MINELRES: ERRC: Strasbourg Court Sanctions Romania for Failure to Remedy Police Ill-Treatment of Romani Man

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sun Jul 29 07:38:18 2007

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Strasbourg Court Sanctions Romania for Failure to Remedy Police
Ill-Treatment of Romani Man  

Judgment strengthens discrimination law  

The European Court of Human Rights today delivered its judgment in the
case of Cobzaru v. Romania concerning the beating of a Romani man by
police officers while in custody in Mangalia, Romania, and the ensuing
official investigation. The Court held that Romania is responsible for
breaches of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment (Article
3), the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) and the prohibition of
discrimination (Article 14). The applicant was represented by Monica
Macovei, a Bucharest-based lawyer, the Romanian Helsinki Committee, and
the European Roma Rights Centre. 

On 4 July 1997 after a domestic incident involving his partner and her
relatives, the applicant went to the local police station asking for
help. However, instead of offering help, two police officers brutally
ill-treated him, and eventually released him after two hours. As a
result of the beating, the applicant suffered from craniocerebral trauma
and numerous bruises and haematoma all over his body. The official
investigation into the assault  ended with a decision of non-indictment,
and was marked by numerous derogatory remarks on the part of the
authorities in relation to the applicant's and the witnesses' Roma

In relation to the applicant's claims under Article 3, the Court noted
the numerous shortcomings of the official investigation, and concluded
that the Government did not satisfactorily establish that the
applicant's injuries were caused otherwise than by the treatment
inflicted on him while he was under police control, thus warranting a
finding of both the substantive and the procedural aspects of Article 3. 

The Court also established a violation of Article 13 of the Convention,
since no effective investigation into the allegations brought by the
applicant was carried out, and moreover, since the negative result of
the criminal proceedings prevented the applicant from availing of any
other domestic remedy.

The ruling on the applicant's Article 14 claim brings welcome
clarification to the Court's case-law on the prohibition of
discrimination. Firstly, the Court held that there was no evidence that
the beating was motivated by racial hatred, and therefore did not find a
substantive violation of Article 14. Secondly however, with regard to
the procedural aspect of Article 14, the Court noted that even in the
absence of prima facie plausible information to prove that the assault
on the applicant was racially-motivated, the authorities were under an
obligation to investigate a possible racist motive to the attack given
the number and notoriety of such incidents in post communist Romania,
and the general policies adopted by the Romanian government to combat
discrimination against the Roma. Thirdly, the Court held that during the
official investigation, a number of derogatory remarks were made in
relation to the applicant's Roma origin, which disclosed the general
discriminatory attitudes of the authorities, which in itself constituted
discrimination contrary to Article 14. 

The ERRC and APADOR consider that the judgment in the Cobzaru case is
important for two reasons. Firstly, it highlights Romania's failure to
provide effective protection to its Roma minority from harm meted out by
police officers, as well as the widespread anti-Roma discrimination in
the country. Secondly, Cobzaru further crystallizes the Court's case-law
in the field of discrimination, principally by attaching significance to
the general context of anti-Roma discrimination in Romania, and thus
going beyond the particulars of the applicant's situation.

Read the full text of the judgments here:

Further information on the case is available from: 

Diana-Olivia Hatneanu, Executive Director, Romanian Helsinki Committee
(APADOR-CH), dhatneanu@apador.org, Tel: +40-21-3124528

Constantin Cojocariu, ERRC Staff Attorney, Email: constantin@errc.org, 
Tel.: +36-1-413-2200 


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more
information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the
web at http://www.errc.org 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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