ERRC Letter to the General Prosecutor of Hungary
07 November 1997
Honourable General Prosecutor,
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, is concerned about allegations of abuse and irregularities in procedure by local and national police and private security guards in the town of Dömsöd, 48 kilometres southwest of Budapest.
According to the ERRC's information, at 9:00 AM on August 1, 1997, 28-year-old Romani man named Béla Tyukodi was at his home in Dömsöd, asleep in bed, when two or three police officers entered his house, woke him up and took him to the police station. He was held from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM during which time he was interrogated by two police officers, one of whom, the victim states, is named Cs.L. (name withheld by the ERRC, but sent in the original letter). While interrogating Mr. Tyukodi, the officers allegedly beat him a number of times all over his body, including his arms and groin. The police officers wanted him to confess to breaking into a house. Mr. Tyukodi told the ERRC that the police officers did not let him go to the toilet all day and that he didn't receive any food while in detention. After being released at 7:00 PM, he went to the doctor to obtain a medical a certificate documenting his wounds. Mr. Tyukodi did not report the beating, however, because on August 2, Officer Cs.L. allegedly threatened that if he filed a complaint against the police officers, they would set fire to his house.
Mr. Tyukodi resides in an area of Dömsöd called Tókert, a neighbourhood in which approximately 250-300 people live, only one family of which is non-Roma. According to witness and victim testimony, at approximately 11:30 PM on September 19 and at approximately 8:00 PM on September 26, local police and special police units under the command of the National Police conducted raids in Tókert. According to witnesses, 30 officers from the national police and approximately 10 local police officers wearing masks went to Tókert to find two men who were, according to the police, suspected of blackmail. These officers surrounded the community and shouted at local Roma to come out of their houses and to lie on the ground. They allegedly put guns to the heads of women and children. According to witnesses, officers shouted anti-Roma slogans and threats such as, "We will sweep out the garbage out of Tókert! Dirty Gypsies, put your hands up and don't move, or we will kill you!" According to local Roma, police officers also accused them as a group of only knowing how to steal, and told them they would be raided repeatedly.
During the raid on September 19th, police detained nineteen people. They released fourteen of them after 72 hours, on September 22. They subsequently released two more individuals a short time later. During the raid on September 26, these two people were again detained. Five Romani individuals are presently being held under suspicion of blackmail. Laszló Boross of the Pest County Police confirmed that the raids had taken place, and stated that witness accounts concerning the number of officers involved were correct. He told the ERRC, "We had to take the necessary measures. Naturally if there are children present, we are more careful." Speaking unofficially, the chief of the Ráckeve Police told the ERRC that, following the September 26 raid, all suspects are now in custody.
Following the two larger raids, the Ráckeve police have driven demonstratively around the Roma community of Tókert two or three times per day every day since. The chief of the Ráckeve police told the ERRC unofficially that the raids are intended to intimidate the community into "behaving". On October 22, the ERRC attended a human rights seminar in Dömsöd during which two, and later only one police officer walked, uninvited, in the hall outside the gathering for the entire length of the proceedings.
Roma in Tókert also report regular intimidation by private security guards, who stand outside the mayor's office. Roma report instances physical aggression by the guards, as well as being insulted on ethnic grounds.
Honourable General Prosecutor, the European Roma Rights Center urges your office to undertake thorough and impartial investigation into the human rights situation of Roma in Dömsöd and to strictly sanction any unprofessional, unlawful or racist activity by national and local police or private security guards. We kindly request to be kept informed of the results of the investigation.