ERRC files a police brutality case against Bulgaria with the Strasbourg human rights court
21 April 2004
ERRC files a case in Strasbourg following the refusal of Bulgarian authorities to investigate a serious police brutality incident
On 21 April 2004, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), together with Bulgarian Attorney Alexander Kashumov, filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria arising out of an incidence of police violence and racism against Roma in Sofia on 18 July 2001.
The incident involved three young Romani men, Trayan Jorov Sashov, Krum Sotirov Yankov and Zdravko Alexandrov Simeonov. They were arrested by plainclothes police officers brandishing handguns who accused them of stealing metal sheets. Soon after being arrested and handcuffed, two of the Romani men were beaten by police officers and thrown into the trunk of a police car. They were taken to the 6th District Directorate of Internal Affairs in Sofia where all three were repeatedly beaten by police officers and exposed to racist insults. They were released after 24 hours. A forensic medical report confirmed that they had suffered injuries as a result of the beatings.
On 28 August 2001, the three Romani men, with the assistance of the Romani Baht Foundation, filed a complaint with the Regional Military Prosecutor in Sofia against unidentified police officers for assault. On 31 January 2002, the Regional Military Prosecutor's Office issued a decision not to open criminal proceedings, stating that the use of force by police officers was lawful. An appeal and subsequent complaints to the Bulgarian Supreme Prosecutor's Office and Chief General Prosecutor did not succeedl in persuading Bulgarian authorities to investigate the incident comprehensively and bring charges against the offenders.
On behalf of the three Romani applicants and together with local counsel, the ERRC has taken this case to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 13 (lack of an effective domestic remedy), and Article 14 (discrimination) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The applicants seek a finding that the Bulgarian Government violated its obligations under the European Convention and request just compensation for the abuse suffered at the hands of the police.
ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said, "The use of unjustified and excessive force, coupled with racism, by Bulgarian police officers, without any desire on the part of the authorities to investigate and prosecute the offenders is, unfortunately, a common occurrence for many Roma living in Bulgaria. We hope that by bringing this case we will not only obtain justice for the three Romani men in question, but also contribute to the change in attitudes of the police and the prosecuting authorities in Bulgaria".
Additional information on the situation of Roma in Bulgaria is available at http://errc.org. For more regarding this case, please contact Ivan Ivanov, Staff Attorney, European Roma Rights Center (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +361 413 2200).