Pastrama v Ukraine (third-party intervention, pending)
18 November 2016
The applicant is a Romani woman who was living until 30 May 2012 in an unauthorised Romani settlement near railway tracks in Kyiv. That day, she and the others were forcibly - and quite violently - evicted from the site by plain-clothed police officers. The officers made the men strip to the waist and then photographed them; the officers also shot a dog. The police told the people they were evicting that they were making way for the 2012 EUFA (football) championships. The applicant unsuccessfully tried to get prosecutors to take action against those responsible.
The ERRC's Third-Party Intervention
The ERRC urged the Court to recognise the widespread mistrust and fear that Roma have of police in Europe and to describe it as an aspect of the larger problem of anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC referred to two definitions of anti-Gypsyism, one from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (“ECRI”), and the other from a coalition of NGOs, of which the ERRC is a member, known as the Alliance Against Antigypsyism. The ERRC also highlighted that ECRI’s definition of anti-Gypsyism includes the notion of “institutional racism”. The ERRC then set out wide-ranging evidence, notably from the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (“the OSCE”), that Roma are both at a higher risk of violent crime and are not likely to report that crime because they do not trust the police. Evidence from the OSCE in particular showed that law-enforcement officials were aware of the problem. The ERRC saw this evidence, taken as a whole, as pointing to a problem of institutional anti-Gypsyism in police forces around Europe. The ERRC moved on to survey the evidence that the harassment of Roma by police in Ukraine had reached extreme levels, and that anti-Gypsyism had contaminated police forces in the country. UN bodies and ECRI had concluded that Roma in Ukraine were unlikely to trust the police, a problem exacerbated by harassment Roma face from police there. A 2012 study showed the scale of that harassment. More than half of Roma surveyed in Ukraine had been visited by police at least once at their home, often for reasons that apparently had nothing to do with any alleged offence. Police in Ukraine had acknowledged that they were disproportionately targeting Roma for home inspections and stops in the street, based on racially stereotypical ideas they held about Roma and crime. Even more disturbingly, 45% of Roma surveyed in the 2012 study had been taken to the police station or other police premises at least once. Once at the station, most had their personal data (such as fingerprints) taken without any explanation or link to any alleged offence. Likewise, most Roma taken to the station reported that they were subjected to psychological pressure and/or violence. The ERRC concluded that this was clear evidence of institutional anti-Gypsyism among police in Ukraine. The ERRC then made comments on the appropriate response to complaints of violations of Article 14 taken with Article 3, and violations of Protocol no.12, resulting from police brutality that occurs in a climate of institutional anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC explained the evidentiary problem facing Roma who come to the Court with claims of racially motivated police brutality: they are particularly unlikely to be able to meet the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard the Court applies to their discrimination claims, especially when they are also victims of a failure on the part of the authorities to investigate what happened. The Court’s case law, however, had gone further in the area of police responses to gender-based violence: in Opuz v Turkey (2009) and Halime Kılıç v Turkey (2016), the Court had addressed the institutional sexism among police in Turkey which had created a favourable climate for domestic violence. The ERRC urged the Court to make the equivalent finding when individual cases of police brutality against Roma took place in a climate of anti-Gypsyism among police. In such cases, the Court should find a violation of Article 14 taken with 3, and/or a violation of Protocol no.12, on the basis of the existence of institutional anti-Gypsyism. Where there was evidence of institutional racism, Roma were asking for – and, the ERRC submitted, were entitled to – a ruling going beyond the mere finding of a failure to unmask racist motives in the investigation. A broader finding, similar to the findings in Opuz and Halime Kılıç, was more likely to ensure that the Court’s judgments would lead to systemic changes at domestic level.
The Court’s statement of facts can be found here.
The ERRC’s third-party intervention can be found here.