The European Court of Human Rights has determined that the Hungarian authorities violated the fundamental human rights of a Roma man by covering up a coercive police interrogation.

The victim, a client of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, was arrested and taken to a police station in 2010. Upon his release, he filed charges against the Hungarian authorities claiming that during the twelve hours of his arrest and interrogation he was brutally assaulted and humiliated by six policemen and two security guards so as to coerce a plea agreement from him.

The policemen told the man they "do not even care if you drop dead. At least there will be one less Gypsy." The incident had a devastating psychological impact on the man.

A few hours after his release from police custody, the man was hospitalised. According to the clinical evidence from the hospital, he sustained injuries to the skull, nose, shoulder, hip, arm, hand and thigh. An investigation initiated based on his allegations was terminated by the prosecutor's office, which maintained that it could not be established beyond reasonable doubt that the assault had, in fact, been committed by the suspects.

Institutional racism

Assisted by the HCLU, the injured party turned to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), claiming a violation of the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the principle of non-discrimination.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) intervened in the proceedings in order to help the man's case. ERRC requested that the Court take into account the existence of institutional racism in the country.

The ECtHR's judgment held that the Hungarian government had failed to refute the plaintiff's claim that his injuries had been caused at the police station. Furthermore, the Strasbourg court maintained that the investigation conducted by the Hungarian authorities had not been effective, nor had it involved an examination of the potential racist motives of the abuse.

 

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