Terminating the criminal proceedings related to police violence against Roma is illegal – The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa) protest
08 February 2016
Košice, Budapest, 8 February 2016: For more than two years, the ERRC and Poradňa have been providing free-of-charge legal representation to potential victims in a heavily reported case of police action in the Roma settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou. Our organisations express serious concerns about the recent decision of the Police Inspectorate of the Ministry of Interior to terminate criminal proceedings in relation to four charges and consider this decision illegal. We consider the investigation ineffective and incompatible with Slovakia’s international law obligations. We have worked with the legal representatives of the people injured during the police action and have filed complaints against the decision to the Prosecutor’s Office supervising the investigation.
The incident occurred on 19 June 2013. More than 60 police officers entered the Roma settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou and conducted a violent raid resulting in injuries and property damage to over 30 individuals who did not resist or obstruct the police. Subsequently 15 people were taken to the police station. Some of them claim that they were severely ill-treated during their detention. Despite receiving information about possible ill-treatment, the Police Inspectorate of the Ministry of the Interior did not start criminal proceedings and did not find the police action to be unlawful. Upon the involvement of the General Prosecutor Office, criminal proceedings were eventually initiated, but only in January 2014.
In November 2015 – nearly two years after the proceedings were initiated – the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Interior terminated criminal proceedings in most regards, including in respect of police violence against several people at the station. The ERRC, in collaboration with attorney Dr Jakubčík, has provided legal representation to 30 clients from Moldava nad Bodvou, whose human rights and basic freedoms were violated by the police. Back in September 2014, Dr Jakubčík expressed concerns about developments in the investigation, following the investigator’s request for an expert inquiry into the mental conditions of the witness-victims. He furthermore objected to the delays in the investigation process.1 "It is unbelievable that, despite the fact that this is in our opinion an exemplary and obvious example of racial harassment by state authorities, the investigating authority concluded that the incident actually did not happen. This conclusion is at odds with the findings of many international and domestic human rights bodies, which documented violations of human rights. This outcome will only bring more problems for the Roma themselves, given that we know from the report issued by the Ombudsman that these interventions target areas with a larger Roma population" – says Đorđe Jovanović, the ERRC President.
Poradňa has provided free-of-charge legal representation to two persons, who were, according their personal testimonies, severely beaten by the police during the police action and later when detained at the police station. Both clients suffered injuries which required several weeks of medical treatment. Attorney Vanda Durbáková, who has collaborated with Poradňa, submitted a criminal complaint on behalf of one of the victims on 17 July 2015 (a few weeks after the incident), accusing officers of “abuse of public servant authority”. The Inspectorate of the Ministry of the Interior, however, refused to deal with the complaint. Further complaints regarding the alleged illegal action of the Inspectorate as well as its refusal to launch criminal procedures were refused by the district and regional offices of the Slovak Public Prosecutor. Instead, in January 2014 the General Prosecutor started criminal proceedings related to the whole case and a potential violation of the Slovak law.
In relation to the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings, the attorney Vanda Durbáková said: "The law enforcement bodies substantially failed from the beginning, again after we submitted relevant information, and again when they almost demonstratively refused to launch an investigation. The criminal proceedings were eventually opened in January 2014 and the appointed investigator started the first operation related to my clients in February 2014, three-quarters of a year after the incident. State bodies are obliged by international law in cases of alleged police violence to launch an immediate investigation in order to collect the best-quality evidence. It is in this regard that we consider the investigation to be illegal, and on behalf of my clients I submitted a complaint against the decision of the investigator.”
Štefan Ivanco, Poradňa’s Programmes Coordinator, further adds that: “According to my personal point of view, the approach of the law enforcement bodies in this particular case was from the very beginning a demonstration of the arrogance of public authorities and an example of institutional racism. I consider that the inaction of the law enforcement authorities was determined by the fact that the police action targeted members of Roma minority.”
Information about the NGOs:
The Center for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa pre občianske a ľudské práva) is a non-governmental organisation based in Slovakia focused on the protection of human rights with particular emphasis on the rights of minorities and protection from discrimination. Poradňa has for a long time worked on the issue of discrimination against the Roma ethnic minority in various areas of public life. It has also been active in the protection of reproductive rights and protection from police brutality. Poradňa employs strategic litigation to combat discrimination and human rights abuses against minorities. Visit us at www.poradna-prava.sk.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma through strategic litigation, research and policy development, advocacy and human rights education. Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has endeavoured to provide Roma with the tools necessary to combat discrimination and achieve equal access to justice, education, housing, health care and public services. The ERRC has consultative status with the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Visit us at www.errc.org.
For more information contact:
Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa)
+421/949 338 396
- SME daily, According to the UN, police action in Moldava have to be adequately investigated, 24 June, 2015, available at: http://romovia.sme.sk/c/7877981/policajne-zasahy-ako-v-moldave-treba-podla-osn-riadne-vysetrit.html.