Italian Law Enforcement Officials Abuse Romani Beggars

29 July 2004

According to his testimony published on the Internet listserve Conares on May 18, 2004, D.E., a 16-year-old Romanian Romani male from Camp Profughi diVia Girelli in Brescia, was picked up by police on May 10, 2004. D.E. stated that two police officers, one male and one female, grabbed him by the arms and forced him into their vehicle number 55 without saying anything, and drove approximately 15 kilometres out of Brescia to a deserted area at the top of a mountain. According to D.E., the officers swore at him, then forced him out of the car. D.E. stated that the male officer ripped his pants while trying to pull them off of him, while the female officer watched and laughed. They then left him there to walk home.

Similarly, during an ERRC field mission to Italy, at Camp Boscomantico on the periphery of Verona, Mr B.N., a Romanian Romani man testified to the ERRC on April 29, 2004, that his 5-month pregnant wife, Ms S.B., had several days earlier been dragged by two police officers into their vehicle after having been caught begging in the city centre. According to Mr B.N., instead of taking his wife to the police station as she requested, the offic-ers drove 15 kilometres out of Verona in the direction opposite the camp and left Ms S.B. on the side of the road. Romani residents of the camp also informed the ERRC that during the previous week, A.M., a 14-year-old Romanian Romani girl, had similarly been picked up by police while begging in Verona. The officers drove A.M. several kilometres out of Verona in the direction opposite the camp to a deserted area and took her shoes from her. The officers then reportedly left A.M. to walk home barefoot. Mr Lorenzo Monasta and Ms Francesca Bragaja, activists from the association Cesar K, working with the Romani and Sinti community in Verona, reported to the ERRC that such instances were common in Verona and elsewhere in the country. In many cases, police also reportedly take from Roma money they have collected while begging.

On June 1, 2004, the ERRC sent a letter of concern to Mr Giuseppe Pisanu, Italy's Minister of Interior, expressing concern about reports of Romani beggars being harassed and subjected to abuse by law enforcement officials in Italy. The ERRC reminded Minister Pisanu that such actions may rise to the level of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and requested that a general investigation into the al-legations be opened immediately and that any and all persons responsible be brought swiftly to justice. The ERRC also requested that a general order condemning such behaviour, and outlining proper procedures and potential punishments in such cases be is-sued to all law enforcement agen-cies in Italy. As of the date this edition went to press, there had been no response to the letter. (ERRC)

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