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Velikova v Bulgaria

18 May 2000

Facts: Mr. Tsonchev, a man of Romani origin, was arrested and detained on charges of cattle theft. After 12 hours in police custody, he died from injuries sustained as result of a brutal beating. An autopsy concluded that Mr. Tsonchev's death was resulted from the "huge and deep hemorrhages" on the body. The prosecutor dropped an investigation into the death on the grounds that it was impossible to determine where Mr. Tsonchev was beaten, and by whom.

Article 2 (right to life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy): violation

Velikova is significant in that it shifted the burden to the State to provide an explanation refuting the applicant's charges. The Court placed the burden on the Bulgarian authorities to refute the applicant's charges, stating, "where an individual is taken into police custody in good health but is later found dead, it is incumbent on the State to provide a plausible explanation of the events leading to his death, failing which authorities must be held responsible under Article 2." Finding the government's suggestions as to the cause of Mr. Tsonchev's death implausible, the Court found a violation of Article 2 in respect to his death.

Relying on unexplained omissions in the investigation, the failure to collect evidence, combined with the failure to provide reasons for failing to investigate, the Court also found a violation of Article 2 in respect to failure to conduct an effective investigation into the death of Mr. Tsonchev.

Based on the same factors as it relied upon in finding a violation of Article 2, the Court found a violation of Article 13.

Article 14 (right to be free from discrimination): no violation

For the first time the Court articulated a standard of proof for a successful Article 14 claim, stating, "the standard of proof required under the Convention is "'proof beyond a reasonable doubt.'" In finding no violation of Article 14, the Court stated:

The Court observes that the applicant's complaint under Article 14 is grounded on a number of serious arguments. . .The material before it does not enable the Court to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Tsonchev's death and the lack of meaningful investigation into it were motivated by racial prejudice, as claimed by the applicant."

The full text of the decision is available HERE.


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