Civil Rights Defenders Questions the Acquittal Regarding Police Shooting

On 3 October, Varberg District Court announced that the police officer who shot a young man to death on the streets of Varberg in July 2013 be acquitted on all counts, despite substantial evidence to the contrary caught on film showing the sequence of events which led to his death. This verdict follows a clear pattern by which Prosecutors and the Court fail to prosecute police officers for such acts on the premise that they were considered to have acted in self-defence.

The Court determined that the police officer in question had acted in self-defence and that the use of force was therefore justified. However, they failed to adequately highlight the fact that the policeman shot at a man who was already injured, lying on the ground and armed only with a knife, and that there were other officers on location accompanied by a police dog.

In its findings, the Varberg District Court stated that the police officer in this particular situation “had every reason to fear an attack” from the injured man. However, the District Court did not take into consideration that the accused, is a police officer who had received special training when it comes to handling weapons in stressful conditions. Under basic human rights standards it clearly states that the police can only use firearms in exceptional cases and when the situation presented is life threatening – all of the above mentioned are elements that failed to surface in the Court’s conclusions.

“We are concerned that the number of deaths are increasing while police are being freed by claims of self-defence. There is a clear need for an updated framework that meets the requirements of international law”, said Robert Hårdh, Director of Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders is Sweden’s leading international human rights organisation and has for years highlighted the deficiencies in police regulations, working practices and the use of so called “dum-dum” bullets. The organisation, who had an observer on location during the trial in Varberg, assumes that the prosecutor will now appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeal.