Young Romani Man From Macedonian Prison Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances
Budapest, Skopje, 16 March 2017: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is demanding an investigation into the suspicious death of Andrias Redjepov, a 21-year-old Romani man who died in KPU Idrizovo Prison, Skopje on 11 March 2017.
Media have reported the cause of death to be a methadone overdose. However, the man’s mother insists that her son died due to injuries caused by extreme violence carried out by prison guards. She asserts that her son has never been a drug or alcohol abuser and that the cause of death is inconsistent with the information she has received.
A representative of the Roma community in Šuto Orizari, Gege Demirovski, said there is evidence which proves the claims that the deceased was brutalized in the hours before his death. He says he has information that guards brutally beat Andrias on a staircase in the prison before taking him to a room where they continued to beat and torture him to the point of death.
The sister of the deceased also has pointed out that her brother was intentionally beaten in the area behind the neck and not elsewhere on the body so as not to leave visible marks which would serve as evidence against the prison guards. The relatives of Andrias have additionally accused the prison authorities of failing to provide lifesaving medical attention in time, particularly regarding the delayed arrival of an ambulance. The prison authorities are also accused of failing to notify the family of the death of their son and brother.
The mother of Andrias Redjepov told the ERRC:
“On 11 March at 8:20 p.m. we received a phone call from his friends who were together in prison and told me that my son was taken to the state hospital – toxicology unit, once we were notified we (my husband, my daughter and my son-in-law) immediately went to the hospital to find out what was going on. When we arrived there, there were two police officers who did not allow us to see my son. We were very concerned and stayed there till 3:30 a.m. Then the two police officers told us not to wait but to come back tomorrow morning at about 9:00 a.m. and we would see my son.
As we were told we went again to the hospital the next day at about 9:00 a.m. and the doctor on duty told us that our son Andrias died at 10:47 p.m. on 11 March.”
According to statement of the mother it seems that the authorities failed to fulfil their duty to the family to carry out a prompt and effective investigation and to keep the family involved and informed. On 13 March, a spokesperson from KPU Idrizovo stated to the media that they were still waiting forthe results of the autopsy regarding the cause of death. The prison authorities rejected accusations that the ambulance did not come on time and that medical treatment was not administered efficiently, and unofficially they say that the deceased did not die from bodily injuries.
The incident bears striking resemblance to the case of Eminov v. Macedonia which is currently pending before the European Court of Rights and concerns the death of another Romani man after a methadone overdose while under the custody of Macedonian prison authorities. The ERRC are concerned with what is fast becoming a trend in Macedonian prisons, where young Romani men are inexplicably acquiring and overdosing on large amounts of methadone, which is only available to prison guards who prescribe the dosage for recovering heroin users. In both cases, prison authorities have failed to investigate the suspicious circumstances of the deaths. They have dismissed accusations of brutality. They have also failed to investigate any possible negligence in administering both the methadone and the emergency medical care. But crucially, they have failed to consider a possible racial motivation in relation to any of these concerns which have been raised. Considering the degree of institutional racism and the climate of anti-Gypsyism in Macedonia, authorities must provide an official response to legitimate concerns brought by the Romani community regarding racial prejudices.
We insist the authorities fully investigate the cause of death of the diseased, and produce a detailed report made by the investigative judge and forensic experts, as well as a detailed autopsy report and adequate provision of compensation and support for the family of the deceased.
The full investigation and prosecution (if appropriate) of this incident is a matter of protecting the rights of the families affected. But in light of the history of similar incidents in Macedonian prisons, the rights and safety of the entire Romani community in Macedonia is also at stake. Such an investigation must be properly undertaken in accordance with a number of articles of domestic legislation as well as Article 14 (right to freedom from discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, taken with Article 2 (the right to life).
“This is not the first time we have heard this story from Macedonian prison authorities. If the circumstances are as they appear, then surely the recurring methadone related deaths of young Romani men in prison amounts to negligence? In this case however, the suspicious information surrounding this young man’s death warrants a full investigation into the endemic racism clearly existing in the penal system in Macedonia.” said Đorđe Jovanović, President of the ERRC.
The ERRC are providing legal assistance to the Redjepov family, and have monitors investigating further on the ground alongside our partner organisation in Macedonia, Ambrela. We are determined to ensure this matter is not swept under the carpet by authorities. If the matter cannot be resolved, we will ensure that any brutality, negligence or discrimination which may have been carried out by the involved parties will be taken to domestic court, and if necessary, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
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