Police violence against Roma in Hungary
15 August 2001
The Hungarian national newspaper Népszava and the Roma Press Center have reported that two policemen and two river wardens forced a fourteen year-old Romani boy into the icy Tisza river in Tiszabura, eastern Hungary, on April 25, 2001. The boy was reportedly fishing without a licence, when a river patrol caught him. The four men reportedly knocked the boy to the ground and forced him to bathe in the cold river. The boy's parents have filed a complaint with the police and a police spokesman at the county police headquarters has reportedly commented that the circumstances are incriminating for the officials concerned.
In another incident of police abuse, the Roma Press Center reported that on the evening of April 24, 2001, about thirty police officers raided the home of a Romani family, living on Munkácsy street in Budapest's 6th District. The Lakatos family was celebrating Easter at home with music, and a neighbour called the police to complain about the noise. According to the Roma Press Center, three police officers arrived and asked them to turn the music down, which they did. However, two of the policemen began beating two of the members of the family and the third officer called for reinforcements which arrived within minutes. A number of officers began beating and kicking those standing in the kitchen, shouting, "you'll get it now, stinking Gypsies." Five members of the family sustained injuries, including one woman and the elderly, diabetic and disabled Mr András Lakatos, who required two days of hospital treatment following the beating. Five Roma were reportedly arrested and taken to the 6th District Police Headquarters and detained for nearly six hours. The Deputy Commander of the 6th District Police, Mr István Tuzsik, has admitted that the police used coercive measures, but claims that the action was necessary because the Roma attacked the police officers. The Lakatos family has filed a complaint and the Prosecutor's Investigating Office in Budapest has also launched an investigation into the conduct of the officers. However, Mr Tuzsik has stated that the Roma could also face criminal proceedings.
In another serious incident, the Roma Press Center reported on April 20, 2001, that two young Romani men were shot and seriously injured by police officers in the town of Ercsi in Pest County, near the capital city. The incident occurred during the attempts by two police officers to arrest suspects of a mobile phone theft. A police press release stated that one of the two officers was in uniform at the time of the incident, and that a group of about thirty Roma, armed with truncheons, attacked the two officers. The press release claims that one of the officers identified himself before firing a warning shot into the air, followed by the two shots which struck a seventeen-year-old Romani youth and a twenty-year-old Romani man. However, according to the Roma Press Center, the Roma involved in the incident allege that neither of the police officers were in uniform and that they did not identify themselves during the incident. They also denied that a warning shot had been fired before the two shots targeting the men. A preliminary police investigation has reportedly concluded that the use of the firearm was lawful. The Fejer County Prosecutor's Investigation Office is conducting an investigation into the actions of the Roma on the grounds of collective violence against an official.
In other police-related news, the Buda Regional Court sentenced the police commander of Aszód and three other police officers to two-year suspended prison terms on April 10, 2001, for the beating of Mr Lászlo Vidak, according to the Roma Press Center. Mr Vidak, a Romani man from the village of Bag, approximately 30km northeast of Budapest, was interrogated by the policemen, who wound handcuffs around his neck, tied him to a chair, put a plastic bag over his head, and beat him on his back, legs and about the head. More information on police abuse of Roma in Hungary is available on the ERRC website at: www.errc.org.
(Népszava, Roma Press Center)