MINELRES: Justice Initiative Files Legal Brief In ECHR Nachova Case

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Nov 10 17:09:25 2004

Original sender: Justice Initiative <info@justiceinitiative.org>


Submission to Strasbourg Court Concerns States' Duty to Investigate
Racially Motivated Crimes

November 8, 2004  The Justice Initiative filed written comments with
the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on
November 2, in the case of Nachova and others v. Bulgaria. The case,
which concerns the killing of two Roma men by military police, is of
great significance for the development and application of legal norms
concerning racial discrimination and violence.

In February 2004, a panel of the European Court found that the fatal
shootings, and a subsequent investigation which cleared the military
police of wrongdoing, were racially motivated. As a result, the Court
ruled that the Bulgarian government had violated Article 14 of the
European Convention, which prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of
other Convention rights. This landmark ruling marked the first time in
its history that the European Court had found a government in breach of
Article 14's non-discrimination guarantee on grounds of race.

On request of the government of Bulgaria, the Grand Chamber of the
European Court agreed to review the matter. Oral argument is scheduled
for February 2005.

In its written comments, the Justice Initiative suggests that the
European Court take the opportunity of a Grand Chamber hearing to make
clear that Article 14 of the Convention, taken together with Articles 2
and 3, contains a procedural obligation to investigate and prosecute the
perpetrators of racially-motivated violence. This obligation is fully
consistent with this Court's prior caselaw, international jurisprudence
more generally, and the law and practice of numerous Council of Europe
member states and beyond. 

The Justice Initiative submission contends that the obligation should be
exercised ex officio when there is reasonable suspicion that a
racially-motivated crime has occurred. The scope and contours of the
obligation should be no narrower than already exist for other procedural
obligations this Court has recognized under Articles of the Convention.
Given the Court's recognition of the importance of maintaining the
public confidence of minorities in the rule of law, where racial bias is
suspected, particular care may be required to ensure that an
investigation satisfies the standards of effectiveness, impartiality and

The brief is online at:

Contact: James A. Goldston: +1 212 548 0157 

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute (OSI), pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies. The Justice Initiative combines litigation,
legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination of knowledge
to secure advances in five priority areas: national criminal justice,
international justice, freedom of information and expression, equality
and citizenship, and anticorruption. Its offices are in Abuja, Budapest,
and New York.