Slovak Investigation Bodies Disciplined After Mentally Disabled Romani Man ‘Forgotten’ in Custody
14 October 2013
Budapest, Bratislava, 14 October 2013: The Slovak General Prosecutor has found serious misconduct in the activities of the police and the district branch of the Prosecutor’s office, after a mentally disabled Romani man was left in custody for two and a half months. A disciplinary procedure has been launched against the district office of the Prosecutor, and the investigating policeman faces criminal charges. The Romani man was only released after legal steps and advocacy interventions by the ERRC lawyer representing him.
The original incident took place on 16 June, 2013 in the Roma settlement Budulovska in Moldava nad Bodvou. The community held a party - the municipality police were consulted and visited the settlement during the afternoon, making no objections. At 11pm, the state police patrol arrived and requested the music was turned down. The community agreed as the party was about to finish anyway.
Later that night the local police patrol arrived and targeted a Roma teenager with harassment. As a result, some children and a mentally disabled man threw stones at the police car. The police took the teenager and the Romani man into custody. Slovak law requires criminal charges/accusations to be dropped immediately when the alleged perpetrator is found to be mentally disabled. The investigator knew about his condition from an expert report, which also stated the man was not a danger to society, and he should have been released immediately. The investigator had the expert report for a month without acting. In total the man was held in custody for two and a half months.
The party that triggered the incident was to celebrate an international RomaNet project of the URBACT platform, which includes 500 cities in 29 countries and is funded under the EU cohesion policy. Košice municipality, the single Slovak municipality selected, have been a partner to the project aiming at a more substantial integration of Roma to urban institutions and urban life in general. In this context, it is particularly disappointing that the outcome was a human rights violation of a vulnerable Romani man.
The ERRC welcomes the finding by the General Prosecutor’s Office that serious misconduct took place. The detention of an intellectually disabled man with apparently no legal basis is incomprehensible. His detention was traumatising to him, his family members and others in the community. The ERRC expects that the authorities will conduct a full investigation. This means not only considering procedural irregularities, but also establishing whether these events were the result of racial bias. There are other aspects of what happened in Moldava that still need to be investigated. The ERRC looks forward to seeing the results of the full investigation of everything that happened to this community.
The General Prosecutor continues to investigate the police raid. Unlike the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Interior, the Prosecutor considered the previous Ombudsperson’s report, which followed an interview with the Romani victims and concluded that rights violations had taken place. This is a positive development.
For more information, contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre