ERRC calls for investigation of police assault on Roma settlement in Slovakia

02 November 1998

On October 27 and 28, 1998, the police assaulted Roma inhabitants of the village of Hermanovce, Eastern Slovakia. In letters sent today to the Minister of the Interior and to the Chief Prosecutor, the ERRC urges the Slovak authorities to undertake a prompt, thorough and effective investigation into these events and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

The ERRC has learned that, on 27 October, at around 4:30 a.m., police entered the homes of two Romani families in Hermanovce, Slovakia, where they beat two Romani youths - A.Z.* (14), and P.Y. (21), handcuffed them, then forced them into the trunk of a car and drove them to the police station in Hminenska Nova Ves. The police offered no explanation to the detained or their families; nor did they show arrest or search warrants to justify their actions. At the police station, the two youths were allegedly beaten with truncheons and kicked. They were interrogated and shown diverse items, (for example, a sleeping bag), and pressed to falsely say that they had stolen some of them. They were released later the same day, apparently without having been charged with any crime. Doctors who examined them documented bruises consistent with a beating. At no point were the two detainees advised of their rights; nor, despite his minor status, was A.Z. interrogated in the presence of a parent or another authorised person.

According to eyewitness accounts, the following day (28 October) at around 6 a.m., more than 20 policemen arrived in Hermanovce; some led police dogs. The police broke down the doors of Romani houses and beat Romani men, women and children, many of whom were still in bed at the time. At least one police officer used threatening, racist and vulgar language against a Romani woman while he was beating her. The police then brought six men - B.Z., C.Z., D.Z., Q.Y., J.K. and U.V. -- to the village mayor's office. Mr. U.V. is not a Rom; he is a citizen if the Czech Republic, an anthropologist. Once again, the police offered no explanation for their conduct and showed no arrest or search warrants.

At the mayor's office, one of the detainees, Mr. B.Z., was released. Five others were taken to the Hminenska Nova Ves police station, then released by noon without being charged with any crimes. Two of the five were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

This act of mass police brutality targeting Roma puts in question the minority policy of the first post-Meciar Slovak government. In recent years, although racist violence against Roma in Slovakia has increased, effective prosecution and punishment have been rare. The Roma minority, which numbers above 500 000, forms about 10% of the total population of this country. The national unemployment rate is about 13%, yet among the Roma it is above 80%. All of the Roma referred to above are unemployed and very poor.

* The initials have been changed.


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