ROME — Freedom isn’t enough. Amanda Knox wants justice.
The 28-year-old Seattle native, who was convicted in 2009, acquitted in 2011, reconvicted in 2014 and definitively acquitted in 2015 of the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, has won a plea to have the European Court of Human Rights examine whether her last standing conviction violates her human rights.
Knox remains definitively convicted of slander for falsely accusing Patrick Lumumba, her Congolese nightclub boss, of committing Kercher’s murder during the November 2007 late-night interrogation that led to her arrest. But she has always maintained that her false statement was the result of maltreatment at the hands of the Perugia police, who she says hit her on the back of the head and didn’t allow her an objective translator or access to a lawyer. She has exhausted all of the avenues in the Italian court system to fight this remaining conviction. The European Court of Human Rights is her last chance to clear her name.
According to Knox’s personal website her Italian lawyers filed an appeal for that slander conviction in November 2013, two years before she was definitively acquitted of the murder by Italy’s highest court.
“My slander conviction was based on comments I made regarding Patrick Lumumba … comments that were coerced during a lengthy interrogation by Perugia police shortly before I was arrested in 2007,” she writes. “The interrogation took place in a language I barely spoke, without a lawyer present, and without the police informing me that I was a suspect in Meredith’s murder, which was a violation of my human rights.”
The website for the European Court of Human Rights has posted Knox’s case (#7577/13) on its website in French, the official language of the court, which is based in Strasbourg, France.
The case file highlights Knox’s primary complaints. “The applicant raises several complaints concerning the fairness of the criminal proceedings following which she was sentenced to three years in prison for false accusation,” the case file states, referring the sentence she received for accusing Lumumba of the murder.
Citing numbers of the European Court of Human Rights conventions, “the applicant complained of not being informed promptly and in a language understandable to the nature and cause of the accusation of his charge,” and “she also alleges that she was not assisted by a lawyer during the interrogation of 6 November 2007.”
Regarding the absence of a qualified, objective interpreter, Knox’s complaint states: “The applicant also complains that she was not assisted by a professional and independent interpreter during interrogation and that the police officer who assisted during interrogation of 6 November 2007 performed the duties of “mediator” and suggested hypotheses about the sequence of events.
And regarding the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of the police, who she says cuffed her on the back of the head, she says, “The applicant complained that the pats on the head she suffered (scappellotti) constituted inhuman and degrading treatment. She also says she “denounces the violation of her right to respect for her private and family life, on the grounds that, on 6 November 2007, she was forced to answer questions” about certain subjects that incapacitated her from correctly answering because she was under “psychological pressure.”
Knox’s complaint also refers to the alleged violation of her rights after she was told by a prison medic that she had HIV and was asked to list her sexual partners, which she then recounted in a diary that was leaked to the press.
By accepting Knox’s case, the European Court of Human Rights, which is not part of the European Union’s governing body, will now need to investigate each claim and render a verdict that may include compensation for Knox or, potentially, a recommendation to throw out her slander charge. The court is composed of 49 judges representing all European countries, and each judge serves a nine-year term. They are charged with upholding the findings of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and its many amendments over the years. The court president is currently Guido Raimondi, an Italian former supreme court judge.
Knox’s former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who was also convicted, acquitted, convicted and acquitted in tandem with Knox, has sued the Italian state for damages associated with his imprisonment. He currently runs an app-based social media business for the dead called Memories where the bereaved can leave messages for their deceased loved ones. He received around €66,000 in grant money from his native region of Puglia for the enterprise.
He does not remain convicted of any crime, so his case differs from Knox. He has asked the Italian state for €516,000 in compensation.
Rudy Guede, a 29-year-old man from the Ivory Coast, remains the only person convicted of Kercher’s murder. His prison term ends in September 2021, but he is currently eligible for work release, and could be released on monitored house arrest as early as 2018. He is expected to graduate from university in July of this year after pursuing a degree during his incarceration. He recently told an Italian television presenter that Knox was there when Kercher was murdered.
No date has been set for Knox’s European Court of Human Rights case, but the hearings, which are held in front of a panel of judges who must reach a majority for a decision, will be public.