Continuing physical abuse of Roma in Bulgaria
02 April 1998
Numerous instances of physical abuse of Roma were reported in autumn and winter in Bulgaria. The Human Rights Project (HRP) reported that on the evening of October 14, four policemen from the 1st Regional Police Department (RPD) in Sofia assaulted Roma in three cafés in the predominantly Roma Khristo Botev quarter of the capital. In one attack which took place around 10:30 p.m., according to victim testimony, the heavily drunk policemen broke into the café of Nadya Dimitrova, began cursing „Gypsies” and beating her and the approximately twelve other Roma there. The attackers forced Trayan Ivanov, Nadya Dimitrova’s son, and his wife, who were already in bed asleep, to get up and crawl naked on the floor. They also beat Romani guests in the café with a wooden cudgel, approximately 50 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. Witnesses state that during the assault, the police officers continued drinking. Mr Y.A. and his 17-year-old son N.A. suffered the most serious injuries during the assault. Mr Y.A. told the HRP that he had sent his son to buy a pack of cigarettes from the local café, and when he failed to return for a long time, he had gone to see why his son was so late. Upon arriving at the café, Mr Y.A. saw Roma, including his son, thrown to the floor and being kicked by four policemen. One of the policemen demanded to know who he was. Without waiting for a response, the officer handcuffed him and, along with two other policemen, began beating him. Two of the policemen allegedly beat him on the head, while another hit him on his midriff and legs. Police officers then forced Mr Y.A.’s son N.A. to take off his father’s pants and burn his genitals and moustache with a lighter.
During another one of three attacks reported in the Kristo Botev neighbourhood on October 14, the same police officers allegedly beat Mr V.B. and his two sons. The Roma reported that the policemen forced them to lie down on the floor and then trod on them. The incident continued for approximately two hours. Three of the Roma victims obtained medical certificates indicating serious injuries, and reported the incidents to the Regional Police Department the following day. The Human Ríghts Project sent a letter to the Chief of the National Police. Thus far, they have not received an answer.
The HRP also reported that on November 24, 1997, a 16-year-old Romani youth from Stara Zagora named Dimitar Anguelov, who had been falsely accused by his non-Romani schoolmate K.Y. of extorting money from him, was beaten by three civilians with the approval of a police officer from the Regional Police Department of Stara Zagora.
Dimitar Anguelov, a pupil in fifth grade in the „Zheleznik” secondary school in Stara Zagora, alleged that on the morning of November 24, two civilians unknown to him had forced him out of the school building while beating him. During the assault, a police officer allegedly stood at the doorway of the school building. Dimitar was led out and forced into a red car in front of the school building. Inside the car, the two civilians and the same police officer accused him of stealing money from a fellow student. Dimitar denied the accusation, so the police officer, General Sergeant G.D., wrote down his name, left the car, and allegedly told the civilians „You know what to do”. The civilians then drove Dimitar to the outskirts of the city and stopped the car in a deserted place. Three people, the two men who had abducted Dimitar from the school building and the driver of the car, then began beating him with their fists and hitting him with a truncheon in the midriff in order to force him to confess to the theft.
After he had confessed, the men drove Dimitar back to the school. The principal of the school, Ms Marusya Gotcheva, told the Human Rights Project that Sergeant G.D. demanded that Dimitar be detained because he had committed a theft from a fellow student. She refused to turn the boy over to the police, however, since there had been no complaint against him, and the sergeant did not show an arrest warrant. After her conversation with the police officer, the principal received Dimitar Anguelov and one of the civilians in her office. The civilian was then revealed to be Mr Y.K., father of K.Y. Mr Y.K. insisted that Dimitar give the names of his accomplices and the exact amount of the money that he had stolen from his son. Dimitar agreed to talk provided Mr Y.K. leave the room. Dimitar then told Principal Gotcheva that he had been taken out of the school by Mr Y.K. and two other civilians in the presence of the police officer, and that he had been beaten by the civilians on the outskirts of the city in order to force him to confess to a theft he had not committed. Principal Gotcheva then interviewed the teachers of K.Y., his friends and his father and in the course of this impromptu investigation, it was discovered that K.Y. had, in fact, spent the money and had falsely accused the Romani boy Dimitar. After complaints by Principal Gotcheva and the Human Rights Project to the Regional Police Department of Stara Zagora, Sergeant G.D. was dismissed from the police force.
Other abuses of Roma have been reported in the Bulgarian press. On November 22, Dneven Trud reported that a 15-year old Romani girl named Angelina Krainova from the town of Sliven had been shot and wounded in the leg by a policeman. According to the article, the girl was with a group of Roma who were seen leaving the house of a 71-year-old man, where they had stolen 2,500 Bulgarian Leva (approximately 2.5 German Marks). A passer-by notified the police. The shooting allegedly took place after the girl had been detained.
Finally, Demokratsia reported on January 10 that a 15-year old Romani boy had escaped from a Labour School for Juvenile Delinquents because he had been regularly sexually assaulted. The article stated that in the opinion of the policemen who caught him, he should not be returned to the institution, because he had been regularly raped, beaten and chained up. Abuse of Roma in detention in Bulgaria is the subject of a recent Country Series report by the ERRC, Profession: Prisoner. Roma in Detention in Bulgaria.
(24 Chasa, Demokratsia, Dneven Trud, ERRC, Human Rights Project)