Litigation - Legal defence
10 May 2003
As of April 7, 2003, the ERRC has ended its legal grants programme. Details as to conditions under which the ERRC retains attorneys to take Roma rights cases are included in this issue of Roma Rights on pp. 158-159. ERRC grants to April 7, 2003, follow:
- In December 2002, the ERRC awarded Mr Emil Ščuka (Czech Republic) a grant to represent Mr V.J. in legal proceedings. In the early morning of August 2, 2002, Mr V.J., a young Romani person from the city of Přerov, Czech Republic, was brutally beaten by the owner and waiter of a bar. First, the waiter refused to serve Mr V.J., then he beat Mr V.J. Immediately after the incident, Mr V.J. went to the police station located opposite the bar and tried to file a complaint, but was refused by the police officer who was on duty. Then Mr V.J. realised that his friend left his mobile phone in the bar so he went back to pick it up. Instead of giving him the mobile phone, the waiter and the owner of the bar started beating Mr V.J. again, tied his hands and mouth and locked him in the trunk of a car. They drove for about 15 km outside the town and then threw him unconscious into the Morava River. However, as the riverbank is not very steep, only his lower body entered the water and he therefore survived the assault.
- In November 2002, the ERRC awarded Ms Livia Florina Labo (Cluj, Romania) a grant to represent Amare Phrala organisation on behalf of 80 Roma from the Casa Calăului Romani settlement in Cluj, in legal proceedings. On November 6, 2002, 80 Roma, including 50 children, were evicted from a place called Casa Calăului in the center of Cluj, where they resided illegally. The people were offered, as alternative accommodation, a bomb shelter in the basement of an apartment building on the outskirts of the town. Non-Roma living in the building did not want to have Romani neighbours so they protested and threatened to evict the Romani families themselves if the municipality would not move them. The evicted families had previously applied for social housing, but the mayor had refused their request. On November 29, 2002, the Roma were evicted from the bomb shelter to Patarăt Romani settlement outside of Cluj, where they now live in thin metal barracks in highly substandard conditions.
- In December 2002, the ERRC awarded Mr Marcel Nechita (Buhuşi, Romania) a grant to represent R.A., C.V. and others in legal proceedings. On December 5, 2002, fifteen police officers from Buhuşi, approximately thirty special troops from Bacău and Neamț Counties and twenty gendarmes raided the Orbic Romani neighborhood in the town of Buhuşi, in eastern Romania. Two Romani men were fatally shot and four other Roma were seriously injured, including an elderly woman and a child. Police officers and the special troops entered the Orbic neighborhood in an operation intended to locate and arrest three people who had committed a robbery.
- In January 2003, the ERRC awarded Ms Bea Bodrogi (Budapest, Hungary) a grant to represent B.V. and I.V. in legal proceedings. On September 12, 2002, B.V. and I.V. were refused to entry to a popular summer club called Zöld Pardon on the basis of their Romani origin. At that time, I.V. was working at RTL Klub television channel as a media intern and he wanted to collect film material with regard to pubs and bars in Budapest. Besides his brother, B.V. was accompanied by two non-Romani members of the same television channel. However, at the entrance of Zöld Pardon, the two Roma were stopped, denied entry and asked to show their identity cards. Meanwhile, they could see that lots of young people entered the place without being asked for any cards or being questioned. The two non-Romani colleagues of RTL Klub witnessed the situation and started asking questions about the reason of the non-admittance of the two Romani men. Finally, the two non-Roma entered while the two Roma left the place.
- In February 2003, the ERRC awarded Mr Péter Margitics (Budapest, Hungary) a grant to represent F.B. in legal proceedings. On March 4, 1999, a man was robbed and murdered in the village of Ujszentmargita in northeastern Hungary. Before the incident the victim had a few drinks in a bar together with F.B. and his father. The next day, our client and his father were immediately arrested and an investigation started against them. The main witness was the bartender, who declared that the two Romani men saw that the victim had a large sum of money (12,000 HUF) with him that day. The prosecutor's investigation was based only on circumstantial evidence. Two witness testimonies were considered enough evidence for an indictment decision. On April 11, 2000, the prosecutor issued an indictment decision against them and they were sent to trial. Since March 16, 1999, they have been in detention.
