Abusive Police Raid in Moldovan Romani Community
10 May 2003
At around 11:00 PM on September 3, 2002, approximately forty masked police officers and officers of the Ministry of Interior's police special forces conducted a violent raid in the Romani community in the town of Vulcănesti, approximately sixty kilometres northwest of Chişinău, during which Romani men, women and children were beaten and their property was destroyed, according to ERRC field research conducted on September 5, 2002. Ms A.C., a Romani woman visiting her sister at the time, testified to the ERRC that after hearing a noise outside Ms A.S.'s house, she went over and saw ten to fifteen armed officers in masks. Ms A.C. stated that when she asked what was happening, one of the officers hit her hard, causing her to fall to the ground and the officers pointed their guns at her. Ms A.C. testified that police forced her sister and mother, as well as around twenty other women to the ground with her, where they were held at gunpoint.
Ms A.S. informed the ERRC that she was having a small party at her house when her neighbour came and warned her that the police were searching houses. Two of her guests then brought their cars into her yard and she locked her house with five people inside. Approximately fifteen officers reportedly arrived at Ms A.S.'s house shortly after 11:00 PM and knocked aggressively on her gate until she opened it and let them into the yard. According to Ms A.S., a masked officer violently grabbed her neck and another masked officer punched her right ear so hard that he broke her earring. The officers demanded that she open her house and asked for her husband, Mr I.S. When Ms A.S. asked the officers for a search warrant, the officers reportedly stated that they did not have one and one of them proceeded to vandalise goods in her yard, including the vehicles in which her friends had arrived. Officers reportedly stole the alarms out of both cars and a tape deck. According to Ms A.S., another officer, whom she recognised as Officer V., broke the window of the shed beside her house, grabbed an axe from inside and began to knock down the door of her house. Another officer, Officer V.T., reportedly told Ms A.S. that they would not harm anyone inside the house - they only wanted to search it. At this point, Ms A.S. opened the door and ten officers entered and began to search the house, destroying her possessions while shouting racial slurs. Ms A.S. reported that the officers stole some salami, two boxes of coffee and two hand lanterns during the search, telling her that she should be happy that they did not take everything.
According to Ms I.M., who was present at the time of the raid, when she went outside with her sister and aunt to see what was going on, they were ordered to lie on the ground. Ms I.M. stated that an officer hit her in the stomach with the butt of his gun and pulled her hard by her hair to the ground as he shouted racist remarks. Ms I.M. also told the ERRC that she witnessed the same thing happen to her sister and her aunt. Ms I.M. stated that the raid lasted until around 2:00 AM. Sixty-year-old Ms M.A. reported being thrown violently to the ground by an armed officer when she asked what was happening. As a result of the fall, Ms M.A. told the ERRC, she suffered a sprain in her left leg. Thirty-three-year-old Ms S.I. informed the ERRC that she witnessed an officer beat her husband and, when she tried to help her husband, the officer hit her with the butt of his gun in the middle of her back, causing her to fall down, after which the officer continued to beat her husband. Forty-nine-year-old Ms L.S. reported that she and her 11-year-old son went to the home of Ms A.S. after she heard shouting coming from the yard, but she was stopped by an officer who hit her forcefully with his gun and she fell down on top of her son. The officer then reportedly pointed his gun at Ms L.S. and her son, threatening to shoot them if they went near the house. Ms L.S. stated that she witnessed the police beating men in Ms A.S.'s yard. Ms V.S. informed the ERRC that she tried to help the women the police had gathered and were beating on the ground near Ms A.S.'s house and was hit by an officer on her face, head and back until she fell down. Ms V.S. claimed that she then ran to a nearby yard where some other women and children were hiding, and the officer followed her, hitting her and the others with a truncheon and threatening to shoot if they left the yard. The officer reportedly insulted the ethnic origin of the women. Thirty-eight-year-old Ms A.I. told the ERRC that she was in the house of her son, Mr S.I., when five masked officers carrying weapons entered the house and forced everyone to lie on the ground as they searched the house. Ms A.I. stated that, following the search, 1000 Moldovan lei (approximately 70 Euro) and two gold necklaces were missing from the house. Ms M.C. stated that an officer hit her in the head with his gun, while she was carrying her 7-month-old baby in her arms. Forty-six-year-old Mr I.S., Ms A.S.'s husband, reported that Mr V.C., Chief of Police of the Nisporeni District, who took part in the violent actions against the Roma, smelled of alcohol.
During the ERRC visit, the ERRC, together with the lawyer hired by the victims, assisted twenty-one Roma write statements about what had happened to them during the police raid and, on the same day, accompanied them to the Nisporeni Prosecutor's Office to file complaints. At the office, Prosecutor Petru Botnaru stated that he was aware of the incident. Mr Botnaru stated that after fifteen days he would release the findings of the investigation he would undertake. Officer V.C., who co-ordinated the raid, was also present at the meeting and stated that the raid had been conducted legally. Officer V.C. denied any racial motive in the action and also that any of the officers had searched the houses. After the ERRC, the twenty-one Roma and their attorney had left the prosecutor's office, the informal leader of the Roma, Mr S.V., was immediately called back into the office for a private meeting. The lawyer of the Romani victims informed the ERRC that, later that evening, Mr S.V. called him and said that all twenty-one Roma had withdrawn their complaints, reportedly because they had reached an "agreement" with Mr V.C. As of April 15, 2003, the ERRC was unaware of any further actions undertaken by the police or prosecutor in the case. For further information on the situation of Roma in Moldova, visit the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org.