Romani Woman Raped by Police Officers in Ukraine
12 October 1996
A Romani woman was raped by two police officers in the street outside the Franka Ulica Romani tabor (Romani settlement) in Mukačevo in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine in March of this year.
The police officers, who were evidently searching for a Romani man in connection with the theft of a bicycle, broke into the house of 19-year-old Mrs. A.D. at around 10:30 in the evening. According to witnesses, three police officers entered, all of whom were drunk, dragged Mrs. D.'s father-in-law from bed and began beating him. After they had pulled the man outside, they returned to the house where Mrs. D. lived with her husband and two children, aged 2 and 4.
One of the three policemen evidently left the scene when one of the two others, a major in rank and the leader of the group, told the others, „you can do whatever you like here; there are no witnesses." The remaining two officers then attempted to rape Mrs. D., but she managed to break free and suffered only a beating. Her husband, who had hid himself in the room, was witness to the event.
Evidently enraged at having lost their prey, the two police officers left the house. Outside, they came upon a Romani couple, Mr. and Mrs. H., and their two children, walking in Franka Ulica in front of the tabor. Having chased off the man and the children, the two policemen proceeded to beat, rape and sexually abuse the woman, 28-year-old E.H., while shouting that this was revenge for being rejected by Mrs. D.
Two non-Roma living outside the tabor witnessed the rape and one of them narrowly escaped being beaten himself when he attempted to intervene. Eventually, according to the witnesses, a second police car arrived and then an ambulance, and Mrs. H. was taken to the hospital. The hospital evidently admitted Mrs. H., sewed up her mouth, which had been torn open in the incident, and then released her; she was found in the morning, unconscious, in the street outside the tabor.
Her family then had her readmitted to the hospital, although they had difficulty finding one which would accept her as a patient. While in the hospital, Mrs. H. was visited by members of the police department who offered her money to forget the whole affair. She refused the bribe. A short while later, the father-in-law of Mrs. D. was summoned to the police department, where it was „suggested" to him that he not make any written complaint about the incident.
The Mukačevo police would not release the names of the officers involved to the ERRC. Mukačevo Deputy Chief of Police Viktor Čepak claimed to be aware of the incident and said that the officers concerned had been disciplined. Independent sources having access to information within the police department claim that no file exists on the case and that no one within the department has been officially disciplined in the period since March.
Following the episode, A.D. and her husband divorced. He now lives with another woman. Despite fear of police retaliation, all of the victims expressed a desire to bring the guilty parties to justice. As such, the ERRC engaged a lawyer on behalf of A.D. and E.H. However, since both the ex-husband of A.D. and the two witnesses to the rape and beating of E.H. refused to testify, the lawyer later decided that she could not take the case.
The ERRC sent a letter to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Mazur, but has thus far received no response. The ERRC has reason to believe that this is not the only case of its kind in recent months in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine.
(Romany Yag; ERRC)