Police Abuse of Roma in Bulgaria, Including the Sexual Abuse of a Romani Boy
29 October 2003
The Varna-based non-governmental organisation Obnovlenie Foundation (Obnovlenie), informed the ERRC that at around 11:30 AM on March 14, 2003, Ms Evda Koleva, a 36-year-old Romani woman was physically abused by police officers while collecting scrap metal from a gully in the Odesos region near Varna on the coast of the Black Sea. According to the Obnovlenie, Ms Koleva, together with her 38-year-old husband Kolyo and two of their children, ages 7 and 11, was gathering scrap metal in the gully when two officers from Varna's Police Station II stopped them. The officers reportedly accused the family of stealing and asked them where the rest of the metal was. Mr Kolev explained that they were gathering scrap metal and did not have any more metal than the officers could see. The Obnovlenie reported that one of the officers grabbed the Kolevs' mattock and swung the handle to hit Mr Kolev. Ms Koleva reportedly stepped between the officer and her husband to prevent the officer from hitting Mr Kolev and asked the officer not to hurt her as she had recently undergone surgery to her stomach. The officer ignored Ms Koleva and hit her in the stomach with the handle of the mattock in front of the children. Ms Koleva could not catch her breath and almost fainted as a result of the blow, according to the Obnovlenie. The officer who hit Ms Koleva panicked and proceeded to pull her tongue out of her mouth to open her airway, while the other officer called an ambulance. Ms Koleva was taken to a hospital for medical treatment and after her release, the family was taken to the police station and fined for the suspected theft of metal - in the amount of 7.5 Bulgarian levs (approximately 4 Euro) - and for not having their personal identification cards with them. A complaint against the police officers concerned was pending as of October 9, 2003.
Earlier, the Bulgarian Romani organisation Romani Baht Foundation (RBF) informed the ERRC that at approximately 7:00 PM on October 31, 2002, Stefan Marinov, a 17-year-old Romani youth, was arrested by police officers and sexually abused while in police custody at the 6th Police Station in Sofia. According to the RBF, Stefan Marinov was with Dimitar Borisov, a 17-year-old Romani boy, and two other Romani youths when one of the youths was buying drugs. Police officers arrived at the scene and the two unknown Romani youths managed to escape but Stefan and Dimitar Borisov were arrested. During the arrest, police reportedly beat them, then brought them to the 6th Police Station. At the police station, as Stefan informed the RBF, the officers were drinking alcohol and continued to beat them, while insulting their ethnicity. According to Stefan, the officers also forced him and Dimitar Borisov to undress and proceeded to sodomize them with a truncheon. Stefan and Dimitar Borisov reportedly spent the night in the police station and were released the following day. After his release, Stefan approached the RBF, which took him to the Pirogov Emergency Medical Institute in Sofia, where he was issued a medical certificate, dated November 1, 2002. The medical certificate stated that Stefan had sustained multiple bruises and hematoma on his back and legs. Stefan was then directed to three forensic specialists at the Institute, who confirmed the findings of the first medical certificate. In the Forensic Department of the Alexandrovska Hospital in Sofia, Stefan was issued another medical certificate, which confirmed the findings of the previous ones and stated that Stefan's injuries could have been caused in the manner he described. On November 4, 2002, a surgeon at the private hospital Torax in Sofia examined Stefan and issued a medical certificate, which confirmed "sexual abuse caused by a stiff object. Bruising and hema-toma in the patient's anus." A medical certificate issued by the Regional Clinic for Psychiatric Illness in Sofia on November 5, 2002, stated that Stefan was suffering depression and developing suicidal tendencies.
On November 5, 2002, Stefan went to the police station accompanied by Ms Daniela Mihaylova, an attorney at the RBF. Officers at the station reportedly tried to prevent Ms Mihaylova from attending the interrogation. However, Ms Mihaylova objected as Stefan was a minor. In the presence of Ms Mihaylova, Stefan gave a statement about what the officers had done to him at the station on the night of October 31, 2002. Ms Mihaylova complained that Stefan's arrest was unlawful, as he had not been a suspect in the drug-related arrest and that the behaviour of the police was unlawful. On January 6, 2003, Ms Mihaylova filed a complaint with the Military Prosecutor's Office, claiming violations of Articles 131(2), bodily injuries caused by a law enforcement official, 131(5), torture, and 150, committing a crime in a group, of the Bulgarian Criminal Code. Additionally, the complaint called for the dismissal of the officers involved should they be found guilty, in accordance with Article 154 of the Bulgarian Criminal Procedure Code. On April 16, 2003, the ERRC took over legal defence for Stefan Marinov, with the assistance of Ms Mihaylova. On June 25, 2003, the ERRC and Ms Mihaylova were informed in a letter from the Sofia Military Prosecutor's Office that, on the basis of the Sofia Police Directorate's investigation and recommendation, it had terminated its investigation due a purported lack of evidence. Following media coverage of the case commissioned by the ERRC and Ms Mihaylova, on July 16, 2003, the Sofia Military Prosecutor's Office of Appeals suspended the ruling of the Sofia Military Prosecutor's Office and ordered a new investigation into the incident. As of September 23, 2003, the investigation into the case was ongoing.
(ERRC, Obnovlenie Foundation, Romani Baht Foundation)