New cases of police brutality in Macedonia
11 July 2000
The ERRC has documented numerous cases of police brutality against Roma and Egyptians in Macedonia. On May 26, 2000, in Štip, central Macedonia, a group of police officers and non-Romani civilians allegedly attacked and severely beat a group of Roma. According to victim testimonies given to the Association for Human Rights Protection of Roma of Štip, on May 26, in the early morning, Mr Selajdin Mustafov, Mr Šehri Mustafov, Mr Orhan Aliov, Mr Ferat Skenderovski, Mr Mamet Redžepov and a minor called Džemo Aliov went to gather firewood in the village of Šašavarlija, close to Štip, without the permission of the owners of the forest. Around 3:00 AM, while returning home with their horse-drawn carts, they were met by a group of five policemen and three ethnic Macedonian villagers from Šašavarlija. One of the villagers then hit Mr Šehri Mustafov in the mouth with an iron rod, and he fell down, and then managed to escape. After this, one of the policemen hit Mr Selajdin Mustafov several times, handcuffed him, and pushed him into the police car. The non-Romani group then surrounded the Roma and beat them severely until, around 6:00 AM, the police handcuffed and took Mr Orhan Aliov, Mr Selajdin Mustafov, Mr Redžepov and Mr Skenderovski to the police station in Štip, confiscating their carts. In the police station one of the police officers, occasionally joined by several other colleagues, allegedly continued to maltreat and beat Mr Aliov, Mr Mustafov, and Mr Redžepov, finally releasing them at around 10:00 AM. Mr Šenaj Osmanov, president of the Association for Human Rights Protection of Roma, visited the victims of the police beating on the same day, and, upon establishing that all of them suffered severe pains and were unable to move, transported them to the local hospital where they received urgent medical treatment. Mr Selajdin Mustafov was diagnosed with two fractured ribs, and remained in the hospital for further treatment. Mr Orhan Aliov and Mr Redžepov were diagnosed with contusions on their heads and bodies, and were released for home treatment. On behalf of Mr Selajdin Mustafov, Mr Orhan Aliov and Mr Redžepov, the Association for Human Rights Protection of Roma filed criminal charges against Mr D.A., one of the police officers involved, on June 2. As of July 26, the police are still in possession of the carts owned by the Roma. None of the Roma have been charged for stealing the firewood. The ERRC sent two letters of concern to the relevant Macedonian authorities, in April 1998, March 1999 and July 2000, on the subject of such frequent instances of police brutality against Roma in Štip and the inadequate response on the part of authorities to complaints of police abuse of Roma. The ERRC has to date received no response to its letters.
The Gostivar-based Romani non-governmental organisation Mesečina reported another case of police brutality against a young Romani man. Mr Ferdi Jusufov, a sixteen-year-old boy from the village Krivolak in the Negotino municipality, southeastern Macedonia, told Mesečina that around 9:00 AM on the morning of May 14, 2000, a police officer came to his home and ordered him to get into the police car. The officer refused to explain the summons, saying that Mr Jusufov “should not argue as he knew very well why and where he was being taken”, and took him to the police station in Negotino. Mr Jusufov stated that as he entered the police station, a police officer immediately hit him severely on the head, and he fell to the floor. As he lay there, the policeman continued beating him with a wooden broomstick, and later hit the boy’s head on the office wall. Under the influence of this treatment, Mr Jusufov admitted complicity in a theft, but the police officer continued beating him in order to extort confessions for several other alleged criminal acts committed in Krivolak. The beatings continued until 1:00 PM, when Mr Jusufov was released. The police officer ordered Mr Jusufov to come to the police station the following day to continue the informative talk, threatening that the next meeting would also proceed in the same manner. Mr Jusufov informed Mesečina of his treatment by the police on the same day, and a delegation from the organisation visited the Negotino police commander on May 15. The commander promised to look into the matter, and consequently informed the organisation that he had talked to the officer who had abused Mr Jusufov. The second informative talk with Mr Jusufov was held in an appropriate manner, without violence. As of July 28, Mesečina was not aware of any measures taken against the police officer who abused Mr Jusufov.
Mesečina reported on a third case of police brutality: on April 21, 2000, several police officers beat Mr Tair Sabri, a thirty-six-year-old Egyptian man from Ohrid, southwestern Macedonia, and his wife Miriban. Macedonian Egyptians do not consider themselves Roma, but are regarded as Gypsy by most non-Roma. Mr Sabri told Mesečina that, on the afternoon of April 21, he was driving his wife and their four-year-old daughter, together with several other passengers, in his van from Struga to Ohrid. On the way, the van was stopped by a group of uniformed police officers. At the request of the police, Mr Sabri showed them his driving licence and documents allowing him to conduct commercial transport of passengers. The police officers tore up his transport papers, claiming that they were invalid, and told him to take the licence plates off his car immediately. Mr Sabri pleaded that they give him a chance to discuss this later at the police station, but the police officers started to beat him, kicking him as he fell to the ground, and then pushing him against a barbed wire fence. When his wife tried to intervene, the police officers beat her as well. Then they put the family into the police van, and drove them to the police station in Struga. In the police station, officers continued to beat Mr Sabri; he reports that he lost consciousness for a while because of pain. During the detention, the police officers allegedly refused to allow the family the use of telephone, toilet and drinking water. In the evening, the family was taken to the local court where they were, according to Mr and Mrs Sabri, arbitrarily assigned an inadequate counsel, who did not even introduce himself to the couple, and asked the family to pay 400 DEM (approximately 205 euro) for his services. Mr Sabri was punished with eight days of detention for obstructing officials in conducting their duties, and was subsequently released on April 29. Police opened criminal procedures against Mr and Mrs Sabri. Mesečina is providing the couple with legal defence and on June 27 they filed a criminal complaint against the four police officers involved in the incident.
(Association for Human Rights Protection of Roma, Mesečina)