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European Court of Human Rights Finds Violations in Bulgarian Police Brutality Case involving Romani Victims

11 January 2010

Strasbourg, 8 January 2010: In a case brought by the European Roma Rights Centre and Bulgarian attorney Alexander Kashumov on behalf of Romani Baht Foundation, the European Court of Human Rights yesterday found that Bulgarian police had engaged in inhuman and degrading treatment of three Bulgarian nationals of Roma origin during their arrest and detention in police custody.

The case, Sashov v. Bulgaria, was filed in 2003 and complained of police brutality during the arrest of the three men in 2001 and of the failure of the State authorities to institute an effective criminal investigation into their allegations of ill-treatment. During the course of the arrest, police fired shots at the men, beat them severely and put two of them in the trunk of a car in order to transport them to a police station. They were also subjected to verbal abuse on account of their Roma ethnicity.

In its ruling, the Court found that the use of force by the police against the applicants was extensive and disproportionate, and the nature and intensity of the suffering amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. The Court noted that the Bulgarian authorities failed to conduct an effective and thorough investigation in order to establish the circumstances of the ill-treatment of the applicants. Consequently the Court found that the Bulgarian State violated Article 3 in both the substance and in procedure. Each applicant was awarded EUR 3,000 for non-pecuniary damages and EUR 4,500 for costs and expenses.

Robert Kushen, Managing Director of the ERRC, said "We welcome the Court's decision as a strong message that police brutality has no place in today's Europe. Unfortunately, Roma continue to suffer abuse at the hands of police in many countries in Europe, and national justice systems do not always deliver justice for Roma victims."

Mihail Georgiev, Chair of the Board of the Romani Baht Foundation, a Roma human rights organisation that represented the applicants before Bulgarian authorities in the process of exhausting the domestic remedies, said: "We think that the Court's decision is coming just at a time when the police authorities in Bulgaria have stepped back from what was achieved in the last few years regarding the treatment of Roma. Unfortunately we recently witnessed again cases of police misconduct towards Roma with no reaction from the Ministry of Interior, the media or politicians. As a human rights organisation which has worked on Roma rights in Bulgaria since 1995, we see it as a disturbing tendency and hope that the present decision will have a positive impact for the improvement of the situation."

The full text of the judgment is available in French here.

Further information on the case is available here.

This is the 6th complaint against Bulgaria that the ERRC and its partners have won on behalf of Romani applicants before the European Court of Human Rights. More information about the ERRC is available at: http://www.errc.org.

For further information, please contact:

Robert Kushen, ERRC Managing Director, rob.kushen@errc.org Sinan Gokcen, ERRC Media and Communications Officer, sinan.gokcen@errc.org Alexander Kashumov, Access to Information Program,  kashumov@hotmail.com   

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