Racial Profiling of Roma by Russian Law Enforcement Officials
12 October 2006
ERRC Action Against Abusive Police Measures in Russia
Budapest, 12 October 2006. This week, the ERRC sent a letter of concern to the Chief of the Samara Regional Department of the Ministry of Interior expressing concern about recent anti-Romani police raids in Romani communities in the region of Samara within the auspices of a police operation entitled "Tabor 2006" ("tabors" are Romani settlements). "Tabor 2006" is the most recent in a series of anti-Romani actions by Russian police entitled taking place since 2002. In the letter, the ERRC urged the undertaking of immediate measures to end abusive police operations targeting Roma in the region of Samara. The letter was copied to the General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation. The full text of the letter follows:
Honourable Mr Reimer,
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defense in cases of human rights abuse. The ERRC has submitted complaints to the European Court of Human Rights and has secured redress for victims in a number of cases of police abuse of Roma since the organisation was founded in 1996. The ERRC has also undertaken research in more than half of the countries of Europe and has published a number of reports and public statements concerning the situation of Roma in a number of European countries. Since 2000, the ERRC has been monitoring the situation of Roma rights in the Russian Federation through site visits, as well as with the assistance of a number of local monitors, based with partner organisations.
The ERRC is writing to express concern about recent police raids in the region of Samara, undertaken within the framework of an police operation called "Tabor 2006", a name which points directly to Romani ethnicity (insofar as "tabors" are Romani settlements) and is therefore apparently a prima facie racist action. According to reports in leading Internet information sources including, amongst several others, regnum.ru, regions.ru and United Volga, at the end of September 2006, Samara regional law enforcement authorities launched a new operation, the main objective of which is "the exposure and suppression of crimes related to the legalisation of financial resources and other property obtained as a result of committing of drug-related crimes by the criminal ethnic groups."(1) Other online information sources have drawn explicit links between the activities of Samara regional law enforcement authorities within similar operations and persons belonging to the Romani ethnic minority:
"[…] within the framework of operation â€Tabor-2005', carried out last year in the course of work amongst persons from Romani and other ethnic groups, the illegal activity of organised criminal groups have been precluded. According to information provided by the Press Service of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service in the Region of Samara, these groups have organised channel for the contraband delivery of drugs to the territory of Russia".(2)
Explicit targeting of Roma by law enforcement officials violates a number of provisions of international law to which Russia is a party, including Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which states: "States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races, and, to this end: (a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to en sure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation; [...]", as well as Article 5 of the ICERD which states: "In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law…"
The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination at its 62nd Session on March 3-21, 2003 urged the Government of the Russian Federation to take immediate measures such that law enforcement officials respect and defend the human rights of all individuals irrespective of their race, colour, or national or ethnical origin.
The ERRC is aware that in previous years, Russian authorities have undertaken similar actions, also entitled "Operation Tabor". The explicit use of a term widely associated with Roma indicates that not only were Russian authorities undertaking racial profiling and official actions resulting in human rights abuses, but also apparently there has been no intention whatsoever to mask the explicitly anti-Romani character of these actions. In the wake of 2002 and 2004 "Operation Tabor", the ERRC and partner organisations have repeatedly raised concerns related to "Operation Tabor". Following the 2002 operation, representatives of the Romani NGOs met with Mr. V.A. Vasiliev, then-Deputy Minister of Interior and Mr. E.N. Sidorenko, Deputy Minister of Justice, who promised that such operations would not be repeated in the future.
Honourable Mr Reimer, the ERRC urges you to take immediate measures in order to end the abusive police operations targeting Roma in the region of Samara. We kindly request to be informed of any actions taken by your office in this regard.
Persons wishing to express similar concerns should contact:
Chief of Department of the Ministry of Interior of Samara Region
Address: Russia, Samara, Sokolova str 34
Fax: +7 8463 345962
Mr Yuri Chaika
General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation
Address: Russia, Moscow, B. Dmitrovka 15a
Fax: +7 495 692 8848
ERRC work on issues relating to Roma in the Russian criminal justice system is supported by the Netherlands Foreign Ministry.
(1) See http://www.regions.ru from 27.09.2006.
(2) See http://www.tltnews.ru from 27.09.2006; “Drug police takes success for granted”, Samarskaya Gazeta, 03.10.2006.