More disturbing events in Slovak police custody

03 October 2000

The Slovak press reported on June 20, 2000, that a nineteen-year-old Romani man named Zdeněk G. had "attempted to commit suicide" while in police custody in the eastern Slovak town of Trebišov in connection with breaking and entering and robbery. According to press repor t s based on information supplied by police authorities, Mr Zdeněk G. rammed his head into a sink and then tried to cut his own throat with the shards. International medical authorities commented that the action is a very unusual method of attempting suicid e . Although Slovak law provides that legal defence must be provided in cases of robbery, it was unclear what measures had been taken to ascertain that Mr Zdeněk G.'s injuries had been self-inflicted. Police abuse of Roma, including abuses in police custody , are reported with disturbing frequency in Slovakia; officers are rarely if ever held accountable for abuses, even in extreme cases in which Romani individuals have died in police detention.

In other Slovak news, according to domestic media reports from July 29, 2000, Mr Robert Fico, leader of the Smer party, proposed criminalising the theft of wood and other agricultural products from fields. According to Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy chairperson Dušan Mašlonka, this would be a valuable move because fields are being "plundered" by "Gypsy locusts". He proposed calling out the army in defence of Slovak fields. On July 31, according to the Slovak daily Korzar, Mr Fico expanded on his proposals by calling for an end to "the growth of a poor quality Romani population." Mr Fico, whose Smer party was formed shortly after the 1998 Slovak general elections, is widely held to be vying for position by appealing to racist votes formerly cast in favour of the Slovak National Party. On August 4, 2000, according to Slovak and international medi a, Slovak MP Vitězslav Morič stated that reservations should be established for Roma in Slovakia, modelled on Indian reservations existing in the USA. Mr Morič reportedly stated on a radio broadcast on August 4, "I think that if we fail to establish these reservations now, Gypsies will set them up for us in 20 years' time." On August 8, Slovak press reported that the Romani political party Romani Intelligentsia Party (RIS) had filed a criminal complaint with the Slovak General Prosecutor's office for incite ment to racial hatred, defamation of race and nation, spreading false reports, and supporting movements aimed at the suppression of rights and freedoms against Mr Morič for his comments. Police asked the parliament to strip Mr Morič of his immunity, and o n September 21, the parliament voted 65 to 27 to do so. As of October 2, he had not yet been indicted.

(BBC, ČTK , Korzár, Narodna obroda, Nový čas , Pravda, SME)


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