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October 25, 2021



European Court of Human Rights: Slovakia failed to investigate Roma youth's allegations of police brutality

19.8.2016 13:47
A police vehicle in Slovakia. (PHOTO:  Wikimedia Commons)
A police vehicle in Slovakia. (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has partially ruled in favor of a complaint filed by a Romani teenager against the Slovak state authorities. The international court decided that Slovakia did not sufficiently investigate the teen's allegations six years ago that he was subjected to police brutality.

The alleged police brutality was said to have occurred in 2010 at a police station in a community near Košice and was never sufficiently investigated, the ECtHR has ruled. At the time of the alleged incident, the boy was 16 years old.

According to his legal representative, Vanda Durbáková of the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Poradna pro občanská a lidská práva), the ECtHR has confirmed the Slovak authorities failed to investigate and thereby seriously violated her client's rights. "The responsible state bodies must finally take bold steps to prevent police brutality, and in any event they must arrange for investigations that are actually effective and for perpetrators to be punished should such cases come to light," Durbáková said in a press release.

The Counseling Center's program coordinator, Štěpán Ivančo, found the ECtHR decision unsurprising. "Many international institutions have long criticized Slovakia for its persistent police brutality against members of the Romani minority and for deficiencies in the investigation of such cases," Ivančo said.  

The case of Adam vs. The Slovak Republic

The Romani teen was arrested together with two other minors on 18 December 2010 by members of the district police department on suspicion of having assaulted a 12-year-old boy and taken his mobile telephone. The officers took the minors to a police station, where the boys allege they were detained for approximately 13 hours into the following night.

The boys allege that the police pressured them, both by using physical force and psychologically, with the aim of forcing them to confess to having committed a crime. They allege police slapped and punched them, causing them injuries that reportedly took seven days to heal.

During the entire night the boys allegedly were not allowed to either lie down or to sit, and they were allegedly provided with neither food nor water. One of the boy's mothers subsequently filed a criminal report in January 2011 that was dealt with by the Police Inspection Authority.

The investigating officer rejected the criminal report as manifestly unfounded. He stated in his assessment that no police brutality had been committed during the preliminary interrogation of the minors.

The Romani teen subsequently complained to the Prosecutor for the Armed Forces, to the Prosecutor-General, and to the Constitutional Court, but was unsuccessful. His version of events could not be proven because the Police Inspection Authority, instead of performing its own investigation of the charges, left the burden of proof entirely on the plaintiff.

The ECtHR does state - as does the Slovak Justice Ministry on its website - that the plaintiff's allegations of ill-treatment were general and unsupported by evidence, while the documentation submitted by the Government seems detailed and systematic. However, the ECtHR does criticize the police decision not to investigate further.

Slovak authorities never took any steps to resolve the discrepancies between the different versions of events - while the Romani teenager alleged he had been beaten, the police reported that his injuries could have happened while he was resisting arrest. The Slovak Constitutional Court refused to even hear the complaint against the police officers.

The ECtHR has awarded the plaintiff financial compensation for non-material damages in the amount of EUR 1 500 because of the Slovak authorities' failure to investigate, as well as EUR 3 000 to cover his court costs. The international court rules on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, the most important human rights convention negotiated within the framework of the Council of Europe that forms the basis for international legal protection of human rights in the European region.

Lenka Jandáková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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