Roma case referred to European Court of Human Rights
The European Commission on Human Rights referred the case of Assenov and others v. Bulgaria to the European Court of Human Rights in late September. In reviewing the case, which concerns a 14-year-old Romani boy who was beaten in police custody in the north-eastern Bulgarian town of Shumen in 1993, the Commission has held that there is not enough evidence to conclude that Mr Assenov was in fact ill-treated by the police. However, it has also decided that Mr. Assenov's allegations that he was beaten by the police were not properly investigated by the Bulgarian authorities and that therefore the Bulgarian authorities violated Mr Assenov's right to effective domestic remedy under Article 13 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The Commission also found violations of Mr Assenov's right to liberty and security under Article 5(3) and 5(4), in connection with a separate set of events beginning in 1995. At that time, Mr Assenov was arrested and detained pending trial for a series of robberies. Additionally, Bulgaria has become one of the few countries in Europe to be found by the Commission to be in violation of Article 25, which guarantees that the right to file a complaint at the Commission will not be hindered in any way. In violation of these obligations, Bulgarian authorities put pressure on Mr Assenov and his family to withdraw his application in Strasbourg.
The Assenov case is only the second case explicitly concerning Roma to be referred to the Court by the Commission. In September of last year, the Court rejected the claim by Ms June Buckley, an English Gypsy, that English authorities had violated her rights by refusing her a permit to park a caravan on land which she owns (See Roma Rights, Fall 1996).