MINELRES: Macedonia Again Found in Violation of the European Convention on Human Rights

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri Apr 18 16:31:24 2008


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


Macedonia Again Found in Violation of the European Convention on Human
Rights 

Strasbourg Court Finds Violation of Article 3 in the Second Macedonian
Roma Torture Case 

Budapest, Strasbourg, Skopje, 14 April 2008: In a judgment announced on
10th April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Macedonia
violated Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in connection with the
ill-treatment by the police of Mr Amdi Dzeladinov, Mr Dudzihan Kamilov,
Ms Remzie Durmisova, Mr Dagistan Alilov and Mr Mefail (Meta) Asanovski,
Macedonian nationals of Romani ethnic origin.

The facts of the case are as follows:

Around midnight on 2/3 August 1998, a group of Romani individuals was
returning home from the restaurant Krushevo in the town of Stip. On the
street in front of the restaurant, an argument broke out between this
group and Mr Zoran Shorov, a former wresting champion employed by the
police who was driving by.

Mr Sebajdin Usinov, a member of the Romani group, testified that he was
almost hit by Mr Shorov’s car, which was speeding. Mr Usinov yelled “are
you blind”, which might have made Mr Shorov angry (the applicants
testified at several stages of the procedure that Mr Shorov smelled of
alcohol) as he immediately parked his car for confrontation.  Based on
the witness statement given by Mr Memet Jusinov to the Association for
the Protection of Roma Rights (ARRP) on 1 September 1998, after Mr
Shorov got out of his car he immediately started hitting Sebajdin and a
fight broke out.  He, Dagistan Alilov and Amdi Dzeladinov intervened to
separate the fighters, then he left the scene. Amdi Dzeladinov also
stated to ARRP on the same day that they managed to separate the two
fighters, but Mr Shorov wanted to wait for the police to come.  

Several police officers arrived at the scene and indiscriminately used
physical force and truncheons against the Romani people in the
restaurant and others gathered outside. As a result of the raid, about
twenty Romani persons had to seek medical help at the Stip hospital.
During the following two days, seven Roma were individually taken to the
police station in relation to the raid and were subjected to various
kinds of ill-treatment during questioning.  

On 11 August 1998, Mr Dzeladinov, Mr Kamilov, Ms Durmishova, Mr Alilov
and Mr Asanovski  (the applicants), together with several other Romani
individuals, filed a criminal complaint with the Stip Public
Prosecutor’s Office against unidentified police officers for the crime
of Torture under Article 142 paragraph 2 of the Macedonian Criminal
Code. There no effective official investigation capable of identifying
the perpetrators and provide a remedy for the victims. On 12 December
2001, the ERRC filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights
on behalf of the applicants, claiming violations of Articles 3
(prohibition of torture) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the
European Convention on Human Rights. The applicants complained under
Article 3 of the Convention that they had been subjected to acts of
police brutality amounting to torture, inhuman and/or degrading
treatment. They also argued that the prosecuting authority’s failure to
carry out any official investigation capable of leading to the
identification and punishment of the police officers responsible for the
ill-treatment constituted a procedural violation of Article 3. Finally,
they argued that they did not have access to an effective remedy with
respect to the prosecuting authority’s failure to investigate the
allegations of ill-treatment, in violation of Article 13 of the
Convention, read in conjunction with Article 3. 

On 6 March 2007, the European Court of Human Rights declared the case
admissible. 

In its ruling, the Court reiterated that where an individual makes a
credible assertion that he has suffered treatment infringing Article 3
at the hands of the police or other agents of the State, that provision,
read in conjunction with the State's general duty under Article 1 of the
Convention to “secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights
and freedoms defined in ... [the] Convention”, requires by implication
that there should be an effective official investigation. As with an
investigation under Article 2, “such an investigation should be capable
of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible.
Otherwise, the general legal prohibition of torture and inhuman and
degrading treatment and punishment would, despite its fundamental
importance, be ineffective in practice and it would be possible in some
cases for agents of the State to abuse the rights of those within their
control with virtual impunity.”

 The investigation into serious allegations of ill-treatment must be
thorough. That means that the authorities must take all reasonable steps
available to them to secure the evidence concerning the incident. Any
deficiency in the investigation which undermines its ability to
establish the cause of injuries or the identity of the persons
responsible will risk falling foul of this standard. The investigation
must be expeditious. In cases under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention,
where the effectiveness of the official investigation is at issue, the
Court has often assessed whether the authorities reacted promptly to the
complaints at the relevant time.

In the present judgment, the European Court emphasised that, “the public
prosecutor was under a duty to investigate whether an offence had been
committed. However, he did not take any investigative measures after
receiving the criminal complaint, apart from requesting that the
Ministry make additional inquiries … He took no steps to identify the
officers involved in the police raid, nor is there any indication that
any witnesses or police officers concerned were questioned about the
incident. No consideration was made as to what possible justification
there might have been for the physical force used against the
applicants. In conclusion, the public prosecutor took no steps to find
any evidence confirming or contradicting the account given by the
applicants…. In addition, the inactivity of the public prosecutor
prevented the applicants from taking over the investigation as
subsidiary complainants and denied them access to subsequent challenges
in the context of the criminal proceedings.”

Considering that there was no investigation into the applicants' claim
that they had sustained the alleged injuries at the hands of the police,
the Court found that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the
Convention in this respect and awarded non-pecuniary damages to all of
the victims. 

Reports made by international bodies over the last years, such as the
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), and local human rights
organisations repeatedly confirm that physical ill-treatment of persons
in police custody and subsequent impunity of the perpetrators is a
serious problem in Macedonia. In their report published on 13 February
2008, the CPT stressed the “persistent non-implementation of its
recommendations by the national authorities” and requested an interim
response from the Government as regards combating impunity, the
conditions of detention in prisons and the treatment and care of
particularly vulnerable persons.

In its current assessment published on 4 April 2008, the UN Human Rights
Committee noted “the longstanding concerns about the behavior of certain
elements of the police forces, including ill-treatment of detainees, as
well as reports of deficiencies of the current police internal oversight
mechanisms.” It was particularly “concerned about reports of police
violence against members of minority groups, in particular against Roma,
and the lack of effective investigation of such cases” and it called on
Macedonia  to ensure that “that all allegations of ill-treatment are
investigated and those found responsible punished” together with an
establishment of an independent monitoring body for the police.

This was the second time that Macedonia was found in violation of the
European Court of Human Rights in connection with the physical abuse of
Roma by police and lack of adequate state response. It is particularly
alarming that irrespective of the repeated concerns expressed by
international and domestic human rights monitoring organisations over
the last years the situation did not change, moreover, even the European
Court’s judgment in the first police brutality case against Macedonia in
February 2007 (Jasar v. Macedonia) did not prevent the applicant to be
beaten again by the police in November last year, just 8 months
following the judgment.

The full text of the decision is available here:
http://www.errc.org/db/02/EF/m000002EF.pdf

The ERRC’s work in Macedonia is currently supported by the Swedish
International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Open Society
Institute and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

For further information on the case, please contact

Anita Danka, Staff Attorney (anita.danka@errc.org; +36-1-413-2221).

---------------------------------------------------------------

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:
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2735 

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
Tel: +36.1.413.2200
Fax:
+36.1.413.2201

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