Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
13.12.2005

Facts

The applicants are Greek nationals belonging to the Roma ethnic group. Police were called out to deal with the attempted burglary of a kiosk. The owner of the kiosk claimed to have found Mr Bekos attempting to break into the kiosk with an iron bar with Mr Koutropoulos apparently acting as a lookout. Both applicants stated that they were verbally abused about their Roma origins while detained.

Complaint

The applicants alleged that they had been subjected to acts of police brutality and that the authorities had failed to carry out an adequate investigation into the incident. They further alleged that the impugned events had been motivated by racial prejudice.

Court‘s ruling

The Court considered that, when investigating violent incidents, State authorities had the additional duty to take all reasonable steps to unmask any racist motive and to establish whether or not ethnic hatred or prejudice might have played a role in the events. Admittedly, proving racial motivation would often be extremely difficult in practice. The authorities had to do what was reasonable in the circumstances to collect and secure the evidence, explore all practical means of discovering the truth and deliver fully-reasoned, impartial and objective decisions, without omitting suspicious facts that might indicate racist motives.

In the applicants’ case, despite the plausible information available to the authorities that the alleged assaults had been racially motivated, there was no evidence that they carried out any examination into the question. In particular, nothing was done to verify the statements of Mr Bekos that they had been racially verbally abused or the other statements referred to in the open letter alleging similar ill-treatment of Roma; nor did any inquiries appear to have been made as to whether the police officers had previously been involved in similar incidents or whether they had ever been accused in the past of displaying anti-Roma sentiment; nor, further, did any investigation appear to have been conducted into how the other officers were carrying out their duties when dealing with ethnic minority groups.

The Court therefore found a violation of Article 14 taken together with Article 3 in that the authorities failed in their duty to take all possible steps to investigate whether or not discrimination might have played a role in the events at issue.