Police Violence against Roma: To Investigate or Not to Investigate, That Was Not a Question

When is the duty to investigate possible racist motives triggered in cases of ill-treatment and death in police custody? In one of the latest 2010 judgments (Mižigárová v. Slovakia) dealing with police brutality against a member of an ethnic minority, the Court did not consider that “the authorities had before them information that was sufficient to bring into play their obligation to investigate possible racist motives on the part of the officers” (para. 123).

The victim, a young man of Roma origin apprehended on suspicion of bicycle theft, ended up dead four days after he was shot in the abdomen during police interrogation. The police officer was off-duty and had had previous encounters with the victim. Numerous international organizations’ reports – referred to in the judgment – show that police violence against Roma in Slovakia was systemic at the relevant time. Could independent evidence of a systemic problem be deemed sufficient to alert authorities to the possible existence of racist motives in the absence of any other evidence? Continue reading