European Court of Human Rights finds Slovak authorities did not properly investigate police brutality against Romani boy
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR) has ruled in a case of police violence committed against a Romani boy in a municipality in the Spisská Nova Ves district in 2015 that the responsible state authorities, in violation of their international human rights law commitments, failed to investigate the entire case. The court has therefore awarded the victim compensation of EUR 5 000.
The incident occurred in 2015, when the 16-year-old Romani boy was stopped by members of the municipal police on his way to school, one of whom punched him in the face for no reason and broke his nose. The officers then loaded their victim into their car and continued to strike him in the face while driving to the police station.
There they continued their violent behavior towards the victim. The officers punched him and forced him to falsely admit to committing an offense that he subsequently said he never perpetrated.
He was released from the police station and had to seek medical attention for the injuries caused. The victim's mother filed a complaint on the day of the incident, but police refused to initiate an investigation.
On the basis of a complaint lodged by the victim's attorney, a criminal investigation commenced three months after the incident happened. Detectives eventually halted that investigation.
The supervising prosecutor did not find they had done so in error. The injured party also did not succeed with a complaint before the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic, which did not find any violation of his rights had been committed during the proceedings of the state bodies.
After exhausting all available legal remedies, in January 2017 the victim lodged a complaint with the ECtHR, alleging violation of his rights guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. On 28 January 2020, the ECtHR ruled in his favor.
The court ruled that the responsible state authorities violated the right to protection from police brutality and the right to an effective investigation. In so doing, the authorities violated his guaranteed right to protection against inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 3 of the Convention.
"The European Court [of Human Rights] confirmed that the Slovak authorities failed to protect the victim from police brutality and to effectively investigate the misuse of force. This is not the first such case to be so decided against Slovakia, and there are other, similar cases before the European Court [of Human Rights], including the cases of the brutal, never-investigated police raids in Moldava nad Bodvou and Vrbnice, "said Vanda Durbakova, the attorney for the victim, who added that Slovak state authorities must finally adopt systemic measures to ensure that each such case is effectively investigated while also taking steps to prevent such cases from happening.
"I'm glad the court agreed I was telling the truth," the injured boy said. His mother added: "I would like to tell other Roma and all people who have encountered police brutality not to let it go and to defend themselves."
The ECtHR emphasized in the judgment that any use of force by police officers that is not strictly necessary is undertaken at the expense of human dignity. Such behavior is therefore a violation of the Convention.
The court stated that the Slovak Government had not proven that the violent conduct by the municipal police officers had been necessary given the circumstances of the case. According to the ECtHR, the Slovak authorities failed to begin investigating the case on their own initiative and did not thoroughly investigate all the relevant facts, including whether the use of force was necessary and proportionate in this case.
The court awarded the complainant financial compensation of EUR 5 000 and the right to recover the costs of bringing the case. Free legal assistance to the complainant was provided by the Center for Civil and Human Rights, an NGO in Slovakia.
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