosecutors.

Daschner allegedly ordered officers to threaten the suspected kidnapper of 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler, Magnus Gäfgen, with "intense pain" during questioning in October 2002. Gäfgen, who had given the police a number of false locations for the boy's whereabouts, immediately told officers where he had hid Jakob's body and belongings after the threats. A Frankfurt judge sentenced Gäfgen, who had kidnapped the boy Sept. 27, 2002 and received €1 million ($1.26 million) in ransom money, to 15 years to life in prison on July 29, 2003.

Torture threats a serious crime

Reports of the alleged torture threats sparked a debate in Germany when they first came out in January 2003. Torture in any form is illegal in Germany and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.

The judge in the Gäfgen case, however, said the torture allegations did not affect his ruling on the convicted murderer's guilt.

"With the threat of torture, the police did grave damage to the rule of law of this country," Judge Hans Bachl told the court at the time. "Their guilt, however, has nothing to do with Gäfgen's guilt."

Prosecutors immediately launched an investigation into the incident and Daschner was temporarily suspended.

Deputy chief says threats were crucial to finding boy

The 50-year-old police veteran has defended his actions. He said his threats to employ a martial arts expert to hurt Gäfgen were necessary to locate Jakob, who police believed was still alive. Gäfgen told them after his confession that he had killed the boy four days before police found the body on Oct. 2, 2002.

He was backed initially by Frankfurt Police Chief Harald Weiss-Bollandt. But Weiss-Bollandt dropped his support as prosecutors began gathering evidence.

International human rights organizations, like Amnesty International, as well as the police union, have greeted the decision by Frankfurt's chief prosecutor.

"We hope that the decision will also make clear that torture, in any case and without restraint, is not allowed and will continue not to be allowed," said Wolfgang Genz of Amnesty International Germany, according to wire reports.
http://www.dw-world.de © Deutsche Welle



Policeman admits torture threat

I think, although it might be understandable, why the Deputy Chief acted such in that situation, it still is unacceptable: police is part of a democratic, legal system and can't give examples, how it would look like without it.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 4,459 • Replies: 37
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Noddy24
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 06:46 am
When the child may be alive--but in a dangerous situation, I think that threats of torture are acceptable. The value of the life outweighs the value of the dignity of the accused.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 07:01 am
Quote:
Daschner allegedly ordered officers to threaten the suspected kidnapper of 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler, Magnus Gäfgen, with "intense pain" during questioning in October 2002


Police have used deception to get information. In this case, the important thing was finding the child alive. The fact remains that he was not tortured. I personally, think that the police did the right thing.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 08:28 am
Noddy, Phoenix: Empty threats are OK in order to gain information from a suspect? OK, how about this situation: Police Chief is interrogating Suspect. He leaves the interrogation room for a moment and returns with a cell phone in his hand. He says to Suspect: "I have the fire department on the phone. They say that your house is on fire and your wife and children are trapped inside. They want to know what they should do. Now, if you confess, I'll tell them to rescue your family. If you don't, then I guess we'll just have to hope your wife and kids make it out of the house on their own. What do you want to do?"

There is, of course, no phone call and no fire. It is merely a ruse. Is Police Chief justified in using this kind of lie to elicit information?
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 08:33 am
If there were any chance that by getting the information from the perp that they would find the boy alive, and by NOT getting the information , the boy would die, I think that just about any deception is appropriate.

I think that society has become far too concerned with the "rights" of criminals, and in comparison, are far too cavalier about the rights of victims.


Quote:
Torture by Police - understandable?


I also think that the title of this post is misleading. The perp was not tortured......he was threatened with torture. Big difference, in my book!
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 12:05 pm
Phoenix32890 wrote:
I also think that the title of this post is misleading. The perp was not tortured......he was threatened with torture. Big difference, in my book![quote)

Well, attempted crimes are unlawful under German law as well.

Police here is thought to be lawfull, regarding our constitution and laws.

Quote:
Section 240 Coercion
(1) Whoever unlawfully with force or threat of an appreciable harm compels a human being to commit, acquiesce in or omit an act, shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.

(2) The act shall be unlawful if the use of force or the threat of harm is deemed reprehensible in relation to the desired objective.

(3) An attempt shall be punishable.

