Borbála Kiss v Hungary
Forum: European Court of Human Rights
ERRC role: Representative
The case of Borbála Kiss v Hungary concerned police brutality. In September 2010, police were called to a family party at a private house in Tiszalúc, Hungary, where they asked partygoers to turn down their music. Half an hour later, the police came back and forcefully broke up the party, using truncheons and pepper spray. Ms Kiss, a Romani woman, intervened in a heated argument between the police and a man at the party. The police sprayed pepper-spray in her eyes, dragged her towards the police car and banged her against it. During the incident, Ms Kiss’ top was torn and her breasts were exposed.
On 20 September 2011, the ERRC and the HCLU (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) jointly filed a submission to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the excessive use of force and the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the case constituted a violation of Article 3 under the Convention. The organisations also claimed that the inhuman and degrading treatment and the failure to carry out an effective investigation were the result of anti-Roma discrimination.
On 26 June 2012, the Court found that there had been a substantive and a procedural violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment). The Court concluded that the police had used excessive force during the incident, and that such use of force resulted in injuries and suffering of the applicant, amounting to degrading treatment. The Court also found that no adequate investigation had been carried out into Ms Kiss’ allegations. However the Court rejected the claim of discrimination (under article 14), finding there was insufficient evidence of discriminatory conduct by the police.
Domestic remedies must be exhausted before bringing a case to the European Court, and the Hungarian Government accordingly claimed that Ms Kiss should first have brought a private prosecution. The Court found however that this was not necessary; it was enough for Ms Kiss to have lodged a criminal complaint.