Police abuse of Roma in Macedonia

05 December 2000

The ERRC has documented recent incidents of police abuse of Roma in the Šuto Orizari municipality of the Macedonian capital Skopje. On September 10, 2000, at around 1:00 PM, Mr Bekir Ramadani, a Romani refugee from Uroševac, Kosovo, was reportedly beaten and detained in questionable circumstances by Macedonian police. According to testimony provided by Mr Ramadani to the ERRC on September 10, the incident began a few minutes after the arrival of a relative of his from Serbia, Mr Besim Kreziri. Mr Ramadani stated that as he and Mr Kreziri were walking towards his barrack in a refugee camp located in the Ĺ uto Orizari municipality of Skopje, a police officer came after them and told Mr Kreziri that he would have to leave because he did not have the personal documents required for legitimate presence in the camp. Mr Ramadani asked the police officer what measures would have to be taken in order for Mr Kreziri, who was carrying only his Yugoslav identity card, to continue his visit in the camp. The police officer stated that Mr Kreziri would have to produce a Yugoslav passport in order to be allowed to stay. Since Mr Kreziri did not have his passport with him and had travelled a long distance, Mr Ramadani asked the police officer if there was any way that he could be granted permission to stay without a passport. At this point, the police officer reportedly began kicking and slapping Mr Ramadani to the point where his hearing was impaired. After the beating, the officer handcuffed Mr Ramadani and took him to a police station - effectively a barrack within the refugee camp. Inside this police station, he was placed in a room and left there to wait, still in handcuffs.

While Mr Ramadani was in the police station a group of around 50 Romani refugees who had witnessed the beating of Mr Ramadani began to protest. In response to the protests, a group of Macedonian police entered the camp. The protestors demanded that Mr Ramadani be released, at which point one officer began to insult them and threaten them with his truncheon. This threat was witnessed by the refugees, the ERRC local monitor, Mr Ašmet Elezovski of the Roma Community Centre DROM, and Mr Nicolae Gheorghe, Senior Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Under the pressure of the protestors, the police officers released Mr Ramadani and told the protestors that the situation would be dealt with when the police sergeant arrived. When the sergeant finally arrived, the ERRC witnessed the officer insisting that Mr Ramadani go with him to the police station where he would be questioned. Mr Ramadani later told the ERRC that during the questioning the police sergeant threatened to expel Mr Ramadani from Macedonia to Kosovo. At no point during the incident was Mr Ramadani offered an explanation for his detention.

On September 19, 2000, the ERRC sent a letter to Macedonian Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska to express concern at reports of such incidents of police abuse of Roma in the Šuto Orizari municipality of the Macedonian capital Skopje. The ERRC urged Minister Dimovska to act swiftly in seeing to it that officers who abuse their authority are properly disciplined, as well as to make clear to all police officers in Macedonia that abuse will not be tolerated. As of December 12, 2000, the ERRC had not received a response.

Refugee camp for Roma from Kosovo in the Šuto Orizari municipality of Skopje.
Photo: ERRC

Starting from October 9, 2000, Romani inhabitants of the same refugee camp in the Šuto Orizari municipality of Skopje organised daily protests over the poor living conditions in the camp. With the start of autumn rains, the camp had become muddy, and many of the shacks were flooding as they were not built to withstand rain or cold weather. The refugees did not have heaters, and depended on their small cooking stoves to warm their rooms. Furthermore, the bathing facilities were not appropriate for winter weather, making it difficult for the refugees to wash. Representatives of the UNHCR visited the refugees in the camp to hear their concerns, but responded that they do not have enough money to improve living conditions in the camp. The situation of Roma in Macedonia is the subject of the ERRC Country Report A Pleasant Fiction: The Human Rights Situation of Roma in Macedonia, available at the internet at: www.errc.org

(ERRC)

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