An investigation by Montenegrin authorities into a boat accident, which may have claimed the lives of 69 Roma passengers set for Italy, was “ineffective.”
That is the decision of Strasbourg judges today, in their judgement of the case of Ranđelović and Others v. Montenegro (application no. 66641/10).
The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 2 (right to life – investigation) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of one of the 13 applicants.
As just satisfaction, the court held that Montenegro should pay 12,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 500 in respect of costs and expenses to Begija Gaši, one of the 13 applicants.
Her brother and sister-in-law were among the group of 70 Roma passengers who boarded a boat on the Montenegrin coast on the night of 15 August 1999, with the intention of reaching Italy.
Gaši, whose relatives are still missing following the boat accident, and others complained that the Montenegrin authorities had failed to conduct a prompt and effective investigation into the deaths or disappearance of the applicants’ family members.
The court concluded that the government had failed to justify the duration of the criminal proceedings, which had lasted more than ten years and seven months after a new indictment had been issued in 2006.
Referring to its case-law, the court underlined in particular that the passage of time inevitably eroded the amount and quality of evidence available and that the appearance of a lack of diligence cast doubt on the good faith of the investigative efforts.
Lengthy proceedings also prolonged the ordeal for members of the family. The Court therefore considered that the delays in question could not be regarded as compatible with the State’s obligation under Article 2.