An investigation by Romanian police into an attack on two Bucharest Pride participants in the aftermath of the 2006 march was ineffective, marred by shortcomings and failed to take an-LGBTI bias into account, according to the European Court of Human Rights.
In a judgment released yesterday (Tuesday, 12 April 2016), the ECtHR found that the Romanian authorities’ failure to efficiently investigate the incident and its potential discriminatory motive breached Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, read together with the anti-discrimination Article 14.
ILGA-Europe, third party intervener in the case, are pleased to see the Court’s focus on the homophobic motive, a fact that was not taken into account by the investigating officers. The Court said that the hostile environment for the LGBTI community in Romania means that investigating a discriminatory motive was “indispensable”. The Court also stated that if hate crimes are not differentiated from violent attacks that have no bias motives, then this indifference is tantamount to state acquiescence with hate crime.
“The importance of anti-hate crime legislation is amplified in countries where social acceptance of LGBTI people is not very high.” said ILGA-Europe Litigation Officer, Arpi Avetisyan. “For example, the FRA 2012 study saw 19% of respondents in Romania state that they thought anti-LGBT assaults are widespread (EU average 8%). When the Eurobarometer asked last year if LGB people should have equal rights to heterosexual people, only 36% of those surveyed in Romania agreed (the EU average was 71%). We cannot ignore figures like that. In those situations, protection against bias-motivated attacks is critical.”
The case of M.C. and A.C. vs Romania dates back to June 2006. M.C. and A.C. were attacked on the metro by a group of six people as they returned home from the 2006 Bucharest Pride march. Both of them were subjected to homophobic abuse and were punched and kicked. They immediately reported the attack to police; their complaint was accompanied by photographs of the perpetrators and other evidence.
The Strasbourg court analysed the effectiveness of the subsequent criminal investigation and found it far from satisfactory. The judgment points out the long periods of inactivity, the fact that the police did not make use of any of the evidence submitted and that the actions taken by the authorities to identifying or punish the perpetrators cannot be accepted as appropriate.
ILGA-Europe welcome the Court’s emphasis on the need to combat prejudice-motivated crimes against minority groups, such as the LGBTI community. Since the 2006 attack, sexual orientation has been added as a ground within Romanian hate crime laws. However, our own Rainbow Europe Index notes that trans people in Romania still lack any legal protection from bias-motivated violence.
Today’s judgment also featured a partial dissent, which pointed out that a further examination of other Convention violations, such as freedom of assembly and right to an effective remedy, could have given MC and AC an even wider potential impact.