Police brutality against Roma in Macedonia continues unchecked
12 April 2000
According to ERRC field research, on October 3, 1999, police in Štip, central Macedonia, brutally beat 36-year-old Mr Ethem Alajki twice: first in a local café bar and then again at the local police station. Mr Alajki was spending the evening drinking with his friends in the “Nedjo” café, located in a shopping mall in downtown Štip. At one point, he asked for the café owner’s permission to break a glass, a local tradition when having a good time drinking. He then broke the glass after receiving permission. Soon thereafter a police officer appeared at the café and asked for his ID, which Mr Alajki had left at home. The police officer then threatened to hit Mr Alajki unless he showed proper identification documents. The police officer then actually tried to hit Mr Alajki. Mr Alajki dodged the punch, and the police officer called for reinforcements. About five minutes later another police officer named D.A. reportedly came to the café and immediately started punching and beating Mr Alajki with his truncheon. The officers then handcuffed Mr Alajki and, with his clothes torn, took him to the police station. In an office at the station, police officer D.A. beat Mr Alajki again all over his body. When the policeman hit him on the head with the truncheon, Mr Alajki felt nauseated and began vomiting, after which the policeman took him to the toilet, only to return him to the office after a short while and continue beating him there. According to the Association for Roma Rights Protection from Štip, police officer D.A. kept Mr Alajki in detention at the station for more than three hours; when Alajki’s relatives arrived to ask about his well-being, the police officer at the information desk told them he had no information that Mr Alajki was detained at all. Mr Alajki obtained medical certificate documenting his injuries and filed charges against officer D.A. on November 10, 1999. No hearings had taken place in connection with the case as of March 16, 2000.
The same police officer D.A. was reportedly involved in another instance of police abuse of Roma in Štip. While walking along a street in his neighbourhood on January 9, 2000, Mr Ferdi Jašarov, a 20-year-old Romani man from Štip, slipped on the snow-covered road and unintentionally fell on a non-Romani girl. Ten minutes later, a car passing by almost ran him over, then stopped and a young non-Romani man jumped out, whom Mr Jašarov recognised as the boyfriend of the girl. The man verbally abused Mr Jašarov and accused him of attacking his girlfriend. Together they went to the girl’s house to clear up the matter, and at the house the man and two other men who were also in the car beat Mr Jašarov. Mr Jašarov subsequently went home with his mouth and nose bleeding. His parents immediately took him to a hospital, and on the way there they saw a police van in front of the non-Romani man’s house. A police officer there spotted Mr Jašarov and called him to come closer. The police officer then started punching Mr Jašarov, and another police officer joined him, hitting Mr Jašarov with the truncheon. They took Mr Jašarov to the police station, where Officer D.A. took him to an office and beat him there. Police released Mr Jašarov one hour later, after which Mr Jašarov went to a hospital to seek aid.
In another instance of police brutality against Roma, in Vinica, eastern Macedonia, the local police beat a group of eight Roma men from the nearby town of Kočani on December 17, 1999. The Roma men reportedly came to Vinica to visit their girlfriends and got into a conflict with a group of local Roma; five minutes later a police van arrived. Stojančo Jovanovski, a 24-year-old Romani taxi driver who took some of the Roma to Vinica told the ERRC on January 5, 2000:
“As I saw a police van with five police officers arriving, I got scared and ran to my car. However a police officer blocked me and I could not get out of the parking place. He instantly opened the door of my car and pulled me out by the hair. He hit my head against the car. Then he said: ‘Gypsy, open the boot,’ which I did, and there was nothing in it. Then he searched the car completely. I told him that I had a baseball bat on the left of my front seat that I carry for the purpose of protecting myself because I am a cab driver and sometimes I work at night. Then he punched me, kicked me and told me to get into the car. I got in and he told me to drive to the police station. As soon as we got there, when we went into the entrance hall he asked me nothing but he started to kick me, punch me and beat me with the truncheon all over my body. Then he brought me into an office with three policemen, two in uniform and one in civilian clothes. They all inquired about my reasons for going to Vinica, and I told them I was a cab driver and I only drove the others. One of the police officers grabbed me by my hair and hit my head four times against the wall. The officers interrogated me for two hours, and wrote things down. In the hall, I saw five other Roma men from the Kočani group; two of us then tried to escape from the police station, but officers caught us and once again the four policemen beat us in the hall with truncheons. They laughed all the time as if they enjoyed it. At last they let us go at around 10 PM. One police officer said to me: ‘Gypsy, if you come to Vinica again, I am going to beat you even if you have done nothing.’ Then he kicked me. Afterwards I could barely drive to Kočani because I felt pain all over my body. When I got home, I noticed that my left eye was swollen and I had bruises on my back, my hands, all over my body.”
Mr Beki Šakirov, a 25-year-old Romani man from Kočani, told the ERRC about his experience with the police on the same evening:
“When I saw one of the policemen beating Stole [Jovanovski]’s head against the car I ran towards the bus station. There I took a cab and told the driver to drive to Kočani. About four kilometres away from Vinica two police officers stopped the cab at a traffic check point near the Sliv motel and asked us for our IDs. Right behind us, two other Roma from Kočani arrived in another cab, and the police took all three of us in their van to the police station in Vinica. They started beating us as soon as we got into the entrance hall. Two police officers kept hitting me with truncheons while they took me into an office. In the office, three police officers asked me about a gun. I knew nothing and I told them so. Then all three of them hit me: one beat me with a truncheon while the others slapped me and kicked me. The beating continued for the next two hours, then they made a record and then took me to the hall where I saw my friends. All of them were covered in bruises and moaned with pain. The police officers beat us there once again, and they let us go at around 10 PM telling us not to go to Vinica anymore because they were going to beat us if they saw us again. I had bruises all over my body and felt pain in my ribs.
Mr Šarkan Azizov (21), Mr Bajram Akiov (16), and Mr Duzikan Ibraimov (22), all from Kočani, were also reportedly beaten by the Vinica police the same evening, and all suffered injuries. None of the injured men pressed charges against the police.
(Association for Roma Rights Protection, ERRC)