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B.S. v. Spain, No. 47159/08, ECtHR (Third Section), 24 July 2012


Prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Violent behavior by police officers driven by ethnic or racial biases. Prohibition of discrimination. Obligation to carry out effective investigations. Link between racist attitudes and acts of violence.

Normative references

Art. 3 ECHR


1. The violent behavior by police officers during general crime prevention and territory control, driven by racist attitude, amounts to an inhuman or degrading treatment pursuant to Art. 3 ECHR (case in which a woman of African origin, who practiced prostitution, had been repeatedly subjected to police checks and reported that she had suffered mistreatment by agents involved in the operations).
2. In the event of a credible allegation about violent behavior by police officers, driven by ethnic or racial prejudices, the national authorities are obliged to carry out effective investigations, suitable to lead to the identification of the responsible subjects. In particular, the investigating authorities must take all reasonable measures to ascertain the existence of a causal link between the racist attitude and the violent act reported by the victims. Judicial authorities, on the other hand, must make fully reasoned, impartial and objective decisions, without omitting suspicious facts that could be indicative of racially induced violence.
3. The authorities' duty to investigate the existence of a possible link between racist attitudes and acts of violence is an aspect of their procedural obligations, arising from Article 3 ECHR. At the same time, it can also be seen as implicit in the responsibility of the contracting States under article 14 ECHR to secure respect - without any discrimination - for the fundamental values enshrined in art. 3 ECHR.