Instances of police abuse of Roma in Bulgaria
07 December 1999
Roma rights groups in Bulgaria have recently reported instances of police brutality against Roma. In one case, according to information provided by the Sofia-based Human Rights Project, on September 8, 1999, three oficers beat a Romani woman outside the Labour Bureau in the Iztok neighbourhood of Pazardzhik, in central Bulgaria. According to witnesses, the incident occurred when a large number of Roma gathered to wait for information about jobs at around 11 AM. One police officer was present in front of the office. When people from the back of the assembled crowd started to push, persons in front went forward, pushing the policeman. He asked who had pushed him and several persons pointed to Ms T.B. Then, according to her testimony, the officer went up to her, grabbed her by the hair and started beating her. She tried to explain that she was not responsible for the incident but he went on beating her; two other police officers reportedly also approached and they beat her as well. Ms T.B. was then taken to the Regional Police Department of Pazardzhik and the same day the District Court of Pazardzhik sentenced her for "minor hooliganism" to five days police custody. The court examined as witnesses two police officers and one employee of the local Labor Bureau; they did not examine any of the Roma who had witnessed the alleged beating. The sentence ruled out appeal.
In a second incident, on October 2, 1999 at around 8:00 PM, Mr L.Z. and four other Roma were in a car in the recreation area in the outskirts of Pleven in northern Bulgaria waiting, as they later told the Human Rights Project, to meet an acquaintance who lived nearby. A police patrol car approached and a police officer in uniform asked them what they were doing there. Meanwhile his colleague from the patrol car made a call on the car's CB radio and a second police car with two policemen subsequently arrived. Then, according to Mr L.Z., all of the assembled police officers started beating the five Roma with truncheons. While beating them, the policemen "accused" them of intending to rob the villas in the recreation area. The beating continued for approximately half an hour, after which the police left in their cars. Mr L.Z. has obtained a medical certificate for his injuries from the beating and has filed a complaint with the Regional Military Prosecutor's Office of Pleven.
(Human Rights Project, ERRC)