European Court of Human Rights: Slovakia did not sufficiently investigate racial motivation of shooting six years ago
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has agreed with the relatives of the victims of the massacre that happened six years ago in Hurbanova, southern Slovakia. A 51-year-old local police officer shot dead three Romani people and injured two others with an illegally held weapon during the incident.
The bereaved and the surviving victims have sued the Slovak Republic in Strasbourg for its insufficient investigation of the perpetrator's motivation as possibly having been racial. Gunman Milan Juhász was sentenced a year after the tragedy to nine years in prison and three years in a psychiatric treatment facility for intentional triple murder and two counts of attempted intentional murder, for possession of an unlicensed weapon, and for trespassing.
The defendant originally faced life in prison but judges handed down a lesser sentence after the prosecutor filed a motion to that effect and after experts testified that the gunman was not absolutely in his right mind at the time the crime was committed. Despite the express request of the injured parties, the court did not review a possible racial motive for the crime, so they complained to the Constitutional Court.
That court did not agree with the injured parties' complaint, so they turned to Strasbourg. The European Court of Human Rights has agreed with them and awarded them compensation in the amount of EUR 50 000, to be paid by the Slovak Justice Ministry.
According to Strasbourg, the Slovak authorities "...did not properly investigate the possible racial motive of the behavior of the perpetrator of these multiple murders", according to a report from the European Roma Rights Centre, which represented the injured parties in Strasbourg. "After misconduct was committed during the investigation by the police, the prosecutor had the opportunity to order the investigation of a possible racial motive for this crime, but did not do so. The court did not explain its verdict, thereby facilitating the overlooking of a racial motive despite the express request of the injured parties that it be investigated. After this criminal law protection for the injured parties failed, the Constitutional Court, to which the victims turned, could at least have indicated that their rights had been violated," Dorde Jovanović, the president of the ERRC, told news server Aktuality.sk, adding that in his view the case is one of the systemic failure of Slovakia's criminal investigation authorities.
Slovakia now has three months to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights for a review of the judgment. According to Marica Pirošíková, the attorney for Slovakia before the Strasbourg court, the country would not have much chance of success if it were to appeal, as the court's judgment was unanimous.
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