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Velikova v. Bulgaria

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Where an individual is taken into police custody in good health but is later found dead, it is incumbent on the State to provide a plausible explanation of the events leading to his death. No such explanation was given by the Bulgarian authorities for the beating death of a Romany man in police custody. There must be some form of effective official investigation when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force, an investigation which must be thorough, impartial and careful. Unexplained failure to undertake indispensable and obvious investigative steps is to be treated with particular vigilance. In such a case, as here, where there is no plausible explanation by the respondent Government as to why such an investigation did not take place, the State is responsible for a particularly serious violation of its obligation to protect the right to life. The Bulgarian authorities' failure to conduct an effective investigation into the death undermined the effectiveness of any other remedy which might have existed. However, the serious arguments made that the killing and the lack of a meaningful investigation into it were motivated by racial prejudice did not meet the standard of proof required under the Convention of “proof beyond reasonable doubt”.


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