Shots Fired and Pepper Spray Used in Police Incident with Roma, Slovakia
By Jonathan Lee
On 29th August 2018, Slovak police officers entered an area of Pezinok occupied mainly by Roma who were working as part of a public works program. Two shots were fired by a police weapon and pepper spray was used against several people after a verbal quarrel between police officers and Roma.
Officers from the Pezinok Municipal Police arrived to the area to extinguish a fire which had been set by Roma there. When an argument arose between officers and people there, the Municipal Officers used pepper spray on the Roma present and summoned a State Police patrol, who on arrival fired two rounds from a police service weapon, one into the ground, the other in the air. Additional State Police officers arrived with dogs and entered the dwellings of several Romani families. Later, an ambulance was called to provide treatment to a Romani man who was suffering from the effects of the pepper spray.
A Romani woman who witnessed the incident said "The cops were spraying people in the eyes, the women were going crazy, everyone was falling down, both men and women were sprayed."
On the 5th September, State Police officers returned to the community and escorted two Romani men to the regional police headquarters. They were charged with attacking public officials and one was told to sign a written testimony to these charges which stated that the Roma had initiated the attack on the police officers. The Romani man ordered to sign the testimony denied this and told the ERRC that he and his wife had only been burning waste which they planned to later take to the dump.
The ERRC is concerned that the charges which have been brought against these individuals were made before their testimonies were even heard, and are therefore entirely based on testimony from police officers without questioning civilian witnesses from the scene. There is no evidence that the police testimonies were verified, nor were they sufficient to bring charges against these individuals.
A complaint is being drafted by the ERRC and will be sent to the Section of Control and Inspection within the Ministry of the Interior. The ERRC will also be in contact with the Pezinok Municipality concerning the actions of the Municipal Police.