ERRC letter to the General Prosecutor of Poland Leszek Kubicki
03 July 1997
Honourable Mr. 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 repeated violent attacks against several Roma communities by the local non-Roma population in Poland.
A major attack took place in the south-western town of Świebodzice late in the evening of December 23, 1996, when a mob of approximately fifty masked local youths threw burning bottles filled with petrol at houses inhabited by Roma. E.S., one of the victims, told the ERRC that all her windows were broken and that burning bottles were thrown inside her living room, where her five-year-old grandson was sleeping. His pyjamas caughtfire in the attack.
The most recent attack reported by the Świebodzice Roma took place on June 11, 1997. Romani residents of Świebodzice told the ERRC that violent attacks against them started approximately two years ago and have since occurred regularly. Mobs of between twenty and fifty people, usually wearing masks, stand in a row outside their houses and scream racist slogans such as, "Poland for Poles" and "We don't want Gypsies here." In addition to numerous broken windows and extensive damage to property inside their homes, Roma also reported that attackers had demolished their cars on several occasions.
The Świebodzice police have allegedly not conducted comprehensive investigation of the incidents, despite numerous complaints filed by the victims. The ERRC is unaware of any judicial proceedings regarding any case of violence against the Świebodzice Roma; as of June 15, 1997, no one from the police or from the prosecutor's office had contacted the Roma involved.
The ERRC documented similar violent attacks against Roma in the southern town of Dębica. A particularly violent attack took place in June 1994. The incident began with the severe beating of then 13-year-old Gniewko David Sadowski by a group of approximately thirty skinheads on the central square at around 4:00 in the afternoon. While the heavily injured boy was being taken to hospital, a group of at least fifty people gathered in the Vielopolska street outside the houses inhabited by Roma. According to eyewitnesses, the attackers threw bricks, stones and bottles at the houses facing the street. Reportedly, all windows facing the street were broken and several doors were ripped off their hinges.
Allegedly, the police were called soon after the attack started but did not intervene in a timely manner. According to witness testimony, one police car passed by but left the scene without stopping. Mieczysław Sadowski, Romani resident of Dębica and one of the victims, told the ERRC that they managed to catch five of the attackers and they turned these over to the police when they finally arrived. According to our information, an investigation was launched into the incident, but the case seems to have been dropped before it reached the court. Allegedly, four of the suspects escaped to Germany and have since not been seen in Dębica, while the fifth was released without being formally charged.
Honourable Mr. General Prosecutor, the ERRC urges you to undertake a thorough and independent investigation into the administration of justice regarding the above cases of violence and kindly asks to be informed about your findings. We thank you in advance for your cooperation and look forward to your prompt reply.
Veronika Leila Szente
European Roma Rights Center