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Romania: Court declares “excessive and unjustified use of force during a police operation in a Roma community”

Human rights judges have ruled that Romania policeused “excessive and unjustified use of force” against Roma community members, during an anti-crime operation.

In its 16 October  committee judgment in the case of Lingurar and Others v. Romania (application no. 5886/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of both the substantive and procedural aspects of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights;
no violation of the substantive aspect of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Article 3 of the Convention,

and
a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 14 taken together with Article 3.

The applicants, Augustin Lingurar, Trandafir Lăcătuş and Minerva Covaci, are Romanian nationals who were born in 1976, 1986 and 1985 respectively. They belong to the Roma ethnic group and live in Cluj-Napoca.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Romania was to pay Lingurar and Lăcătuş 11,700 euros (EUR) each in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,100 in respect of costs and expenses.

The court found that the use of force by the police against Lingurar and Lăcătuş had been
excessive and unjustified in the circumstances. Lingurar had been thrown to the ground by a
police officer and Lăcătuş had been struck by a truncheon although he was putting up no
resistance and had been immobilised by two police officers.

The court considered that these acts of brutality were intended to give rise to feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing him.

No investigation had been carried out by the authorities to ascertain whether the police actions complained of by Lingurar had been necessary in view of his conduct or possible resistance.

The investigation into the allegations made by Lăcătuş had lasted more than eight years.

Lastly, without accepting that there had been a racist motive to the police conduct during the operation, the court considered that the authorities’ investigation into the applicants’ allegations of racism had not been sufficiently thorough.

The judgment is final.

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