T.K. and Others v Slovakia (third-party intervention, pending)
06 January 2020
On 2 April 2015, there was a violent police raid in a Romani community in Vrbnica, in Eastern Slovakia. A house-to-house search resulted in injuries to at least 19 Romani people who – according to the media and the mayor – did not resist or obstruct the police. Those injured included women, men, and children. The ERRC supported several of the victims of the incident to bring a civil case against the Interior Ministry challenging discriminatory practices by police, in which the ERRC has also intervened as a third party. That case is still pending.
The ERRC’s Third-Party Intervention
Supported by Slovak lawyers, some of the other people affected by the police raid brought an application to the European Court of Human Rights. They had made a criminal complaint against the police officers involved in the raid. They complained to the European Court that the authorities in Slovakia did not handle those complaints properly. As the ERRC was not involved in those complaints or the complaint to the European Court, we asked if we could make submissions to the European Court as a “third-party intervener”. This means that we can send written comments to the Court designed to help the Court with its ruling. The European Court accepted and on 20 December 2019 we submitted our third-party intervention.
In our intervention, we said the time had come for the Court to use the word “antigypsyism” in its case law. Council of Europe and EU bodies regularly use the word, which was a much more effective way of describing the experience of Roma than saying, as the European Court usually does, that “as a result of their turbulent history and constant uprooting, the Roma have become a specific type of disadvantaged and vulnerable minority”. We asked the Court to imagine what it is like to be a Romani person in Europe today, and to consider the effects of antigypsyism on the lives of Romani people. We argued that antigypsyism was rife in Slovakia, particularly among police. We cited a series of violent police raids in Slovakia targeted Romani neighbourhoods. Many of these, including the Vrbnica raid, were carried out as part of a coordinated series of police interventions under so-called “Action Code 100”. According to a report by Slovakia’s Ombudsperson, Action Code 100 was being disproportionately used to target Roma. We also referred to racially stereotypical threats by politicians in Slovakia, promising police action against Roma. All this amounted to evidence of institutional antigypsyism in Slovak policing. We argued that when there is institutional antigypsyism, this should lead the European Court to make a particularly strong finding of discrimination. Finally, we argued that the body that exists in Slovakia to handle complaints against the police is ineffective.
The Court’s statement of facts in the case can be found here.
The ERRC’s third-party intervention can be found here.