MINELRES: ERRC: Strasbourg Court Sanctions Romania over the racially motivated ill-treatment of a Romani juvenile

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Mar 15 11:13:34 2008


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


Judgment further advances anti-Roma discrimination law - Romania held in
breach of the substantive limb of Article 14 

Budapest, Bucharest, 5 March 2008: The European Court of Human Rights
today delivered its judgment in the case of Stoica v. Romania concerning
the racially motivated beating of Constantin Stoica, a Romani youth aged
14 at the time of the incident, by police officers in the village of
Gulia, commune of Dolhasca, Suceava county, 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) in conjunction with the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14).
The Court has also granted the applicant EUR 15,000 (fifteen thousand
euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. The applicant was represented
by Romani CRISS and the European Roma Rights Centre. 

On 3 April 2001 four police officers from the Dolhasca Police Force and
their chief, together with six public guards from Dolhasca, at the
request of the deputy mayor of the same locality to “teach them a
lesson”, started beating on Roma gathered outside a bar in Gulia, a
village inhabited primarily by Roma. Constantin Stoica, a 14-year-old
Roma boy was also a victim of the officials hitting bystanders
indiscriminately, as a police sergeant beat the child until he lost
consciousness, despite his previous telling the sergeant about his
current head surgery. Several persons, including the applicant's
schoolmates witnessed the incident while the deputy mayor and police
officers were heard shouting racist remarks. The child was diagnosed as
bearing “[…] ecchymoses, thoracic concussion and excoriation, inflicted
by a linear blunt instrument, which could date from 3 April 2001”. On 12
April 2001, the Commission for the Protection of Handicapped Persons
established that he had a first-degree disability which required
permanent supervision and a personal assistant. 

The official investigation that was launched following the lodging of a
complaint by Mr. Stoica’s father over the racially motivated
ill-treatment of his son and which was marred by serious procedural
deficiencies, ended with a decision of non-indictment of any police
officials as it had not been proved that Mr. Stoica’s injuries were
caused by police officials. 

In relation to the applicant’s claims under Article 3, the Court
rejected the Romanian Government’s argument to the effect that it should
effectively accept the version of events as established by the Romanian
authorities. Noting that the case concerned allegations of breach of
Article 3 which enshrines one of the fundamental values of a democratic
society, it proceeded to an independent assessment of the evidence
before it. Upon reviewing the investigation launched by the police
officials and the military prosecutor, the Court noted that it had not
been established by the Government that Mr. Stoica’s injuries could have
been caused otherwise than by the treatment inflicted on him by the
police officers and held that this amounted to inhuman and degrading
treatment. On the basis of the same observations, the Court held that
the Romanian authorities had also failed to launch an effective
investigation into Mr. Stoica’s allegations, in violation of the
procedural limb of Article 3. 

Turning to Mr. Stoica’s allegations in relation to Article 14, the Court
observed that the authorities had not been impartial in their assessment
of the evidence before them. In particular, they had premised their
findings on the statements of the police officials (who clearly had
every reason to wish to exonerate themselves and their colleagues from
any liability) but had dismissed all statements by villagers (all of
whom were of Romani ethnicity) on grounds of their alleged bias in
favour of the applicant. In rather unusual terms, the Court stated it
was “dissatisfied” by the fact that the military prosecutor had
overlooked police officials’ statements to the effect that the
villagers’ behaviour was “purely Gypsy”, a statement that in the eyes of
the Court was purely stereotypical. As a result, the Court held that the
investigation into the incident had failed to address the potential
existence of racial animus. The Court then noted that all the evidence
clearly pointed to the fact that the ill-treatment of Mr. Stoica was
racially motivated and hence the burden of proof now lay with the
Government to discharge it. Since the latter however failed to adduce
evidence suggesting that the impugned ill-treatment was not racially
motivated, the Court held that a substantive violation of Article 14 had
also taken place. 

Mr. Stoica has expressed his satisfaction that following a long period
of time of injustice, the abusive behaviour of the local authorities
towards him and his family has been finally condemned. He also stated he
hoped the ECHR decision would help eliminate abuse and discrimination
against Roma in Romania. 

The ERRC and Romani Criss note that the Stoica judgment comes in the
wake of a series of cases that dealt with ill-treatment of Roma such as
Cobzaru v. Romania and Anguelova and Iliev v. Bulgaria. As such, the
present judgment is yet another proof as to the importance the Court
attaches to the fight against discrimination. ERRC and Romani Criss also
welcome the finding of a substantive violation of Article 14 found by
the Court as well as the ever-increasing sensitivity displayed by the
Court in Roma-related cases. 

Read the full text of the judgments here: 
http://www.errc.org/db/02/C6/m000002C6.pdf

Read this press release in Romanian here: 
http://www.errc.org/db/02/C5/m000002C5.pdf

Further information on the case is available from: 
Marian Mandache, Romani CRISS Staff Attorney, Email:
marian@romanicriss.org 
Tel: +40-21-310-7070 

Theodoros Alexandridis, ERRC Staff Attorney, Email:
theodoros.alexandridis@errc.org 
Tel.: +36-1-413-2250

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

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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