Police abuse in Slovakia

12 April 2000

A violent police raid took place in the Romani settlement in Žehra in central Slovakia on December 2, 1999, during the course of which officers shot a thirteen-year-old boy in the leg. According to the Slovak daily Pravda, reporting on December 3, riot troops of the police unit KR PZ in Košice entered the Romani settlement at approximately 6:00 AM on December 2. Witnesses state that up to one hundred officers took part in the raid. Once in the settlement, police reportedly forced their way into a number of flats, ordered the men to lie down on the floor and physically abused them, in many cases brutally kicking and punching them repeatedly while they lay face down. Officers reportedly beat at least one minor after first forcing him into a toilet cubicle and thrusting his head into the bowl. During the course of the raid, police used firearms at least once, injuring 13-year-old Ján M. in the leg. Mayor Jozef Mižigar described the raid as “very brutal”. According to local Romani activists, Mayor Mižigar, who is Romani, was placed under house arrest for approximately two hours during the raid. Officers damaged or destroyed property including the doors of houses, furniture, and Mayor Mižigar’s automobile. Roma from Žehra state that officers insulted their ethnic origins in the course of the raid, among other things calling them “dirty Gypsies”. Officers reportedly threatened to rape Romani women present and shouted the threat, “Gypsies, we will shoot you all”. Local Roma also reported that they had not been shown any warrants authorizing officers to enter houses. Officers took nine persons into custody during the course of the raid, primarily on charges related to the possession of weapons. A lawyer representing the detained states that officers were liberal in their interpretation of what constitutes a weapon to the point of impounding kitchen knives.

Police spokesperson Jana Damjanicová told members of the press on December 2, 1999, that the raid had been carried out in order to detain persons sought for various crimes including disturbing the peace, damage to health and theft. She stated that officers were authorized to use weapons for shooting short distances. During the action, the riot units used shotguns with rubber bullets, once on a dog and once on an individual who did not obey an order. According to Officer Damjanicová, “Uninvolved individual Ján M. was hit and lightly wounded and taken to hospital.” With respect to the wounding of an uninvolved person, proceedings were taken over by the police inspectorate of the Ministry of the Interior. According to Mayor Mižigar, riot police returned to the village in the late morning and requested that the mother give them the spent cartridge case, but she refused. As of January 31, 2000, according to the lawyer for the detained, three persons have been charged with disorderly conduct and all three remain in custody. There have been no further official pronouncements with respect to the investigation of police conduct during the raid. On February 1, 2000, the Košice directorate of the regional police rejected a criminal complaint against the officers involved in the raid. The lawyer of the mother of the 13-year-old shooting victim has appealed the decision. On February 17, a prosecutor in Spišská Nová Ves rejected the appeal. The lawyer of the mother of the victim has again appealed. The ERRC continues to monitor the case.

(ERRC, Právda, Zor)


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