The Parliamentary Ombudsman Strongly Critical Against the Police

Since 2010 three men have been seeking compensation after they were wrongly suspected of planning a bomb attack in Gothenburg. On 13 June the Ombudsman’s decision directed strong criticism of actions taken by the police and prosecutors during the case.

“It is gratifying that the Ombudsman agrees with us and directs strong criticism against the police regarding the brutal arrest of four innocent men and their attitudes towards their families. However, it is unfortunate that it took years to arrive at their decision”, said Robert Hårdh manager at Civil Rights Defenders.

On the morning of 30 October, 2010 heavily armed police stormed the Khalailis family home and three of their relatives homes. Nizar Khalailis relatives were arrested on suspicion of plotting a bomb attack on the shopping mall Femman located in Gothenburg. Khalailis was brought to the police station for questioning as a result of what turned out to be an unreliable witness testimony. During the arrests, the police acted in an extremely violent matter: windows were smashed doors were forced open and the men were arrested in front of the eyes of their children.

In late 2012 three of the four affected men filed a complaint against the police and the attorney general to the Parlimentary Ombudsman with Civil Rights Defenders as their legal counsel. The complaint focused on how the police handled the situation and criticised the disproportionate use of violence, the fact that the preliminary investigation had serious flaws and that the families at the time of the arrests were subjected to unnecessary suffering.

In its decision the Ombudsman were also highly critical of the way the police handled the case, pointing out that the police investigation was flawed on several serious points. The Ombudsman was especially critical regarding the detrimental effects of the police actions not only on innocent men who were detained but also the families who were subjected to such in their own homes. Similar to Civil Rights Defenders position on the matter, the Ombudsman was especially critical regarding the use of key information, indicating the suspects innocence which was largely ignored. This is in stark contrast to how the principle witness’s testimony, which was later deemed was accepted unequivocally. Furthermore the Ombudsman were very critical that the accused men were not given the right to a public defender.

The Ombudsman’s decision clearly shows the importance of how the rule of law should never be overridden even when there is suspicion of terrorism offenses.

Remarkably, the Ombudsman did not opt to illustrate this point during the police operation, but instead referred to the prosecutor who previously investigated these issues and concluded that a crime could not be proved.

Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the Ombudsman’s decision and hope that it leads to real improvements in police practices. Meanwhile, it is seriously problematic that the Ombudsman have chosen not to do an independent analysis of the excessive violence used during the police operation. Civil Rights Defenders takes it very seriously that the police exposed men, women and children to gross violations of their basic human rights without significant legal consequences.

“People, in this case also children, must be able to obtain redress when they suffer abuse from the state. Therefore, we are now considering pursuing the issue of damages further, says Robert Hårdh.

Read the Ombudsman’s decision here (Swedish).