Romani Man Wins European Judgement Against Hungary in Police Brutality Case

06 November 2017

Budapest, 6 November 2017: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favour of a Romani man who was the victim of police brutality in 2010 in Hungary. The ERRC intervened in his case brought by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) to the international court for violations relating to his ill-treatment, discrimination, and the authorities failure to consider racist motivation in their investigation of the incident.

The Romani man was arrested on suspicion of carrying stolen goods while driving his car, and taken to a local police station for questioning. According to his testimony, for the next four hours six police officers and two security guards attempted to coerce a confession from him by beating him and whipping the soles of his feet with a thin piece of wood.The man was told by one of the officers that it would not matter if he died as that would mean “one less Gypsy”.

He was forced to sign a document stating that he had been questioned for about 40 minutes and was admitting to three counts of theft, before being released. That evening he was treated in two hospitals which issued reports detailing his numerous injuries, including bruising, abrasions, contusions and swollen hands, arms and feet.

After his criminal complaint was dismissed by authorities, and his legal case in domestic courts was dropped, the HCLU took his case to the European Court of Human Rights. The ERRC intervened in his case and submitted written comments to help the European Court in administering justice for the victim.

We argued that this case must be seen through the lens of antigypsyism in Hungary, evidenced by an increase in anti-Roma rhetoric, racism and physical violence against Roma in recent years. We maintain that vulnerable victims of racially-motivated violence are unlikely to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they have been subjected to discrimination, particularly when they are also victims of a failure on the part of domestic authorities to carry out an effective, impartial investigation.

The European Court agreed that the Romani man’s human rights were violated through his ill-treatment, and through the authorities’ discriminatory practice of failing to take racist motivation into account during the investigation. However, the court did not find his beating and torture by police officers to be discriminatory in nature. The Romani man was awarded 10,000 EUR in damages as well as well as 4,724 EUR in costs and expenses.

“I am glad that he has finally been granted some justice by the court, but disappointed that they didn’t see this man’s four hour ordeal at the hands of racist police officers - who explicitly referenced his ethnicity - to be racially motivated. Racist violence is a direct expression of antigypsyism, Strasbourg [ECHR] must consider the substantive part of Article 3 [prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment] in conjunction with Article 14 [prohibition of discrimination] to recognise this.” said ERRC President, Đorđe Jovanović.

For more information, contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Coordinator
European Roma Rights Centre
+36 30 500 2118


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