Balkasi and others v Albania (third-party intervention, pending)
19 November 2018
The people who brought the case (“the applicants”) are family members from Fier (Albania). On 13 December 2013, early in the morning, four people wearing masks and armed with machine guns surrounded their house. When one of the applicants asked the people to identify themselves, they beat him up. The situation turned chaotic. The applicants later found out that the people who had come to their home were police officers. When the applicants tried to complain to the police about what had happened, they were told not to, because the masked officers were trying to arrest another Romani person and so were just doing their job. In the end, the applicants themselves were prosecuted for obstructing justice.
The applicants took their case to the European Court complaining that they were victims of ill-treatment (prohibited by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and that it was discriminatory (prohibited by Article 14). They also complained about a violation of their right to respect for their home (Article 8).
The ERRC’s Third-Party Intervention
The ERRC was not involved in the case. When the European Court made the case public on its website, we asked for permission to intervene as a third party, which means that we make written submissions to help the Court reach the right judgment. We were granted permission and we sent our written submissions on 7 November 2018.
We told the Court that the time had come for the Court to recognise “antigypsyism” and “institutional racism” and use these terms in its case law. We said that antigypsyism was rife in Albania, for example, in housing and education. We set out the evidence of institutional antigypsyism among police in Europe. There was Europe-wide evidence that Roma faced higher rates of violent crime and do not trust the police to protect them or investigate, because of racially discriminatory policing practices. We also set out the evidence of antigypsyism among police in Albania in particular. We included materials from United Nations bodies and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, as well as our own experience supporting Romani people to complain about incidents and patterns of police brutality in Albania. We addressed how the Court should respond to police brutality against Roma. We urged the Court not to treat such cases as repetitive and turn them over to three-judge committees. This, we said, would result in an ever-increasing number of cases coming to the Court. Instead, we encouraged the Court to take into account the evidence of institutional antigypsyism in Albania. We reiterated our long-standing view that the Court should not apply a “beyond reasonable doubt” test to determine whether there had been ill-treatment that was racially discriminatory; the burden of proof should shift to the Respondent State once the applicant had put forward enough evidence to raise a presumption of discrimination. We also submitted that where there was a failure to carry out an effective investigation, where there appeared to be victimisation of (i.e. retaliation against) those complaining, and where there was evidence of institutional antigypsyism, the failure to investigate and the victimisation should be characterised as manifestations of discriminatory conduct. We told the Court that they should not hesitate to conclude that there is an institutional failure in Albania to deal with police brutality against Roma. We said the burden is on the Respondent State (Albania) to show that any individual case where a Romani person claims to have been subjected to discriminatory police brutality and victimised for complaining did not amount to a case of discrimination.
The Court’s statement of facts in the case can be found here.
Our third-party intervention can be found here.