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Croatia: Court backs anti-Roma hate crime complaint

Human rights judges have today accepted that Croatia’s authorities failed to investigate properly an alleged anti-Roma hate crime.

The complaint was brought by Maja Škorjanec, a Croatian national who was born in 1988 and lives in Zagreb.

In June 2013, two men racially abused her partner on the basis of his Roma origin, before attacking both him and the applicant herself. The two assailants were prosecuted and convicted on charges that included a hate crime against the applicant’s partner. However, the men were not charged for a racially motivated crime against the applicant herself. The authorities rejected her complaint of a hate crime, finding that there was no indication that the men had attacked her because of hatred towards Roma, as she is not of Roma origin.

Škorjanec complained to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming a lack of an effective procedural response of the Croatian authorities in relation to a racially motivated act of violence against her.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Škorjanec v. Croatia (application no. 25536/14) the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Croatia was to pay the applicant 12,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,200 in respect of costs and expenses.

Under convention case law, a person may be a victim of a violent hate crime not only when they have been attacked because they themselves have a certain characteristic -but also when they are attacked because they have an actual or presumed association with another person, who has (or is perceived to have) that characteristic.

States have an obligation to recognise both types as hate crimes, and investigate them accordingly. However, in this case the Croatian authorities repeatedly failed to take the necessary care in identifying the violence against the applicant as a suspected hate
crime.

By rejecting the applicant’s criminal complaint, the authorities failed in their obligations under the Convention.

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