Did Hungarian authorities investigate effectively an alleged racist assault on a man of Roma origin?
European Court of Human Rights judges will hope to answer this question tomorrow (Tuesday 20 October), when they announce their decision in the case Balázs v. Hungary (no. 15529/12).
The applicant, János Krisztián Balázs, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1991 and lives in Szeged (Hungary). The case concerns his complaint that the authorities failed to conduct an effective investigation into a racist attack against him.
According to Balázs, after leaving a club in the early morning of 21 January 2011, he was attacked by a man who presented himself as a police officer (and who later turned out to be a penitentiary officer). The officer had joined a scene during which Balázs and his girlfriend had been insulted by three men who made comments about his Roma origin. The officer had then referred to him as a
The fight ended as a result of the intervention by three of Balázs’ acquaintances. Balázs, his girlfriend and the penitentiary officer, who had called the police, were then taken to a police station, where they stayed until the next day.
Although both men had been injured in the fight, only the penitentiary officer underwent a medical examination. Balázs’ injuries – bruises on his chest, back, neck and face – were recorded by a general practitioner two days after the incident.
Balázs lodged a criminal complaint against the penitentiary officer, describing the incident and submitting material he had found on the Internet, namely posts by the officer in a social network, according to which the night before he “had kicked in the head a gypsy lying on the ground”. The Public Prosecutor opened a criminal investigation against the officer on suspicion of the offence of
“violence against a member of a group.”
In July 2011 the Prosecutor discontinued the investigation for lack of evidence that the officer had attacked Balázs out of racial hatred. Following Balázs’ complaint against that decision, his lawyer’s request that the officer be heard as a suspect or as a witness was dismissed on the ground that in parallel proceedings against the officer, on charges of disorderly conduct, he had already been heard as a suspect.
The decision to discontinue the investigation was upheld in September 2011. In May 2012 the officer was convicted of disorderly conduct for becoming involved in a fight and was placed on a one-year probation.
Relying on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) read in conjunction with Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Balázs complains that the authorities failed to conduct an
effective investigation into the racist attack against him, and in particular that they did not take sufficient action to establish a possible racist motive for the assault.