- In February 2003, the ERRC awarded the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) (Budapest, Hungary) a grant to represent K.K. in legal proceedings. K.K. is a young Romani widow living in Tiszaeszlár, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County. Her husband, I.B., was employed as an unskilled worker at a construction company beginning on October 11, 2001. On October 18, 2001, while he was working in a construction site in Budapest, his superior instructed him to clean the terrace on the fourth floor. During the cleaning of the terrace - which was not protected with a barrier - I.B. fell down to the ground from approximately 14-15 metres. He suffered liver injuries and internal hemorrhage and died during the transportation to the hospital. The National Labour Safety Office (NLSO) conducted an investigation into the case. According to their report, the primary causes of the accident were that the building contractor did not provide appropriate protection in the insecure areas and did not demand personal safety instruments from the employees. Additionally, the secondary cause of the accident was that the employer of I.B. did not give labour safety education to his employee and did not send him for a preliminary medical examination as required by the law. The report also mentioned that the employer violated the labour safety regulations on numerous occasions previously. The NLSO fined the site manager and the building contractor and reported I.B.'s superior to the police. The police started an investigation for the crime of "endangering life at the working place" (Article 171 of the Hungarian Penal Code). On February 12, 2002, the police dismissed the investigation for absence of evidence. The former legal representative of K.K. lodged a complaint against the decision but the Prosecutor's Office rejected it as well.
- In February 2003, the ERRC awarded Spyros Kloudas (Athens, Greece) a grant to represent T.M., I.M. and M.M. in legal proceedings. In November 1996, the police had set up a road-block outside the town of Livadia after reportedly receiving information that a suspected murder was among a group of some 35 Roma traveling in a convoy of five pick-up trucks. The police officers pulled over all five vehicles and ordered the passengers to get out and lie down on the ground, allegedly threatening to shoot them if they disobeyed. As the four lay on the ground, one of them, A.M., aged 45 made a movement and the police officer pushed him down with his left hand. As he did so, the machine gun he was holding in his other hand slipped and, while trying to regain control of it, he accidentally pulled the trigger, fatally wounding A.M., who died almost immediately.
- In February 2003, the ERRC awarded Orestis Georgiadis (Thessaloniki, Greece) a grant to represent T.S. in legal proceedings. In the late hours of August 4, 2001, police officers from the Police Station in Argostoli visited the truck where the 16 years old T.S. was living. The police officers did not find him there and told his sisters to inform their brother to report to the police station as soon as he returned home. The police officers wanted to interrogate the Romani boy in connection with allegations by a kiosk owner that money had been stolen from him. Four other young Roma, all relatives of T.S. were arrested as well. That same night, T.S., after being informed of this by his sister, went to the police station. During the interrogation, he was repeatedly punched and slapped in the face by the police officers who forced him to confess that he stole the money from the kiosk. The four other Roma and T.S. were later released without charge.
- In March 2003, the ERRC awarded Stoyan Terziyski (Sofia, Bulgaria) a grant to represent K.R. and others in legal proceedings. The six claimants are Roma living in the District of Filipovtci, Sofia, which is predominantly inhabited by Roma. In this particular district the devices for measuring electricity consumed are placed on the telegraph poles at the height of about 6 meters in boxes protected by special shields. The explanation given by the Electricity Company was that this was necessary to prevent the stealing of electricity by the Roma and to protect the devices from them. In this situation the consumers cannot check whether their bills are correct and have no choice but to pay any sums requested or be cut off from electricity. In March 2002, the electricity in the whole block of flats where the claimants live was cut off. When the inhabitants of the area went to complain to the Electricity Company, they were told that this was the only way to stop the "Gypsies" from stealing electricity.
- In March 2003, the ERRC awarded Vladimír Ježek (Ostrava, Czech Republic) a grant to represent M.K. and E.P. in legal proceedings. On July 26, 2002, two Roma were attacked twice by three young men in Orlova, Czech Republic. They were severely beaten with baseball bats and even though there was a police car nearby, police officers did not do anything to stop the beating.