A drunk racist attacks Romani children in school in Slovakia
15 July 1999
A Slovak man reportedly terrorised Romani children in a school in the eastern Slovak village of Hermanovce on April 16, 1999. According to ERRC investigation into the case, at around 10:30 am, an ethnic Slovak named Mr A.G. who lives near the remedial special school of Hermanovce, was returning home when he saw a Romani girl leaving his yard. According to testimony by witnesses, she was retrieving a ball which had landed in his yard as the children played during a school break. Mr A.G. reportedly then entered the school and went to the room where the first, second and third classes are held and began insulting Romani pupils, calling them “pharoahs” and saying that they belonged in India. Mr A.G., who was reportedly drunk, threatened to kill them. He also reportedly threw chairs and tables at the pupils. According to the testimony of the victims, Mr A.G. then left the school and returned a short time later visibly carrying a large wooden stick and a knife and allegedly carrying a concealed pistol. He insulted, threatened and beat several Romani boys who were playing football outside the school, with their teacher, Mr Ribiæ. Mr A.G. reportedly tried to stab one of the boys, 13-year-old Jerguš Èerveòák. When Mr Ribiæ attempted to intervene, Mr A.G. allegedly beat him with his stick. Mr A.G. then entered the school building for a second time and went into the classroom of the first, second and third class. Most of the children escaped, but Mr A.G. reportedly caught 12-year-old girl, Taòa Èerveòáková, beat her with the stick and held the knife to her throat, threatening to kill her. He then allegedly entered the classroom of the fourth and fifth class and produced a pistol, with which he threatened pupils. Mr A.G. then proceeded to the classroom of the sixth and eighth class. A 14-year-old Romani pupil named Nast’a Èonková opened the door for him and as she turned to flee, he struck her on the back of the head with his stick, causing her to fall, unconscious, to the floor. In the sixth and eighth classroom, Mr A.G. also reportedly beat 12-year-old Stanislava Vaòová, a Romani pupil in the sixth class. The third pupil in the room at the time, Ms Marianna Pokutová allegedly fled out the window. Mr A.G. reportedly destroyed a cassette player with his stick in the sixth and eighth classroom. Throughout the duration of the attack, pupils hid in the staff room and in the toilets. Mr A.G. also entered the staff room and beat Romani pupils there, including 11-year-old Viera Èerveòáková. Mr A.G. reportedly insulted the ethnic origins of the victims, said that all Roma belonged in India, shouted that he wished they were dead, and stated that if they came to school again, he would kill them.
Three pupils reportedly summoned the police. Two police officers were seen by independent witnesses in Hermanovce around the time of the attack. Witnesses stated that at the time of the attack, a police car was parked outside a building housing a pub, a shop and the mayor’s office. Police officers however reportedly arrived only after Mr A.G. had left the building. According to the victims, the police only waited in a police car outside the school building to see if Mr A.G. would return and, when he did not return, they left. ERRC investigation indicates that the officers did not subsequently report the incident to the police department competent for Hermanovce in the town of Chmiòanská Nová Ves. According to ERRC investigation, the director of the school was away at the time of the attack; most of the teachers assisted children in hiding in the staff room, where they themselves hid during the attack.
Subsequent to the attack, parents kept children home from school, afraid that Mr A.G. would fulfill his threat to kill them if they came back to the school. Parents told the ERRC that Mr A.G. has threatened their children before and neither school nor municipal or police authorities have taken any action to investigate threats or protect the children.
The mayor of Hermanovce, Mr František Margita, refused to speak with the ERRC. The director of the school, Ms Marie Marková, forbade individual teachers from speaking to the ERRC. The sum of her statements to the ERRC were that the damage to the school was minimal — only a broken cassette recorder — and that the incident would not be repeated. She refused to give further information to the ERRC.
On April 26, the ERRC presented Mayor Margita and School Director Marková with a statement signed by the parents of 28 children who attend the school, appealing to authorities to take measures with respect to the crime. In response to the statement, members of the local council accused the ERRC of falsifying the signatures of Romani parents, and threatened to sue the ERRC. On May 3, the ERRC filed a detailed criminal complaint, signed by the Romani parents of 28 pupils at the school, at the county prosecutor’s office in Prešov. On May 14, the county prosecutor’s office in Prešov informed the ERRC that the case had been forwarded to the police department in Chmiòanská Nová Ves. On May 27, police officers reportedly interrogated the director of the school. As of June 1, 1999, Mr A.G. was still at large and had reportedly threatened Romani children on several occasions after the incident. As of June 25, authorities had not informed the signatories of the statement of the results of investigation, in violation of Slovak law. Police investigation was reportedly ongoing as of July 12.