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Abdu v. Bulgaria, No. 26827/08, ECtHR (Fourth Section), 11 March 2014


Assault with racial overtones. Obligation to carry out effective investigations. Link between racist attitudes and acts of violence.

Normative references

Art. 3 ECHR 
Art. 14 ECHR 


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 (case in which the prosecutor’s office considered that the racist motive of the assault could not be established unequivocally, despite the presence of plausible evidence at their disposal suggesting a possible racist motivation for the violence inflicted on the applicant).


The Strasbourg Court found Hungary responsible for a violation of art. 3, in conjunction with art. 14 ECHR. In the grounds for the judgment, the European Court observed, in particular, that the competent authorities did not deem it necessary to question the eyewitness explicitly on any exchanges he might have heard during the fight or to question the suspects about any possible racist motivation for their acts. Yet right from the beginning of the investigation the applicant had claimed that he suffered racist insults, and the police report described the suspects as skinheads, well-known for their extremist and racist ideology.