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Balázs v. Hungary, No. 15529/12, ECtHR (Second Section), 20 October 2015


Assault with racial overtones. Obligation to carry out effective investigations. Link between racist attitudes and acts of violence. Hate crimes' definition and field of application.

Normative references

Art. 3 ECHR
Art. 14 ECHR


1. Arts. 2 and 3 ECHR enshrine fundamental values of the democratic societies making up the Council of Europe. From these provisions derives the obligation for national authorities to carry out effective investigations against suspected violations of the European Convention. Specifically, when investigating violent incidents, such as acts of murderer or ill-treatment, State authorities have an 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 events at hand.
2. An attack with racial overtones requires for the investigation to be pursued with vigour and impartiality, having regard to the need to continuously reassert society’s condemnation of racism in order to maintain the confidence of minorities in the ability of the authorities to protect them from the threat of racist violence. 
3. For an act to be classified as a hate crime, it is not necessary that it has been based solely on a victim’s characteristic. As a matter of fact, perpetrators may have mixed motives, being influenced by situational factors equally or stronger than by their biased attitude towards the ethnocultural group the victim belongs to (case in which the public prosecutor considered that the racist motive of the attack could not be established unequivocally, despite the presence of powerful hate crime indicators).


The Strasbourg Court found Hungary responsible for a violation of art. 3, in conjunction with art. 14 ECHR. Among the international relevant materials, the European Court cited in particular the resource guide entitled Preventing and responding to hate crimes, published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).