MINELRES: ERRC: European Court of Human Rights Condemns Croatian Government for Failure to Investigate Racially-Motivated Attack

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sun Jun 3 10:38:22 2007

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

Judgment Expands Strasbourg Court Jurisprudence in the Field of

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday delivered a landmark
judgment in the case of Secic v. Croatia, concerning the lack of a
proper investigation carried out by the Croatian authorities into a
racially-motivated attack on a Romani man. 

The Court held that the Croatian authorities failed to conduct a
sufficiently thorough and expeditious investigation as well as examine
the possible racial motives behind the assault. 

The judgment, the first in which the Court has elaborated on the
obligations of states in cases of racially-motivated attacks perpetrated
by private individuals, is a call for the swift prosecution of hate
crime at a time when such attacks occur with heightened frequency
throughout Europe. 

The applicant in this case, a Romani man, was brutally beaten by a group
of unidentified skinheads on 29 April 1999 while collecting scrap iron
in a neighborhood of Zagreb. The attack was one of a spate of similar
incidents in and around Zagreb. As a result of the attack, the applicant
was hospitalised with multiple rib fractures and had to undertake
long-term psychological treatment. The official investigation into the
incidents, formally opened by the police in the wake of the attacks, was
a largely superficial exercise, which failed to identify the
perpetrators and is still pending more than eight years later.

In analysing the applicant's claim under Article 3 of the European
Convention on Human Rights, the Court noted the substantial shortcomings
of the official investigation carried out by the Croatian authorities -
its excessive length, the failure to question key suspects, or follow
significant leads. 

In view of these considerations, the Court concluded that the
investigation carried out in this case failed to meet the requirements
of Article 3 of the Convention. 

With regard to the applicant's Article 14 discrimination claim, the
Court explained that the principle first expounded in the Nachova v.
Bulgaria judgment, namely that States "have the additional duty to take
all reasonable steps to unmask any racial motive and to establish
whether or not ethnic hatred and prejudice may have played a role in the
events" was equally applicable to attacks perpetrated by private
individuals. The Court reasoned that "treating racially induced violence
and brutality on an equal footing with cases that have no racist
overtones would be turning a blind eye to the specific nature of acts
that are particularly destructive of fundamental rights." The Court
noted that the perpetrators were known to belong to a skinhead group,
which "is by its nature governed by extremist and racist ideology". The
Court criticised the Croatian authorities for the fact that despite
"being aware that the event at issue was most probably induced by ethnic
hatred, the police allowed the investigation to last for more than seven
years without undertaking any serious steps with a view to identifying
or prosecuting the perpetrators". 

Consequently, a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with
Article 3 was found.

This judgment delivers only partial justice to the applicant, since his
attackers are still free, more than eight years after their brutal
assault. This judgment mandates the Croatian authorities to finally
bring the perpetrators to justice and provide full relief to the victim.
ERRC notes with satisfaction that this judgment provides fresh impetus
to the Croatian government, as well as other governments in the region,
to prosecute hate crime with renewed energy.

Mr. Secic was awarded 8,000 euro non-pecuniary damages; the court
awarded 6000 euros in respect of costs and expenses.  Mr. Secic was
represented in court by Ms. Lovorka Kusan, a Croatian lawyer, and the
European Roma Rights Centre.

Read the full text of the judgments here:

Further information on the case is available from:
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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