Police abuse in Transcarpathian Ukraine

15 May 1998

Instances of police ill-treatment of Roma in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine have recently been reported to the ERRC.

According to the videotaped testimony provided to the ERRC by the Uzhorod Roma organisation Romani Yag, on January 20, 1998, at approximately 1 am, police officers came to the home of 32-year-old Jurij Surmaj and told him to get dressed. The policemen then told the handcuffed Mr Surmaj that they were looking for persons wanted by the police, who were possibly hiding in his house. The police officers allegedly justified Mr Surmaj's detention by telling him that he had a criminal record. They then brought him to the police station by car. On the way to the police station, as well as at the police station, police officers beat him. Mr Surmaj was released the following morning after the alleged perpetrators of the unspecified crime had been detained. The policemen apologised to Mr Surmaj, but warned him not to report the incident to anyone.

Also according to Romani Yag, on December 31, 1997, a 65-year-old Romani woman named Sharlota Feka was at the Green Market in the western Ukrainian town of Mukachevo, buying coffee at approximately 2 p.m., when she was approached by a man who accused her of theft. Following this, two policemen took her to a police office located in the Green Market, where they punched her repeatedly and demanded that she confess to the theft. At her request, Ms Feka was then taken to the city police department. There, two police officers whose names are known to Romani Yag and the ERRC beat her with their fists, as well as with the leg of a chair. The police officers repeated their demand that Ms Feka confess to the theft. She reports that she lost consciousness several times during the beating. Ms Feka was released later the same day. Ms Feka then went to hospital where doctors diagnosed her as having two broken ribs and several bruises. Mr J. Bencza, city prosecutor of Mukachevo, refused to initiate a criminal case against the two officers. Romani Yag sent a letter of concern to the county prosecutor's office in Uzhorod, urging full investigation and criminal prosecution of the two officers.

Finally, according to the videotaped testimony provided to the ERRC, a fortnight after his June 9, 1997 release from prison, a 47-year-old Romani man named Zsigmond Balogh was visited by local policemen at his home and ordered to accompany them to the police station of the town. There the policemen started beating him because, one police officer reportedly stated, „You are a recidivist." Police abuse of Roma, as well as illegal and intrusive monitoring practices by the Ukrainian police, is the subject of the ERRC country report The Misery of Law: The Rights of Roma in the Transcarpathian Region of Ukraine.

(Romani Yag)

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