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Doorson v. Netherlands
European Court of Human Rights
22 Eur. Ct. H.R. 330 (1996)
Désiré Doorson (defendant) was charged with drug trafficking. Eight witnesses, all drug addicts, had identified Doorson from a photograph as a drug dealer. Six of these witnesses remained anonymous. Two were identified, N and R. An investigating judge questioned two anonymous witnesses outside the presence of Doorson’s counsel. One named witness, N, testified at trial that he did not recognize Doorson but that the photograph of Doorson may be the man who sold N heroin when N was ill. Doorson was convicted and appealed. The intermediate appellate court referred the case to the investigating judge to evaluate the need to preserve the two anonymous witnesses’ anonymity. The investigating judge questioned the anonymous witnesses before Doorson’s lawyer, who was permitted to cross-examine them. One witness stated that he had been the victim of past retaliation for testifying against another drug dealer. The other witness stated that he had been threatened in the past for testifying and that Doorson was aggressive. The investigating judge confirmed the need for anonymity. N appeared before the intermediate appellate court, in Doorson’s presence, and testified that he did not know Doorson. R initially appeared but left and could not be found. The intermediate appellate court again referred the case back to the investigating judge to record findings about the anonymous witnesses’ reliability. The investigating judge found that the anonymous witnesses identified Doorson’s photograph and willingly answered questions. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the conviction. Doorson appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning
Dissent (Ryssdal, J.)
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