European Court of Human Rights Rules Against Slovakia for Failure to Properly Investigate Violence Against Roma

12 June 2012

Budapest, Strasbourg, 12 June 2012: The European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment today in the case of Koky and others v Slovakia, finding that Slovakia failed to carry out an effective investigation into a violent attack against Roma. The 10 applicants were awarded a total of 55,000 EUR non-pecuniary damages.

In February 2002, 10 Slovak citizens of Romani ethnic origin were violently attacked in Ganovce-Filice. A group of men armed with baseball bats and iron bars, shouting racist language, attacked the applicants’ settlement following an earlier incident in a bar when a non-Roma waitress refused to serve a drink to a Romani individual. The victims suffered serious injuries, including a skull fracture to one, as well as damage to their property during the racially-motivated attack. Slovak authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation, failed to prosecute the perpetrators and did not offer compensation to the victims.

The ERRC filed a joint application with a local partner organisation, the League of Human Rights, to the European Court of Human Rights in 2003, claiming a failure to conduct an effective investigation into a case involving the right to be free from torture and inhuman treatment (Article 3) and an abuse of their right to be free from any kind of discrimination (Article 14).

Today’s judgment found the Slovak Republic violated Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, prohibiting inhuman treatment and requiring the State to conduct an effective investigation into the incidents involving such kind of treatment. In particular, the Court stated that “...the authorities have not done all that could have been reasonably expected of them to investigate the incident, to establish identity of those responsible and, as the case may be, to draw consequences… the Court has taken into account the particular importance for an investigation into an attack with racial overtones to be pursued with vigour and impartiality, having regard to the need to reassert continuously society’s condemnation of racism and to maintain the confidence of minorities in the ability of the authorities to protect them from the threat of racist violence.”

The ERRC welcomes the judgment, which is the latest in a series of rulings by the European Court dealing with violence against Roma and inadequate protection offered by the domestic legal system. However it is disappointing that the Court – whilst it did recognise the importance of the racial element of the attack – it did not take this opportunity to fully consider the issue of discrimination and to advance its jurisprudence on Article 14 of the Convention. The ERRC is concerned about the rising violence against Romani individuals across Europe, which is often not adequately addressed by law enforcement authorities.

Dezideriu Gergely, ERRC Executive Director, said, “This judgment reminds us that racially motivated violence against Roma must be thoroughly investigated and dealt with. We encourage the Slovak Government and others to take heed of this judgment and to ensure that all possible measures are taken to prevent violence, to investigate quickly and efficiently where it does take place and to ensure that Roma can live safely and securely according to their basic rights.”

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre



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