Slovakia: State Authorities Turn a Blind Eye to Police Abuse of Roma
06 September 2013
Budapest, Bratislava, 6 September 2013: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is deeply concerned about recent developments over reports of excessive police force in two Romani settlements (Moldava nad Bodvou and Drienovec). A mentally-disabled Romani man was held in custody for two and a half months after throwing stones at a police car in the Moldava settlement, an incident which sparked the repressive police action two days later. The investigators, who knew about his condition, should have released him immediately. Slovak law urges immediate dropping of criminal charges/accusations when the alleged perpetrator is found to be mentally disabled, and the man was not a danger to society. The man was only released after legal steps and advocacy interventions by the ERRC lawyer representing him.
The police action, in June 2013, reportedly resulted in injuries to over 30 individuals, including young children, A report by the Slovak Ombudsperson found violations of Slovak and international law. However, the Committee of Human Rights of the Slovak Parliament (National Council of the Slovak Republic) refused to hear direct testimonies of Roma affected by the police intervention and refused to recommend the Ombudsperson’s report for scrutiny by the Slovak Parliament. This raises serious questions as to the effective and objective nature of the investigation, and the willingness of the authorities to take action on police abuse of the Roma community.
On 27 August 2013, the Committee of Human Rights of the Slovak Parliament met to discuss the alleged abuse by the police force, who kicked down doors and intimidated Romani people in the communities. The Committee was presented with reports from four different bodies – three of the reports found that the police action was conducted contrary to Slovak law and international human rights standards (those of the Slovak Ombudsperson, the Plenipotentiary Office for Roma Communities, and an NGO coalition). The report of the Inspection of Ministry of Interior found no police misconduct, however the facts of this report were established without consulting any of the affected community in Moldava and Drienovec. The Inspection and the Office of the Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities are bodies directly responsible to the Ministry of Interior, and lack an independent status.
The Committee dismissed a proposal to pass the Ombudsperson’s report to the Slovak Parliament for further scrutiny, even though this serious case clearly merits further parliamentary action.
The police action against Roma in the towns of Moldava and Drienovec is not a stand-alone incident. In the autumn of 2012, a series of police actions were conducted in four segregated Romani settlements in the Kežmarok region. More than 50 special and regular police went with dogs, electroshock weapons and guns, and used extensive force against Roma, including elderly and disabled people. They kicked and hit Roma, as well as verbally attacking them.
On June 24, 2013, in the early morning, the state police and special police squad visited a Roma settlement in the town of Plavecký Štvrtok. During their action, they damaged private properties, physically attacked people, threatened children and women, and used verbal attacks and insulting expressions. The police action was allegedly in response to a robbery by six Romani minors. As the postman refuses to deliver mail to the Roma settlement, the boys did not receive citations to attend an investigation hearing at the police station.
The ERRC is calling on Slovak State Authorities to ensure that any police action respects human rights standards, and therefore does not give rise to any suspicions of rights violations. The use of force by the police must be proportionate, lawful and necessary. In particular, the ERRC urges authorities to ensure that independent, thorough and effective investigations look into any possible discriminatory element of the police action against minority group members and mentally disabled persons.
For more information, contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre