Non-research into racist motivation in cases of police violence against Roma is inhuman and degrading treatment

JUDGMENT

M.F. v. Hungary  31-10-2017 (no.  45855/12) 

see here  

SUMMARY 

Police violence with racial motivation. A Hungarian citizen with Roma origin became a victim of ill-treatment and the authorities failed to conduct an effective investigation into his allegations. Unfair or degrading treatment both in terms of abuse and procedural aspects of ineffective research coupled with violation of the prohibition of discrimination due to the authorities’ inability to investigate possible racist motives behind the incident.

PROVISIONS 

Article 3

Article 14

PRINCIPAL FACTS 

The applicant, Mr M.F., is a Hungarian national who was born in 1990 and lives in Gyöngyöspata
(Hungary). He is of Roma origin. The case concerned his allegation of police brutality.

In the early hours of the morning on 12 August 2010 Mr M.F. was apprehended while driving a car
containing apparently stolen goods and taken to the local police station for questioning. He alleges
that for the next four hours, until after 6 a.m., six police officers and two security guards all took part
in ill-treating him in order to extract his confession to further offences. He alleges in particular that
he was repeatedly hit and kicked and that the soles of his feet had been hit many times with a piece
of wood. He also claims that one of the officers had told him that it would not matter if he died as
that would mean one less Gypsy. He eventually signed a record, stating that he had been questioned
for about 40 minutes and admitting three counts of theft, and was released.

The same evening Mr M.F. was examined by his local doctor at home and then at two hospitals. The
local doctor did not make any medical record of her visit, but recommended that he go to hospital to
have his injuries recorded. Both hospitals issued reports certifying that Mr M.F. had numerous
injuries, including bruising, abrasions, contusions and swollen hands, arms and feet.

In September 2010 Mr M.F. lodged a criminal complaint alleging that he had been the victim of
police brutality and that he had been repeatedly insulted on account of his Roma origin. The
prosecuting authorities discontinued the investigation in December 2010, finding that his version of
events was not plausible as most of the accused either had alibis or could not have been present
during the 40-minute period of his questioning. His allegation of a racist motive being behind his illtreatment
was not addressed.

In 2012 Mr M.F. also brought a substitute private prosecution against the six police officers and two
security guards. During these proceedings his mother, brother and a friend testified that he had had
injuries when they had picked him up from the police station on the day of his release. The charges
were however ultimately dropped against three of the defendants and the courts acquitted the
other five due to lack of evidence.

Mr M.F. was subsequently found guilty of false accusation against one of the police officers and
sentenced to 180 days’ community work.

Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention,
Mr M.F. complained about being ill-treated by the police and that the authorities had failed to
conduct an effective investigation into his allegations. Further relying on Article 14 (prohibition of
discrimination), he also alleged that he had been ill-treated because he had been a Roma and that
the investigation had not covered at all whether the ill-treatment had been racially motivated.

THE DECISION OF THE COURT 

Violation of Article 3 (treatment)

Violation of Article 3 (investigation)

No violation of Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 3 – in respect of the allegation that the
treatment inflicted on Mr M.F. by the police was racially motivated

Violation of Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 3 – on account of the authorities’ failure to
investigate possible racist motives behind the incident

Just satisfaction: EUR 10,000 (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 4,724 (costs and expenses)(echrcaselaw.com editing).


ECHRCaseLaw

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