Attacks on and ghettoisation of Roma in Slovakia
15 May 1998
At approximately 1:30 in the afternoon on February 25, six skinheads attacked three Romani children as they were coming home from school in the eastern Slovak town of Prešov and violently assaulted them with baseball bats. According to the daily Prešovské Noviny of March 4, the attack was interrupted when a witness to the event intervened. He reportedly saw the attack taking place from the window of his flat, and ran out onto the street. The attackers left 11-year-old J.E. lying in the road.
One Romani girl, thirteen-year-old M.B., suffered wounds to the head. The condition of the second, 12-year-old male victim is unknown because of the parents' unwillingness to disclose information on his status. A doctor told Prešovské Noviny that J.E. „suffered a severe concussion and bruises to the chest and legs. Both of his legs are fractured." The doctor said the police were not allowed to talk to the victim because of his severe injuries. J.E. remained in hospital for approximately two and a half weeks. Police in Prešov reportedly denied that the attack had taken place to independent monitors with whom the ERRC spoke. According to the Legal Defence Bureau for Ethnic Minorities in Slovakia (LDBEMS), the skinhead perpetrators were thirteen to eighteen years old. The LDBEMS has been unable to determine the status of the investigation due to non-co-operation by the police and fear on the part of the victims.
Attacks on Roma and on flats where Roma live in the southern Slovak town of Rimavská Sobota have also recently been reported to the ERRC. On January 24, at approximately 5:45 p.m., unknown persons attacked the family of a Romani man named J.V. by throwing stones through the windows of his flat. On January 31, 1998, unknown persons threw stones through the windows of the flat of Z.F. at approximately 7:10 p.m. and of D.B. at approximately 8:30 p.m.. On March 3, 1998, at 8:15 p.m., a similar attack took place on the flats of J.V. and of V.B. All of the attacks took place on the same street.
At around 9:30 p.m. on March 15, 1998, Roma in the same street in Rimavská Sobota watched from inside a house as approximately fifteen skinheads threw stones at their houses while shouting such things as, „Get out of there, you dirty Gypsies" and „We will kill all of you." Finally one Romani man came out of the house to confront the skinheads, who then left. The street in question is known to be inhabited by Roma. The attacks were not reported, but the police are allegedly aware that they have taken place and have not opened investigation. In an interview with the ERRC on April 14, Dr Milan Hudka, deputy director of the regional directorate of the police in Rimavská Sobota told the ERRC that he does not see any reason to investigate the case: „Roma often com-plain," he said, „But when we ask them questions, they refuse to tell anything to the police."
In other news from Slovakia, Romani activist Emilia Pompová reported to the ERRC that her organisation in Spišská Nová Ves, central Slovakia, has recently become engaged in preventing a plan under which Roma will be moved, without their consent, to a settlement outside the town. The plan is based on a municipal decision which reportedly explicitly mentions Roma. It involves shifting Romani families presently living in the centre of town to rudimentary two-family houses with a common kitchen, bathroom and toilet in a settlement approximately two kilometres from the centre. The city allegedly justifies the move by stating that Roma live in unhygienic conditions in their present housing, so the move to the new houses will be an improvement, along with the argument that Roma are not paying rent. According to ERRC information, the latter is not true.
The first families received notice in January 1998. When the plan was initially reported to the ERRC on March 6, 1998, the municipality had slated ten families to be moved first into the five houses that are ready. Later, however, authorities from the municipality reportedly stated that they wished to house four families in one two-family house. Fourteen families comprising approximately one hundred individuals have, to date, received eviction notices from their present accommodation, although only five of the houses are ready.
The families concerned will be expected to pay roughly half of the 350,000 Slovak crowns (approximately 18,400 German marks) cost of each flat. The rest of the money is to come from the fund for so-called „Citizens in Need of Special Care", a government programme aimed at Roma, although often referring to them in euphemistic terms (see ERRC report, Time of the Skinheads: Denial and Exclusion of Roma in Slovakia). The Roma affected have signed a petition stating that they do not want to be moved from the centre of Spišská Nová Ves, and Ms Pompová is pursuing legal action with the assistance of the ERRC.
(ERRC, Legal Defence Bureau for Ethnic Minorities in Slovakia, Radio Flash)