Abuses by police and special police troops in Beglezh, Bulgaria
10 September 1998
According to the Sofia-based organisation Human Rights Project, on May 19, 1998, around 7:30 am, three Roma - 22-year-old Serghei Panchev Gheorghiev, 24-year-old Petar Panchev Gheorghiev, and their mother Katya Assenova Ivanova, from the village of Beglezh, Lovech district, were on the way to their home in the Romani neighborhood of Beglezh. The mother went into a café to buy a pack of cigarettes. The owner of the café not only refused to sell her cigarettes, but also insulted her and slapped her in the face. The brothers then went into the café to find out why their mother had been rudely treated. The owner insulted them as well and ordered them to leave the café. A fight between the two Roma and the owner followed, after which the Roma went home.
Around 8:30 the same morning, around twelve special police troopers armed with guns, bats and truncheons broke into their house. They beat the two brothers, handcuffed them and took them to the mayor's office in Beglezh. The Roma were detained there from 8:30 am to 5 pm, where, according to them, they were beaten by the special police troopers. Around 3 pm, a policeman from the second regional police department in Pleven who was responsible for the region of Beglezh appeared in the mayor's office and also beat the Roma with a truncheon. Around 5:30 pm they were moved to the second regional police department in Pleven, where they were forced to sign a document the contents of which they did not understand.
Around 9 am, the sister of Mr Serghei Gheorghiev and Mr Petar Gheorghiev, Tsonka Gheorghieva, went to the mayor's office to see what was happening to her brothers. The guards offended her and hit her as well, in the presence of her brothers. As a result, she had bruises and a swelling on her left arm. Tsonka Gheorghieva asserted that after witnessing the mistreatment of her brothers, she and her mother went to the prosecutor on duty in the regional prosecutor's office of Pleven to report the beating of her broters. The prosecutor then telephoned the mayor's office and was told that the Roma were not there any more; they were, in fact, released the same day.
On May 20, 1998, Tsonka Gheorghieva reported the assault by the guards to a local policeman in Beglezh. The policeman allegedly insulted and threatened her. Serghei Gheorghiev and Petar Gheorghiev filed complaints in the Military Prosecu-tor's Office of Pleven against the beating committed by one policeman and the special police troops.
Other serious abuses against Roma have been reported in Beglezh. On May 31, 1998, two policemen from the Pleven second regional police department and special police troops from the village of Beglezh reportedly beat and insulted Mr Emil Anghelov Balevski and his son Yulian Anghelov in a disco in Beglezh. According to Mr Emil Balevski, on May 30, 1998, around 10:30 pm, a group of Roma, including himself, his son, his wife, and her two sisters and nephews went to the local disco. Around 2 am the women left the disco, and Emil asked his son and nephews to go home as well. The son refused to leave the disco which made his father pull him by his hand, but they slipped and fell on the floor.
Approximately a dozen special police troopers who were present in the disco then assaulted them. According to Emil, the mayor of Beglezh was a witness to the incident, as was a local policeman, but these did not intervene. After the beating in the disco, Emil Balevski and his son went home. Around 4 am on May 31, 1998, the regional inspector from the second regional police department in Pleven arrived at Emil's home. Emil Balevski was taken to the Beglezh mayor's office, where seven of the special police troopers, apparently drunk, were present as well. One of them beat Emil's chin with a truncheon and told him: "Dirty Gypsy, you are going to pass through the meat-grinder!" Two of the guards then kicked and beat Emil with their hands and with a truncheon. The beating stopped when the mayor of the village arrived. The victim asserts that before he was released, he was forced by the policeman to write an explanation letter stating that no one used force on him. As a result of the beating, the victims suffered light bodily injuries. Both of them have forensic certificates documenting their injuries. They have filed a complaint to the Military Prosecutor's Office of Pleven. The incident was publicised in an HRP six-month report which includes the most serious cases monitored by the organisation during the period January-June 1998.
(Human Rights Project)