(4) In especially serious cases the punishment shall be imprisonment from six months to five years. An especially serious case exists as a rule, if the perpetrator:

1. coerces another person to commit a sexual act;

2. coerces a pregnant woman to terminate the pregnancy; or

3. abuses his powers or position as a public official.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 01:30 pm
Quote:
2) The act shall be unlawful if the use of force or the threat of harm is deemed reprehensible in relation to the desired objective


In the case that you mentioned Walter, I certainly think that the end justified the means.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 01:34 pm
Quote:
... abuses his powers or position as a public official
:wink:
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 01:35 pm
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Quote:
... abuses his powers or position as a public official
:wink:


Besides, we don't have a law here, "where the end justified the means"!!!
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 01:43 pm
In the case described; it sounds like the perp had already confessed to being guilty of the crime (by offering false locations). If this is the case; there was no chance of him being an innocent man getting his rights violated. Violating a guilty person's rights to potentially save an innocent is OK in my book. If they had actually acted on their threats; I might have to consider further... but in this case I applaud the use of any effective "threat", if it is for the purpose of saving an innocent's life.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 01:51 pm
Well, Bill, might be that a new conservative government will (try to change) our constitution and the criminal law.

But until now ...


Although: it's not that clear that the court will accept the prosecution's accusation and open the trial. (The defense is arguing against that.)
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 02:12 pm
I wasn't offering a legal opinion, Walter. Your title question seemed to be seeking personal opinions on whether it was understandable. It is only my personal opinion; the above mentioned actions were understandable. I too would have a hell of a time trying to write a fair law that allowed for such behavior.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 02:29 pm
I agree that the actions are understandable - but the rections by the prosecution as well.

And yes, I asked for a personal opinion :wink:

Thanks to all!
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Noddy24
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 04:54 pm
In that situation, if I were the officer in question with full awareness of the law-as-written and the law-as-interpreted and a child's life might be saved, I'd threaten the confessed accused.

I'd have him sitting with his trousers around his ankles while I tossed a nut cracker hand to hand.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 10:35 pm
Phoenix32890 wrote:
If there were any chance that by getting the information from the perp that they would find the boy alive, and by NOT getting the information , the boy would die, I think that just about any deception is appropriate.

Unfortunately, threats tend to produce inaccurate information as often as they produce valuable evidence. Suppose, through devious and clever ruses, the police are able to elicit a confession from an innocent person (use my hypothetical about the fire). At the point they gain the confession, they suspend their investigation into the crime, giving the real criminal a free pass. This sort of thing happens all the time -- or, at least, it happens with some frequency in Illinois, which has a problem with police employing improper interrogation tactics.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 10:45 pm
double posting again, I promise to stop...
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 10:48 pm
The assumption seems to be that a threat will perhaps save the life of the child; a threat might make someone more adamant.

Certainly some police throughout history have not only threatened but acted to torture. Or skip-torture, simple beating to a pulp.

My purist self says no, don't do even the threat.

I also understand making the threat.

I'll pick my purist choice, not only because I think threats may louse up prosecution. It would be difficult. But police assumptions are not always correct. There should be a code of behavior in place for such instances. It is, I think, in the elasticity of that code to let in threats that a slippery slope happens.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 11:03 pm
I think the ACTUAL issue is whether or not police are permitted to act unlawfully in seeking to uphold the law.

Of course we all want them to do whatever it takes to rescue the child.

However, I do not believe we are looking at victim's rights vs perpetrator's rights here - we are looking at whether or not we value law above individual desires, or many people's desires and whether we wish one powerful set of guardians of the law to be immune from it.

As such, while I find the police actions totally understandable, I believe that they were a rent in the fabric of the law, which, faulty as it is, I believe is an essential supporting pillar to any kind of civil civilisation, and that nobody may stand above it - and hence the police actions must be treated as a crime.

Of course, if the officer is found guilty, the judge might take into account the circumstances of the offence in sentencing. I would hate to be jury, or judge.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 11:14 pm
Yeh, what she said...
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Feb, 2004 12:52 am
Are noddy and I the only ones who got the impression that there was already a confession of guilt?
Joe, Osso and Dlow if there was already a confession, do you still think it is unjustified? This is not on par with beating confessions out of suspects.
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