Police beat seven Romani men in Soroca, Moldova
15 July 1997
On January 6, 1997, the day of Orthodox Christmas Eve, leven Romani men were severely beat en by the police in the northern Moldovan town of Soroca. According to 20-year-old A.P., one of the victims:
"It was Christmas Eve and we were peacefully walking to visit some friends when a police car suddenly drove up in front of us. Two police officers jumped out of the car and screamed, "dirty Gypsies", pulled out their guns and started shooting in the air. They forced us against the watt, searched us, and started beating us in the head with the butts of their guns. I could smell that they had been drinking."
Twenty-year-old I.C. told the ERRC that the police officers did not provide any explanation for their behaviour:
"They only insulted us. They told us nothing about why they had stopped us. I had never talked to these two policemen before. I have no idea why they attacked us. I almost passed out from the intense pain in my head. Suddenly, they stopped beating me and I heard them shouting, 'Now, run to the cemetery!' We started running in the direction of the cemetery nearby. They didn't run after us. I turned back around the corner and saw them kneeling down, picking up the bullets. That's the last we saw of them."
Both I.C. and A.P. suffered severe head injuries and had to undergo medical treatment in the Soroca state hospital. The men filed a complaint against the police and were told that they would be called in to give testimony. As of May 15, 1997, however, the police had not contacted them.
When asked to comment on the alleged police ill-treatment against the Soroca Roma, Colonel Valentin Anatol Artemü, chief of the Soroca District Police Department, first denied the whole incident, and then told the ERRC that "there was some fuss on the part of some Roma who had been subjected to a regular search by the police." Colonel Artemü told the ERRC that the Soroca Prosecutor's Office had carried out an investigation into the police behaviour and concluded that the police had acted within legal bounds.
At the prosecutor's office, how ever, there was no record of the case and Adjunct Prosecutor Iurie Vravie claimed that it was the first time he heard about it. Mr. Vravie told the ERRC that police abuse of various kinds is a fairly common complaint brought to the Soroca Prosecutor's Office. He added that in cases in which the victims filed complaints at the police station against the police, it was entirely possible that they would never reach the prosecutor's office.
The ERRC has strong reason to believe that the complaint filed against the police by I.C. and A.P. did not result in an investigation due to deliberate cover-up by the Soroca District Police Department. We therefore Bent a letter of concern to the General Prosecutor of Moldova on June 5, 1997, urging him to launch an impartial investigation into the incident.