Roma in Transcarpathian Ukraine file complaints of police abuse
7 December 1999
The Uzhorod-based non-governmental organisation Romani Yag has reported recent cases of police abuse in the town of Mukachevo in the Transcarpathian region of western Ukraine. According to the victims, on July 7, 1999, at approximately 11:00 AM, Ms G.B., Ms S.A., Ms E.A. and three of their family members were shopping in the market in Mukachevo when they were approached by five police officers, four of whom were in uniform. The police officers asked the Romani women to show identification documents. When the women did not produce any documents, they were ordered to follow the officers to a police station not far from the market. At the police station, the officers explained to the women that although they had not done anything illegal they had to clean the police station. The detainees were threatened with being transferred to the city police and locked in a cell if they refused to cooperate. The women obeyed and started to clean the police department. Among other things, they swept the floor and cleaned windowsills. Police ordered 62-year-old Ms G.B. to supervise the cleaning. Ms G.B. pointed out to the police officers that they were violating the law and the police do not have the right to force somebody to clean. The cleaning was interrupted by the appearance in the police station of Mr Aladar Adam, Executive Director of Romani Yag, who sought explanation and demanded that the Romani women be released. The police officers reportedly told Mr Adam that the Romani women themselves had wanted to clean the premises, but finally agreed to release the women.
Soon after the incident, the women sent letters of complaint to the Chief of the Ministry of the Interior for the Transcarpathian County and to the Prosecutor General of the Transcarpathian County requesting that the guilty police officers be punished. In their letters the women pointed out that the actions of the police insulted them and humiliated their dignity both as Romani women and as Ukrainian citizens. On August 7, 1999, Mr Marushinets, Chief Prosecutor of Mukachevo, sent an official response to Romani Yag as representative of the victims. In the letter, Mr Marushinets wrote that the police had been conducting a series of planned crime prevention actions in which people in public places without identification documents were detained. According to the prosecutor, all persons were released after a thorough identification procedure took place. There was no mention of the forced cleaning in the letter.