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Visser v. The Netherlands, (26668/95) [2002] ECHR 108(14 February 2002)
The text of this case can be found on the European Court of Human Rights' HUDOC database.

Facts: The applicant is charged with kidnapping and assault on Mr A. He is convicted for having deprived Mr A. of his liberty and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. The Court based its decision on, among other evidence, the anonymous witness’s statement before the investigating judge. The applicant appealed unsuccessfully.

Allegations: The applicant complained that the use of the anonymous witness’s statement was in breach of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) (right to a fair trial).

Held: the proceedings as a whole were not fair and that there had, accordingly, been a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) of the Convention.

Reasoning: the Court observed that the witness had told the investigating judge that s/he did not know the applicant but was afraid of reprisals because one of the applicant’s co-accused had a reputation for being violent and because the offence in itself concerned an act of revenge. The investigating judge concluded that the witness had good reasons to be fearful, and that the anonymous witness was reliable. The Court found this finding insufficient to permit reliance on an anonymous witness. It also found that the conviction was based to a decisive extent on the anonymous testimony. That left undecided whether anonymous testimony could be a decisive factor supporting a conviction if the Netherlands' courts found the witness was both very reliable and very afraid.

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