14 March 2014

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Bulgarian authorities failed to properly investigate the potentially racist nature of an attack on a Sudanese national in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, in 2003.

The victim alleged to police that, while he was being kicked on the ground, he was called a ‘dirty nigger’ by the attackers, who were subsequently identified by police as ‘skinheads’, known for their extremist and xenophobic ideology. Despite this, Bulgarian authorities did not ask the only witness about any remarks he may have heard during the incident, nor did they question the attackers about a possible racist motive. The attackers were accordingly not prosecuted for “racially motivated violence”, which is punishable by imprisonment under Bulgarian law.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment, and also imposes a procedural obligation on the state to mount an effective investigation capable of punishing those responsible for such treatment. Article 14 bans unjustified discrimination including on the basis of race or ethnicity.

The Court concluded that, despite having plausible evidence pointing to a possible racist motive, the authorities had failed in their duty to take all reasonable steps to establish the accuracy of that evidence. The Court therefore held that there had been a violation of Articles 3 and 14.

Bulgaria was ordered to pay 4,000 Euros compensation to the applicant.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 14 March 2014
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