M.B. and Others v. Slovakia (Application no. 45322/17)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.

84. In addition, the Court reiterates that when investigating violent incidents triggered by suspected racist attitudes, the State authorities are required to take all reasonable action to ascertain whether there were racist motives and to establish whether feelings of hatred or prejudices based on a person’s ethnic origin played a role in the events. Treating racially motivated violence and brutality on an equal footing with cases lacking any racist overtones would be tantamount to turning a blind eye to the specific nature of acts which are particularly destructive of fundamental human rights. A failure to make a distinction in the way in which situations which are essentially different are handled may constitute unjustified treatment irreconcilable with Article 14 of the Convention (see, for example, Abdu v. Bulgaria, no. 26827/08, § 44, 11 March 2014, with further references).

85. The police-car incident at stake in the present case was examined at the domestic level mainly with reference to the credibility of and incongruities in the evidence from the applicants. There is no indication that any particular attention was paid to the presence of a racial element in it.

86. In that respect, the Court notes that the applicants in the present case were Roma and the mugging with which they were associated took place near a housing project mainly inhabited by Roma. It is true that their claims at the domestic level that one of the reasons behind their alleged illtreatment had been their ethnicity (see paragraphs 20, 27 and 33 above) had been vague and general in nature (see, mutatis mutandis, Adam, cited above,§ 94; A.P., cited above, § 91; and R.R. and R.D., cited above, § 211). 

87. However, it is an objective fact, well known to the authorities, that the alleged incident investigated into in the present case fell into a bigger picture involving the incident at the police station that allegedly followed immediately afterwards. In particular, as specifically noted by the District Court in its judgment of 9 January 2015 (see paragraph 29 above), it was aware that J.C. stood accused in relation to both incidents of violent offences against the applicants and that the accusation in relation to the incident at the police station involved a particular motive which, seen against the background, was obviously racial (see also paragraph 33 above).

88. Nevertheless, rather than assessing the alleged police-car incident in its context, the District Court’s Chamber seized of it found that it was prevented from taking into account any evidence from the proceedings before another Chamber of that same court dealing with the alleged policestation incident. Similarly, the Constitutional Court has given no response at all to the applicants’ argument that the acknowledged racial motive in one of the incidents was to be taken in the account in the assessment of the other.

89. Thus, in addition to the lack of promptness already established above, the authorities plainly cannot be said to have taken all reasonable steps to unmask any possible racist motive, to establish whether or not ethnic hatred or prejudice may have played a role in the events, and thereby thoroughly to investigate all aspects of relevance.

93.  In view of the foregoing (see paragraphs 80-89 above), the Court concludes that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in its procedural aspect. 


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