Police brutality against Roma in Macedonia
15 May 1998
Recent instances of police brutality against Roma in and around the central Macedonian town of Stip have been reported to the ERRC. A 27-year-old Romani man from Stip named Demir Sulejmanov reported to the ERRC that he and another Romani man named D. S. had been beaten by police in March in the eastern Macedonian town of Krupişte after they were detained in connection with the theft of two sheep. Mr Sulejmanov told the ERRC that he and D. S. were stopped by traffic police who then told the Romani men to follow them with their car. Mr Sulejmanov recounted to the ERRC what happened next:
„After we had gone approximately five kilometres, we reached the village of Balvan. There, two policemen with a police car stopped us. I think they might have been drunk. The two policemen came over to us and, without asking us anything, they started beating us with their sticks very hard, on our heads and all over our bodies. I felt blood start to run from my mouth and my nose. Then they put us in their car and took us in Teranci to the place from which we had taken the sheep. There, one of the policemen called over the owner of the sheep. The two policemen took me out of the transport car, face to face with the owner of the sheep and one of them swore at me and said, „All Gypsies are going to remember me forever." Then he hand-cuffed my hands and started beating me again with his stick in front of everyone there. When he stopped beating me, he watched while the owner of the sheep beat me with the branch of a tree in front of my friend and the two policemen. The three men beat me all over my body. I cried and begged them to stop, but they took my friend out of the car and started beating him too. The two policemen were holding us while the owner of the sheep beat us repeatedly. After this, they took us into the police station. When we arrived in front of the entrance they put us on the ground outside, two metres from the door of the police station, where five policemen beat us. Then they brought us inside and tied us to a bench in the hall, and beat us again. I was terribly thirsty, so I asked for some water, but they said to me, 'There is no water for Gypsies' and they started to beat me again. We were tied to the bench in the hall all night. Our blood was on the walls. The next morning we were released and I went to the hospital because my arm was in intense pain. In the hospital, the doctors told me that my arm was broken and had to be put in a cast."
Another instance of police brutality was reported to the ERRC by the Stip Romani organisation Association of Human Rights Protection of Roma. On April 16, 33-year-old Perušan Jašarov and 33-year-old Fejmi Demirov were beaten by police following their arrest in a downtown bar in Stip. Perušan Jašarov told the Association of Human Rights Protection of Roma:
„Fejmi and I were sitting in one corner of the Café Bar Lotus. On the other side of the café, a Rom and a Macedonian were gambling. The Macedonian lost thousands of German marks and, assuming that the Rom had been cheating, he pulled out a gun and demanded his money back. He fired in the air several times. All of us who were in the café were frightened and everyone tried to leave the café in a hurry. But the two of us were caught by police. They grabbed Fejmi and twisted his arm behind his back while I was forced into a police van. There were five of them. They drove us to the police station where they started to torture me. They took me into a room alone, made me squat and when I was down with my knees bent, one of them kicked me in the chest. Then one of the policemen took me by the hair and pulled me up violently. Then he started to hit me on the head with a truncheon. Late in the evening three new officers came in and continued to beat me. They beat me in turns during the period between midnight and 5 am and afterwards they took us to another office for questioning. They let me go at 11 am the next morning and I went to the hospital."
Mr Jašarov, who was very badly hurt due to kicks he had received in the face, was released from hospital after one day because he could not afford to pay for medical treatment. He was still incapable of speaking coherently on April 17, when the ERRC attempted to interview him.
In testimony provided to the ERRC on April 17, Mr Demirov substantiated the allegations of Mr Jašarov. He told the ERRC that five police officers had detained three Roma and one non-Rom. The non-Rom was the man who had been gambling and who had fired the gun in the bar. One of the three Roma had arrived during the arrest procedure, after the fight which had taken place at the other side of the bar. Mr Demirov told the ERRC that five police officers had beaten him in custody, and that following the beating, he was forced to stand all night. One officer, whose identity is known to the ERRC, insulted his ethnic origins and made genocidal threats against „Gypsies". Mr Demirov was released at 7:30 the following morning. Neither Mr Demirov nor Mr Jašarov have been charged with any crime, but both have been informed that they are expected to be witnesses to the fight in Café Bar Lotus. A doctor has stated that he is willing to testify on behalf of Mr Jašarov. The Association of Human Rights Protection of Roma is attempting to provide Mr Jašarov and Mr Demirov with a lawyer. The Ĺ tip-based Romani organisation Čerenje sent an open letter about the incident to the Macedonian television station Sitel, but to date they have not publicised the event or the letter. Police brutality in Macedonia is the subject of a recent report by Human Rights Watch in New York. The situation of Roma in Macedonia is the subject of a forthcoming report by the ERRC.
(Association of Human Rights Protection of Roma, Čerenje, ERRC)