More police brutality in Hungary
12 April 2000
Amnesty International reported an incident of alleged police ill-treatment of Roma, including juveniles, in Budapest in September 1999. Approximately 30 police officers took part in a raid on flats at Róbert Károly krt. 50 in Budapest’s 13th district in the late morning of Sunday September 5, 1999, and reportedly without explanation or presentation of warrants, broke open the doors of two flats. There they beat and abused verbally the racial origins of six young Romani people, ranging from 13 to 21 years old, who were sleeping there, as well as the mother of one of the teenagers. The police took the six young people, dressed only in their night-clothes, to the Budapest 13th District police station, allegedly subjecting them to further physical ill-treatment and racial abuse, before releasing them without charge the same evening. The alleged victims and other witnesses were interviewed in Budapest by an Amnesty International representative four days after the incident.
The reason for the raid was not made immediately clear, and it has reportedly since emerged that it was motivated by incorrect information. It is understood that a telephone call was made to the police in the morning of September 5, 1999, alleging that six named young Romani people had beaten up a pregnant woman so badly that she had fallen into a coma, had a miscarriage, and had just been taken away in an ambulance from Róbert Károly krt. 50. It now appears that this call was made by a Mrs G.S., who was also interviewed by Amnesty International on September 9, and who, by her own account, is undergoing psychiatric treatment. It appears that she made the telephone call to the police, allegedly introducing herself as her own doctor, and described herself as the victim of a beating who was in coma and having a miscarriage.
A large group of policemen entered the courtyard of Róbert Károly krt. 50 at roughly 11:30 AM on 5 September. They reportedly shouted “Come out you stinking Gypsies!”, and demanded to see anyone known as ‘Zsuzsa’ who had sons. Ms Z.D. was the only person who fit the description, with sons aged 10 and 17. The police demanded to know the whereabouts of her elder son M.D. When she asked why, the policeman in charge told her “Shut up, you bitch”. This commanding officer is reported also to have later used and repeated the phrase, “I wish that God would kill you. You will be smoked out” to the Romani inhabitants of Róbert Károly krt. 50, several times during the ensuing operation.
Ms Z.D. reportedly showed the police the flat on the first floor where Mr M.D. and some others were still sleeping after a party the night before. The police then allegedly smashed a window as they entered the flat, and beat M.D. as he lay in bed, causing visible injuries to his face and ears. His mother, Z.D., protested, at which a policeman allegedly swore at her, struck her in the face, grabbed her arm, threw her on a bed, put his hand round her throat, and threatened her, “You will die if you say another word.” A medical examination performed on her later that evening confirmed that she had been beaten, recording contusions on her skull, shoulder and upper arm, an unsteadiness in walking, and tremors in her hands. The two young Romani women in the flat, Ms E.V. (19) and Ms K.B. (13), were allegedly slapped around the face by the police, who swore at them and shouted, “You will be killed if you don’t tell us the truth.” When Ms E.V. denied she knew anything she was allegedly slapped again on her ear, a blow which has caused a small puncture of her left eardrum, which she reported has affected her hearing in that ear. The police then took the three young people down into the courtyard, and out to the street, not allowing them to get dressed, with M.D. handcuffed.
At the same time, roughly 10 other policemen reportedly knocked loudly on the door of another flat on the first floor where Mr T.B. (16), his girlfriend Ms N.P. (17), and Mr N.B. (21) were sleeping after the party. Before T.B. could open the door the police allegedly broke it down. Without any explanation, the police allegedly pushed T.B. and N.B. to the floor and started beating them, handcuffing them behind their backs, and continuing to beat them around the shoulders, back and head, including on and around their eyes, with a three-part retractable weapon called a vipera. Having handcuffed T.B., a policeman allegedly stood on his handcuffed wrists in order to inflict further injury upon him. Marks of injury on T.B.’s wrists were apparent four days later when he was interviewed by Amnesty International’s representative, as were other injuries to himself and N.B. on the body and face, which were allegedly inflicted with viperas. The police allegedly called Ms N.P. “a dirty whore” and said “You will die, stinking Gypsies.” They reportedly shouted at the two young men, “Why did you kill the pregnant woman?” The police took the two young men down into the courtyard, and then, as reported to Amnesty International by several witnesses, a policeman seized T.B.’s head in an arm-lock and ran at the metal entrance door of the courtyard, smashing the top of T.B.’s head against the door, reportedly causing his girlfriend N.P. to faint when she saw this.
