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Paraskeva Todorova v. Bulgaria, No. 37193/07, ECtHR (Fifth Section), 25 March 2010


Fair trial and prohibition of discrimination. Criminal conviction. Failure to grant a suspended sentence on the basis of the applicant's ethnicity.

Normative references

Art. 6 ECHR
Art. 14 ECHR


The refusal of the domestic courts to suspend the execution of the applicant’s prison sentence, based on her Roma ethnicity, affects the right to a fair trial and amounts to a violation of the art. 6, taken in conjunction with art. 14 ECHR (case in which the first-instance court imposed an effective sentence on the sole basis that a suspended sentence could not be seriously considered, especially among minorities, thus clearly demonstrating the judge’s bias in the reasoning for the sentence).


In motivating its prison sentence, the domestic court referred to the existence of a widespread sentiment of impunity in society, highlighting in particular the extent of this phenomenon in the case of minority groups, “for whom a suspended sentence is not a conviction”. For its part, the European Court admitted that, in assessing the deterring effect of a sentence vis-à-vis other members of society, a court may have to take into consideration phenomena of a more or less general nature (such as, for example, the situation of crime in the country, the perception by the general public of this or that type of crime, or the possible existence of a social climate of insecurity). Nonetheless, the European Court has specified that such observations by the national courts – in order not to be arbitrary – must rest on a certain factual basis.