Police Abuse in Macedonia

19 September 2000

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, sent a letter of concern to Macedonian Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska to express concern at reports of recent incidents of police abuse of Roma in the Shuto Orizari municipality of the Macedonian capital Skopje. The ERRC letter details a recent instance of police abuse in a refugee camp in Shuto Orizari and notes that numerous instances of police brutality against Roma have been reported in Macedonia. Police brutality was a central concern of the ERRC's 1998 country report, A Pleasant Fiction: The Human Rights Situation of Roma in Macedonia, available on the ERRC internet website in English and Macedonian at: A Pleasant Fiction: The Human Rights Situation of Roma in Macedonia. Since the publication of the report, many more instances of police abuse targetting Roma have been reported and the ERRC has, on repeated occasions, appealed to Macedonian authorities to act to reduce the high levels of police abuse of Roma in Macedonia (see previous letters of appeal to Macedonian authorities at: A Pleasant Fiction: The Human Rights Situation of Roma in Macedonia. To date, any actions taken by the Macedonian government to combat such abuse appear to have been ineffective. The ERRC urges Minister Dimovska to act swiftly in seeing to it that officers who abuse their authority are properly disciplined, as well as to make clear to all police officers in Macedonia that abuse will not be tolerated. The text of the ERRC letter follows:

Honourable Minister Dimovska,

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 recent incidents of police abuse of Roma in the Shuto Orizari municipality of the Macedonian capital Skopje.

On September 10, 2000, at around 1:00 PM, Mr. Bekir Ramadani, a Romani refugee from Urosevac, Kosovo, was reportedly beaten and detained in questionable circumstances by Macedonian police. According to testimony provided by Mr. Ramadani to the ERRC on September 10, the incident began a few minutes after the arrival of a relative of his from Serbia, Mr. Besim Kreziri. Mr. Ramadani stated that as he and Mr. Kreziri were walking towards his barrack in a refugee camp located in the Shuto Orizari municipality of Skopje, a police officer came after them and told Mr. Kreziri that he would have to leave because he did not have the personal documents required for legitimate presence in the camp. Mr. Ramadani asked the police officer what measures would have to be taken in order for Mr. Kreziri, who was carrying only his Yugoslav identity card, to continue his visit in the camp. The police officer stated that Mr. Kreziri would have to produce a Yugoslav passport in order to be allowed to stay. Since Mr. Kreziri did not have his passport with him and had travelled a long distance, Mr. Ramadani asked the police officer if there would be any way that he could be granted permission to stay without a passport. At this point, the police officer reportedly began kicking and slapping Mr. Ramadani to the point where his hearing was impaired. After the beating, the officer handcuffed Mr. Ramadani and took him to a police station -- effectively a barrack within the refugee camp. Inside this police station, he was placed in a room and left there to wait, still in handcuffs.

While Mr. Ramadani was in the police station a group of around 50 Romani refugees who had witnessed the beating of Mr. Ramadani, began to protest. In response to the protests, a brigade of Macedonian police entered the camp. The protestors demanded that Mr. Ramadani be released, at which point one officer began to insult them and threaten them with his truncheon. This threat was witnessed by the refugees, the ERRC local monitor, Mr. Asmet Elezovski of the Roma Community Centre DROM, and Mr. Nicolae Gheorghe, Senior Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Under the pressure of the protestors, the police officers released Mr. Ramadani and told the protestors that the situation would be dealt with when the police sergeant arrived. When the sergeant finally arrived, the ERRC local monitor witnessed the officer insisting that Mr. Ramadani go with him to the police station where he would be questioned. Mr. Ramadani later told the ERRC local monitor that during the questioning the police sergeant threatened to expel Mr. Ramadani from Macedonia to Kosovo. At no point during the incident was Mr. Ramadani offered an explanation for his detention.

Honourable Minister Dimovska, the ERRC has documented numerous instances of police brutality against Roma in Macedonia, and police brutality was a central concern of the ERRC's 1998 country report, A Pleasant Fiction: The Human Rights Situation of Roma in Macedonia. Since the publication of the report many more instances of police abuse targetting Roma have occurred and the ERRC has, on repeated occasions, appealed to Macedonian authorities to act to reduce the high levels of police abuse of Roma in Macedonia. To date, any actions taken by the Macedonian government to combat such abuse appear to have been ineffective. The ERRC urges your office to act swiftly in seeing to it that officers who abuse their authority are properly disciplined, as well as to make clear to all police officers in Macedonia that abuse will not be tolerated. We respectfully request to be informed of any actions taken by your office.

Sincerely,

Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:
Minister of Internal Affairs Dosta Dimovska
St. Dimche Mirchev bb
91000 Skopje
Republic of Macedonia
Fax: (389 91) 112 468

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