ERRC Letter to Macedonian General Prosecutor About Events in Stip
29 March 1999
On March 29, 1999, the European Roma Rights Center, an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, sent a letter to Acting General Prosecutor of Macedonia Mr Vladimir Smickovski, expressing concern at repeated instances the police abuse of Roma in the central Macedonian town of Stip. The text of the letter is as follows:
Honourable Acting General Prosecutor Smickovski,
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is alarmed about reports of two recent instances of police retaliation against Roma in the central Macedonian town of Stip.
One of the two incidents concerns a 34-year-old Romani man named Jasar Perusan, who was reportedly detained in the early morning hours of March 10, 1999, before the third hearing in a trial related to allegations that he was brutally beaten by police officers while in police custody in Stip in April 1998. In the earlier case, Mr Perusan was detained in the initial incident together with another Romani man, 33-year-old Fejmi Demirov, on April 16, 1998, in a cafe in the centre of Stip. Officers allegedly brought the two men to police station, where they physically abused both men during the night of April 16. According to testimony provided to the ERRC and to the Stip-based organisation Association for the Protection of Human Rights of Roma (Zdruzenie za pravata na Romite), officers punched, kicked and beat Mr Perusan repeatedly in the period midnight-5:00 AM on April 17. Mr Demirov was similarly abused and one officer, whose identity is known to the ERRC, reportedly insulted his ethnic origins. Both men were released without being charged with any crime on the morning of April 17. Mr Perusan was temporarily disfigured and initially unable to give testimony as a result of his injuries.
With the assistance of a lawyer, Mr Perusan filed criminal and civil complaints against the police concerning the treatment to which he had been subjected while in police custody. The criminal complaint appears to be stalled at the first instance public prosecutor's office in Stip. Third hearing in the civil complaint for damages was set for March 10, 11:00 AM. At approximately 4:00 AM on March 10, however, two police officers detained Mr Perusan at his home and brought him to the police station. One of the two officers was allegedly involved in the April 1998 incident. Police detained Mr Perusan on the basis of a court order connected to his conviction on the charge of burglary under Criminal Code Article 156. Eyewitnesses state that officers beat Mr Perusan repeatedly during the detention procedure. Additionally, one of the officers drew his firearm and threatened to shoot Mr Perusan.
Police reportedly held Mr Perusan at a Stip municipal police department until approximately 8:45 AM. There, officers reportedly physically abused Mr Perusan. He was then reportedly transferred to a state penitentiary in Skopje where he is now expected to serve a two-year sentence. According to eye-witnesses, at the time of his transport from Stip to Skopje, Mr Perusan had evidently been beaten, had a badly swollen eye and walked with difficulty. As a result of his being been detained only a few hours before being expected to testify in court against police officers, Mr Perusan was unable to attend the hearing. The hearing reportedly went ahead without him, although his lawyer protested in court.
In a letter received by his wife on March 13, Mr Perusan stated that upon arrival at the state penitentiary in Skopje, prison officials had had difficulty admitting him to the facility, since they had not received court orders pertaining to his case. In the same letter Mr Perusan reported chest and head pains due to police ill-treatment.
In the second incident, Romani individuals who filed complaints against the police in connection with a police raid on a party in the night of August 2, 1998, now reportedly face assault charges. On August 2, 1998, following an altercation between a non-Romani man and a number of Roma who had been attending a party in a restaurant in Stip, police reportedly raided the party and physically abused a number of guests, including women and children. Twenty Romani individuals sought medical help in connection with the incident. Over the next days, at least six Roma were detained by police in Stip and interrogated in connection with the incident. Police reportedly physically abused a number of individuals in custody and extracted at least one signed confession with force. With the assistance of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights of Roma, seven Romani individuals filed criminal complaints against the police in connection with the incident. Investigation of these complaints is presently evidently stalled at the level of prosecutorial investigation. The ERRC is unaware of any disciplinary action as yet taken against any of the police officers involved in the incident.
On March 5, 1999, however, it was reported to the ERRC that prosecutors had brought assault charges under Article 386(2) of the Macedonian Penal Code against four Romani individuals, three of whom had previously filed complaints against the police in connection with the above incident. In addition, police are reportedly seeking witnesses to testify that Romani persons at the party had planned an assault and toward that end had prepared a carriage full of stones. A police report on the incident reportedly describes this carriage at the scene of the raid in the street outside the party.
Honourable Acting General Prosecutor Smickovski, the ERRC is concerned that police and prosecutors in Stip may be abusing their authority by intimidating and bringing extra-judicial and abusive punishments against Romani individuals who seek a just settlement when their rights are violated, or by bringing charges against Roma in retaliation for the pursuit of justice in cases involving state officials. The ERRC urges your office to act swiftly in seeing to it that charges brought in retaliation for complaints of police abuse are dropped and that officers who abuse their authority are properly disciplined. We respectfully request to be informed of any actions taken by your office.
Persons wishing to voice concern about the situation of Roma in Stip are urged to contact Acting General Prosecutor of the Republic of Macedonia Mr Vladimir Smickovski at the fax number: (389)(91) 231 267