Roma Subjected to Abuse of Power by Ukrainian Police Officers
11 March 2005
According to documentation undertaken by the Zolotonosha-based Romani organisation Ame Roma, within in a project by the ERRC and the Uzhgorod-based Romani Yag, on July 24, 2004, at approximately 4:00 PM, in the eastern Ukrainian village of Helmyaziv, 51-year-old Mr Vasil Romanenko and his 19-year-old nephew Georgij Romanenko were physically abused by a police officer. Officer M.R. and an unknown man approached the men as they were walking on the village's main street and without explanation Officer M.R. began to physically assault the two men. According to Ame Roma, while Officer M.R. beat the two men all over their bodies, the other man threatened them with a pistol. Officer M.R. and his accomplice forced the Romani men to lie down on the ground where he continued to kick all parts of their bodies. While assaulting the Romani men, Officer M.R. repeatedly demanded that they return the icons, without explaining which icons. After some time the police officer stopped the physical abuse and together with his accomplice left.
Following the assault, Mr Romanenko's health deteriorated and at 3:45 PM the next day he was taken to the central hospital in Zolotonosha, approximately 50 kilometres from Helmyaziv, where he was diagnosed with an acute stomach ulcer. After being operated upon, Mr Romanenko spent 21 days in intensive care. The same day Mr Romanenko was admitted to hospital, his wife, Ms Olexandra Romanenko, went to find Officer M.R. first at the police station and then at his home. As Officer M.R. was not home, Ms Romanenko requested that his wife pay for the costs of Mr Romanenko's operation, as she believed that the ulcer was a result of the assault. Officer M.R.'s wife refused to give Ms Romanenko any money and instead was very offensive and chased her away.
On July 26, between 4:00 and 5:00 PM, Officer M.R. and five other police officers visited Ms Romanenko's sister, Ms Svitlana Kislichenko, in Helmyaziv. The six officers entered Ms Kislichenko's home and, in a rude, offensive manner demanded various documents from her, shouted at and were offensive with other Roma who were present, and threatened to handcuff Ms Kislichenko, take her minor children to the police station and set her house on fire. Ms Kislichenko testified to Ame Roma that she believed the officers had threatened her in order to discourage her family from filing any complaints related to the assault that took place on July 24.
According to Romani individuals interviewed by Ame Roma, Officer M.R. regularly assaults or threatens them. However, none of the Romani individuals interviewed have ever filed complaints against Officer M.R.'s behaviour for fear of persecution.
Earlier in the month, Mr Petro Sandulenko, Mr Josip Sandulenko and Mr Vladimir Markovskij were subjected to abusive behaviour by military officers in Ukraine, according to a testimony provided by the victims to a Korosten-based Romani organisation Romano Kham, within a project by the ERRC and the Uzhgorod-based Romani Yag. On July 9, four police officers stopped Mr Sandulenko and Mr Markovskij, who were on their way to weigh their seven horses – before selling them – at the outskirts of the village of Ivanika, Zhitomyr county, northern Ukraine. The officers impounded the vehicle holding the horses on suspicion that the horses were stolen and drove to the District Police Station despite protests by Mr Sandulenko and Mr Markovskij that they legally owned the horses.
According to Romano Kham, Mr Sandulenko, Mr Markovskij and Mr Markovskij's 27-year-old son Ruslan brought their ownership papers to the District Police Department later that day but none of the officers paid them any attention. Instead, Mr Markovskij and his son were detained for twenty-four hours without charge or even an explanation. All this time the horses were in the car in the yard of District Police Station. The next day, while they were still in custody, officers informed Mr Markovskij and Mr Sandulenko, who was present at the station, that a woman had filed a complaint that two of her horses had been stolen. After being released from custody, Mr Markovskij reportedly returned to the District Police Station with the person from whom he had bought the horses to corroborate his and Mr Sandulenko's assertion. On July 11, officers reportedly instructed Mr Sandulenko to pay 7,000 Ukrainian hryvnya (approximately 1,000 Euro) in order to get the horses back. The men managed to gather 4,000 Ukrainian hryvnya (approximately 600 Euro), which they paid as a "voluntary contribution" to the police department. Romano Kham reported that Mr Markovskij then went to pick up the horses but officers again insisted that two of the horses had been stolen and told Mr Markovskij to make an additional voluntarily contribution of 350 Ukrainian hryvnya (approximately 50 Euro) to a senior officer at the station. Only on July 12 were the horses finally returned to Mr Sandulenko and Mr Markovskij. According to Romano Kham, during their impoundment, the horses were given neither food nor water. The ERRC and Romani Yag, together with lawyer Alexandr Movchan, are pursuing legal action against the officers involved in the case.
(Ame Roma, ERRC, Romano Kham, Romani Yag)