Balázs v Hungary and Two Other Cases
These three cases also concern allegations of hate crimes against Roma and the failure of the Hungarian authorities to deal with them properly. Balázs v Hungary involves the failure to investigate violence against Roma by a private person. R.B. v Hungary involves harassment of and threats against a Romani woman by a paramilitary group. M.F. v Hungary involves alleged ill-treatment of a Romani man in detention by police and security guards.
The European Roma Rights Centre asked the European Court of Human Rights for permission to intervene in these three cases as a third party. The ERRC asked for permission to make one submission for all three cases and the Court agreed. On 16 January 2015, the ERRC sent its submission to the Court.
The ERRC made four points in our third-party intervention:
- The ERRC urged the Court explicitly to acknowledge the phenomenon of anti-Gypsyism, as defined and recognised by other Council of Europe bodies. The problem of racist violence against Roma is recognised at European level as an expression of anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC also stressed that the definition of anti-Gypsyism encompasses institutional racism. The ERRC then set out for the Court the scope of the problem of racist violence against Roma in Europe.
- The ERRC surveyed recent evidence that the national bodies in Hungary responsible for protecting Roma against violence suffer from institutional racism, particularly institutional anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC relied on a widely-recognised definition of the term “institutional racism”: “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”.
- The ERRC urged the Court to integrate the notion of institutional anti-Gypsyism into its analysis of whether there has been a violation of Article 14 taken with the procedural limb of Article 2 or 3 in cases concerning violence against Roma. The Court should consider whether an investigation into anti-Roma violence was ineffective due to institutional racism (i.e. due to a failure to provide and appropriate and professional service to Roma) and, if so, find a violation on that basis.
- The ERRC insisted that a substitute private prosecution is not an effective remedy under the Court’s case law and that the fact that Roma have begun and then abandoned a private prosecution is irrelevant to the question of whether they have exhausted domestic remedies in hate-crime cases.
You can find the ERRC’s third-party intervention here.
The Chamber delivered its judgment in Balázs v Hungary on 20 October 2015. You can find the judgment here.
The Court delivered its judgment in R.B. v Hungary on 12 April 2016. You can find the judgment here.