European Court of Human Rights - Case of Šečić v Croatia (2007)

European Court of Human Rights - Case of Šečić v Croatia (2007)

In 1999, Mr. Šemso Šečić was collecting scrap metal with two other individuals when two unidentified persons approached the group and began to beat Mr. Šečić with wooden planks while shouting racist abuse.  When Mr. Šečić was taken to the hospital, he was quickly sent home.  After experiencing extreme pain that night, he returned to the hospital where he was admitted for a week in order to treat multiple broken ribs.  As a result of the incident, Mr. Šečić suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, characterized by depression, anxiety, panic attacks, fears for his own safety and that of his family, nightmares, and underwent psychiatric treatment.

The police had concluded that the attack had been committed by members of a ‘skinhead’ group, who had been involved in similar previous incidents. However, the police failed to question members of the group or investigate any other credible leads.  For instance, during a televised programme, a journalist interviewed a member of the ‘skinhead’ group who referred to the attack against Mr. Šečić.  The police failed to pursue appropriate legal measures that would require the journalist to identify the interviewed party.

On that basis, the Court held that “…State authorities have the additional duty to take all reasonable steps to unmask any racist motive and to establish whether or not ethnic hatred or prejudice may have played a role in the event.” Failing to do so and, “…treating racially induced violence and brutality on an equal footing with cases that have no racist overtones would be to turn a blind eye to the specific nature of acts that are particularly destructive of fundamental rights.”  Therefore, the state had failed in its obligation to take reasonable steps to investigate the racist motivation in the case.

 

Full text of the Judgement