(CN) – Masked Bulgarian officers who threatened a family in their home should have at least worn anonymous identification, Europe’s human rights court said.
Wearing masks and bearing guns, police burst into Aleksandar Histrov’s Burgas, Bulgaria, apartment in February 2004. The officers apparently beat him and pointed a gun at his 5-year-old daughter and the child’s mother, Histrov’s wife, telling her to make the child stop screaming.
Histrov was taken into custody, released on bail and later convicted of abetting forgery. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
A court later dismissed the wife’s excessive-force charges.
On Monday, the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled that there had not been enough evidence recorded to prove the beating.
Regarding allegations of intimidation and threats, however, the court stated that it had “serious reservations about using masked and armed police officers,” especially in the familial setting of the Histrovi’s apartment.
The court noted serious shortcomings both in the investigation of police abuse and Bulgarian law.
In particular, the family should have been interviewed – which it never was, the court said. It also found that the criminal law system had allowed the psychological suffering of a child “to escape accountability.”
The court determined that the officers who carried out the raid should at least have displayed an anonymous means of identification, such as a badge number.
The court ordered Bulgaria to pay about $20,000 to the family.
Under the European Union legal framework, member countries are not required to enforce a uniform police-identification policy.