Slovakia to compensate Romani victims of police brutality after nine years of judicial procedures
Slovakia is paying compensation totaling EUR 110 000 to eight victims of the 2013 police raid on a community of Romani people in Moldava nad Bodvou; the payment stems from a settlement that has been negotiated between the eight plaintiffs and the Slovak Government that has been approved by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, France. The decision came more than a year and a half after two other cases seeking damages for the same raid succeeded before the Strasbourg court.
In the previous cases, the ECtHR found that the plaintiffs' rights had been violated and awarded them EUR 20 000 and reimbursement of their legal costs in the amount of EUR 6 500. The Government of Slovakia conceded the complainants' cases, not just with regard to the similarity of both cases, but also with regard to the conclusions of the European Court expressed in a judgment of September 2020, which found the complainants' rights had been violated.
"We are glad that the victims of the raid have finally received justice, and we welcome the approach of the Justice Ministry," responded a legal consultant for the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Michal Zálešák, who worked on the case during the ECtHR proceedings. "Unfortunately, it took nine years and several proceedings before both the domestic authorities and the courts for justice to be done," he said, adding that during those nine years the complainants had been further penalized by law enforcement authorities just because they had dared to claim their rights and to complain about the brutal police intervention against them.
The Slovak Interior Ministry Inspectorate found no misconduct had been perpetrated by the police officers and the Slovak Constitutional Court rejected a complaint about the raid. In addition, the six Romani complainants who said the police had beaten them during the raid were accused by the police of perjury and some were even convicted and sentenced.
The reversal of the Slovak court verdicts did not occur until exactly after the Romani complainants' arguments were backed by the Strasbourg court. The cabinet of Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger apologized last year for the raid and for the subsequent prosecution and conviction of several local Romani people for perjury, who were then exonerated.
The Government of Slovakia also emphasized that its apology "is not just a humane gesture towards the victims, it is also a commitment to prevent similar failures in the future". According to the ERRC, the settlement that has now been agreed can never fully compensate for how the police proceeded during the raid in Moldava nad Bodvou and the subsequent persecution of the victims by law enforcement authorities and courts, but the organization said that it does nevertheless appreciate the authorities' recent efforts and willingness to prevent similar cases from happening in the future.
Attention was drawn to the brutal police intervention in Moldava nad Bodvou in June 2013 not just by the Romani victims themselves, but also by NGOs. According to civil society activists, the raid on the Romani settlement involved several dozen police.
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