Outside on the street the police were reportedly seen by neighbours who had windows overlooking the street to continue beating the three young Romani men. One policeman was seen treading on the neck of M.D., who was lying on the ground. A crowd of onlookers began to gather, two representatives of the local Roma minority self-government arrived, as did a photo-journalist of Blikk newspaper. These arrivals apparently prompted the police to cease beating the three young men. The police then put the six young people into two police transit vans. A policeman slapped N.P. on the face and told her “A baby died because of you”, before putting her in a van. T.B. and M.D. were placed in the baggage compartment at the rear of one of the transit vans. A policeman then allegedly reopened the back door of the van, spat at them and said, “Stinking Gypsies, when we get to the police station I’ll disembowel you.” N.B. was transported in another van, and was forced to lie below the seat, on the floor of the van.
The six young Romani people were driven to the police station of the 13th district. While taking T.B. into the police station a police officer allegedly again rammed his head into a door. T.B. and N.B. were taken into a corridor where a group of policemen allegedly resumed beating them for a period of 30-45 minutes. These two young men reportedly heard M.D. screaming as he was beaten elsewhere in the police station. Then the police officers ordered T.B. to lie face down on a white bench, embracing it with his legs apart. He feared that they had ordered him to adopt this position in order to beat his genitalia, and he tried to avoid adopting this vulnerable posture. At this point a different police officer stepped in to stop his colleagues from proceeding with what they had intended. T.B. and N.B. were then put into a cell. Meanwhile the three young women were interviewed by an older police officer. One policeman reportedly explained to the others: “These are the bitches of the three killers.” Police officers reportedly shouted at E.V. and K.B., which was particularly frightening for 13-year-old K.B. E.V. reportedly told policemen that, as K.B. was only 13, her mother and her state guardian should be contacted. This was apparently not done, in contravention of Hungarian law. Prior to this, the police officers asked E.V. her own age. Upon learning that she is 19 one of the police officers reportedly said to her: “You are not a juvenile. You can be beaten.”
M.D., E.V., K.B., and N.P. were then made to sit on a bench in front of the cell where T.B. and N.B. were held. They were forbidden to talk to each other. After half an hour T.B. felt ill, experiencing a sharp pain in his chest and difficulty in breathing. A police officer who had taken part in the earlier alleged beating of the young men is said to have initially responded: “So now what the fuck am I supposed to do with you?” He then called an ambulance, which arrived 20 minutes later. In the meantime he reportedly instructed T.B. to say that he had sustained his injuries by falling from Budapest’s Árpád bridge during a quarrel with his girlfriend. When they arrived, the ambulance team proposed taking T.B. to hospital, but a policeman reportedly said that would not be necessary, and they left without giving T.B. any treatment.
The parents of some of the six young Roma arrived at the Budapest 13th District police station in the early evening, bringing them their clothes. A policeman allegedly kicked clothes brought for M.D. by his father around a corridor before allowing M.D. to take them. His mother, Z.D., asked a policeman when the young people would be released and he reportedly answered: “In five years time”. At approximately 7 PM representatives of the Foundation for Romani Civil Rights came to the police station, and assisted the parents of the six young people in filing a complaint about their treatment. The six young people were released from custody at around 9 PM, without charges being brought against them, and without even having been interviewed. Forensic medical examination later that evening confirmed that the three young Roma men in particular had been beaten. M.D. was dizzy and vomited, had head injuries and a perforated right eardrum. A further medical report noted a contusion above his left shoulder blade, and that the right side of his face and his ear were swollen. T.B. was confirmed to have contusions on his skull, and tenderness in his left lower ribs and throat area. N.B. was confirmed to have contusions on his chest, skull, elbow and knee. In connection with the case, on October 11, 1999, Amnesty International sent letters of concern to Hungarian General Prosecutor Kálmán Györgyi, Minister of Justice Dr Ibolya Dávid, Minister of Foreign Affairs János Mártonyi, Minister of the Interior Sándor Pinter and Hungarian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Gábor Szentiványi, the Ambassador to the United Kingdom.