On January 24, 2018, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment, awarding €18,400 to Amanda Knox, a U.S. national and former student who spent years in detention in Italy after her conviction in connection with the murder of her flatmate.[
The Court’s press release explains that in the case of Knox v. Italy (application no. 76577/13) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, in her favor on three of the four issues.
Ms Knox was born in 1987 and at the time of the events was 20 years old. She had lived in Perugia (Italy) for about two months as a foreign student. She had a temporary job in a pub run by D.L. She had been dating Raffaele Sollecito, her boyfriend, for two weeks.
On November 2, 2007, at approximately 12:30 p.m., the police went to Ms. Knox’s flat and found Ms. Knox there together with Sollecito, who had called the policy to inform them that he had found a broken window and traces of blood in the flat. The police forced open the door of the bedroom of Meredith Kercher, the flatmate of Ms. Knox. Kercher was a British student on a university exchange. The police discovered her body with her throat slit. There were indications of sexual assault.
On November 6, 2007, the police interviewed Ms. Knox at 1:45 am and 5:45 am and she accused the bar manager of the offenses. On the same day the public prosecutor ordered the arrest of Know, Sollecito, and the bar manager, charging them with sexual assault and the murder. They were remanded in custody, but the bar manager was released two weeks later after providing an alibi. In May 2008, Knox was charged with making a malicious accusation against the bar manager.
On December 2009, the Assize Court convicted Knox and Sollecito for involvement in sexual assault and murder. Knox was also convicted for making a malicious accusation. Knox appealed. She alleged that a combination of psychological pressure, exhaustion and ignorance, both of the procedures and of her rights, had led her to make incorrect statements.
On October 3, 2011, the Court of Appeal acquitted Knox and Sollecito of the sexual assault and murder, but upheld Knox’s conviction for malicious accusation. Knox was then released from detention on the same day and left Italy for the U.S. She appealed. The Court of Cassation quashed the acquittal and referred the case back to the Assize Court of Appeal. The latter court sentenced Knox to a prison term of 28 years and 6 months for participating in sexual assault and murder, and an additional term of three years for malicious accusation. Knox appealed. The Court of Cassation acquitted Knox and Sollecito on the murder and sexual assault charges. It observed that conviction for malicious accusation had already become final and pointed out that the sentence had been a prison term of three years.
Additional criminal proceedings were brought against Knox on another count of malicious accusation, this time for accusing the police officers who interviewed her, among others, of violence and threats against her. She was acquitted on that charged.
On December 16, 2010, the Court of Cassation concluded that Rudy Guede, who was from Ivory Coast and was an acquaintance of Kercher, had been the perpetrator of the murder and sexual assault. He was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment in a final judgment.
- A violation of the procedural limb (investigation) of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Court held that Ms. Know did not have the benefit of an investigation capable of elucidating the facts and any responsibility and the Italian police mistreated her on November 6, 2007 when they detained her for questioning. Notwithstanding her repeated complaints, the Italian government has not investigated the alleged mistreatment.
- A violation of Article 6 § 1 and 3(c) (right to legal assistance)
The Court found that the Italian Government did not succeed in establishing that the right of Ms. Knox’s access to a lawyer, at the police interview of November 6, 2007 at 5:45 a.m., at the time there was a criminal charge against her, had not irreparably undermined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole.
- A violation of Article 6 § 1 and 3(e) of the Convention (right to the assistance of an interpreter)
The Court held that the authorities had failed to assess the conduct of the interpreter (who had seen herself as a mediator and had adopted a motherly attitude towards Ms. Know while the latter was formulating her statement), to examine whether her interpreting assistance had been consistent with the safeguards under Article 6 §§1 and 3 (e) of the Convention, or to consider whether that conduct had had an impact on the outcome of the criminal proceedings against Ms. Knox. The Court believes that the initial failure had had adverse impact for other rights and had undermined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole.
- No violation of the substantive limb of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention.
The Court found that it did not have any evidence to establish that Ms. Knox had been subject to inhuman or degrading treatment of which she complained.
Italy has three months to appeal. The case shows the important role of the European Court of Human Rights as a final arbiter of criminal cases and international human rights allegations.
 European Court of Human Rights, Judgment concerning criminal proceedings leading to the conviction of Amanda Knox for malicious accusation, ECHR 028 (2019), Press Release, Jan. 24, 2019.