Macedonian Police Abuse Young Romani Man; Romani Youth Found Dead After Being Chased by Police
13 November 2006
According to research conducted by the ERRC and the Kumanovo- based National Roma Centrum (NRC), members of Macedonia's special police unit "Alpha" physically abused Mr A. 20-year-old Romani man, at around 8:00 PM on 3 June 2006 in the northern Macedonian town of Bitola. According to Mr A. testimony, he was driving down Debarska street with four friends when a car entered the middle of the street. Mr A. reportedly stopped to let the car pass, but it did not. Suddenly, several unidentified people got out of the car, approached Mr A. car and began to hit him without warning. Mr A. stated that he and his friends got out of his car to defend themselves. At this point, the attackers reportedly showed badges identifying themselves as members of the undercover Macedonian police force Alpha. The officers then took out their guns and ordered Mr A. and his friends to kneel down in the middle of the street. Shortly thereafter, Mr A. and his friends were taken to the police station, where officers hit and kicked Mr A. all over his body. Mr A. stated that the officers also stole a gold chain and earrings worth about 29,000 Macedonian denars (approximately 470 EUR). At this point, Mr A. was taken into the police station where the police commander allegedly listened to the officers' version of events followed by Mr A.. Mr A. was held in detention until 12:30 AM, when he was released. Mr A. informed the ERRC/NRC that, during his detention, the police commander requested that he not file any legal actions against the police. The police commander also reportedly called Mr A. after several weeks again asking that he not take any action. Mr A. informed the ERRC/NRC that he did not want to pursue the case.
Earlier this year, on 11 May, Trajan Bekirov, a 17-year-old Romani youth, went missing after members of the Alpha police unit chased him and his friend, Orhan Isemi, in Skopje, according to ERRC/NRC research. His dead body was discovered on 28 May in the Vardar River near the village of Tubarevo. Trajan Bekirov's parents stated to the ERRC/NRC that they believed the initial police chase was influenced by racial considerations. They also allege an anti-Romani bias among Macedonian authorities. The Institute for Judicial Medicine carried out an autopsy, the result of which is still unknown. An autopsy was also performed by the Bulgarian expert Georgi Bankov at the request of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which was providing legal advice to the Bekirov family. According to media reports, Mr Bankov found several of Trajan Bekirov's organs to be missing. Ezerdzan Bekirov, Trajan's father, went to the Institute for Judicial Medicine to find out how his son died. While the autopsy report was reported to be with the court, Mr Bekirov was informed that the cause of death was drowning and that Alpha police unit had not used force while chasing Trajan. A criminal investigation was opened in the case. On 16 June, the ERRC and NRC sent a letter to Dr Vlado Buckovski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, expressing grave concern about the death of Trajan Bekirov and urging that Macedonian authorities carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation. Copies of the letter were also sent to Ms Meri Mladenovska Gjorgjievska, Minister of Justice, Mr Ljubomir Mihajlovski, Minister of Interior, and Mr Aleksandar Prcevski, Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Macedonia. On 26 July 2006, the Macedonia Public Prosecutor announced he would not pursue charges against members of Alpha. The Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights also announced it would help Mr Bekirov's parents file a private complaint in the case.