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European Court of Human Rights Rules on Discrimination Against Roma in Ukraine Murders

21 September 2012

Budapest, Strasbourg, 21 September 2012: The European Court of Human Rights yesterday delivered a judgment finding discrimination in the case of Fedorchenko and Lozenko v Ukraine. Five Romani people, including three children, died after a violent arson attack, which took place on 28 October 2001 in the Kremenchug region of Ukraine. Three men deliberately set a family home on fire, breaking into the house to spray it with flammable liquid. They then barred the door of the house from outside and fled. Five members of the applicants’ family died from extensive burns and smoke inhalation, including children who were three, six and 15 years old.

The severely flawed investigation by the Ukrainian authorities into the incident did not result in any effective outcomes, and nobody was prosecuted for the death of these five people. The ERRC represented Mr Fedorchenko and Ms Lozenko (the parents and grandparents of the arson victims) in an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2002, claiming that among those responsible for the arson attack was a senior police officer and that the whole incident had not been properly investigated. The applicants also claimed that both the attack and the subsequent failure to investigate were linked to widespread discrimination against Roma in Ukraine.

Ten years after this case was filed, the ECtHR found that Ukraine had failed to meet the procedural requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (right to life) by failing to conduct an effective investigation into the deaths and in doing so also violated breached Article 14 (right to be free from discrimination).

The Court stated in its judgment: ”Given the widespread discrimination and violence against Roma in Ukraine as noted, in particular, by the report of the ECRI, it cannot be excluded that the decision to burn the houses had been additionally nourished by ethnic hatred and thus it necessitated verification…The Court, however, notes that there is no evidence that the authorities have conducted any investigation into the possible racist motives of this crime...The Court considers it unacceptable that in such circumstances an investigation, lasting over eleven years, did not give rise to any serious action with a view to identifying or prosecuting the perpetrators.”

The ERRC welcomes the judgment, which again draws attention to the widespread violence which Roma experience across Europe. Many states, including Ukraine, do not work enough to prevent, investigate or prosecute violent attacks against Roma. The ruling comes too late for the family who suffered this terrible attack, and Mr Fedorchenko has sadly passed away since filing the case. The ERRC hopes, though, that the Ukrainian Government will take into account ECtHR’s findings in the case and to improve its systems to prevent and deal with violent attacks in the future.

Dezideriu Gergely, ERRC Executive Director, said, “This was a shocking and violent incident which resulted in the death of five Romani people. The Court’s ruling on discrimination is to be especially welcomed. We hope that Ukraine takes the initiative to effectively protect Roma from violence and to fully investigate and prosecute any racist incidents which do take place as matter of urgency.”

For further information, contact:

Sinan Gokçen
ERRC Media and Communications Officer

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