Police Violence against Roma in Slovakia
07 November 2002
At approximately 6:15 PM on May 24, 2002, four Roma were attacked by four unknown assailants, all of whom were apparently drunk, between two apartment buildings in the Mlynárska Street Romani settlement in Košice, in eastern Slovakia, according to the Bratislava-based non-governmental organisation League of Human Rights Advocates (LHRA). The LHRA took over legal representation of the victims in the case on May 25, 2002. On October 13, 2002, the LHRA reported to the ERRC that the Romani victims believed the attackers to be police officers. The LHRA reported that the attack began when the four attackers attempted to force Mr Josef Žiga, a 34-year-old Romani man, to buy a jacket. The LHRA reported that, according to Mr Žiga, when he refused to buy the jacket, the four men proceeded to hit and kick him on his head and all over his body for a number of minutes, until he fell to the ground with a broken nose, covered in blood.
According to the LHRA, the attackers then moved to the neighbouring block and attacked Mr Ĺ tefan Ferko, a 47-year-old Romani man. Mr Robert Hricko, a 28-year-old Romani man, reportedly informed the LHRA that one of the attackers pulled the elderly Romani man by the legs, arms and hair, pushed him up against a wall and hit and kicked him repeatedly until he began to bleed. Mr Ferko was reportedly injured so seriously that he required surgery.
According to the LHRA, Mr Žiga reported that the four attackers were approximately 25 years of age and about 190 centimetres tall. Mr Julius Gabčo, a 28-year-old Romani man, was attacked while trying to remove his children from the street. Mr Gabčo, who suffered a broken leg, informed the LHRA that the police were called and, when they arrived, they allegedly shook hands with the attackers. The four attackers also attacked Ms Emilia Ferková, a 47-year-old Romani woman. Ms Ferková testified to the ERRC, in partnership with the Slovak Roma Press Agency (SRPA), that "the drunk man hit me so hard that I fell on the stairs. […] The police didn't help us but helped the attackers instead. They (the attackers) also intimidated a woman who was just passing by with words like "What are you staring at, you Gypsy?' Ms Ferková informed the LHRA that when the police arrived, they looked for Roma to blame. Ms Ferková also stated that she believed the attackers to be police officers, according to the LHRA.
According to the LHRA, on the same day, Mr Žiga, Mr Ferko, Mr Gabčo and Ms Ferková were treated at the Košice University Specialist Hospital and were issued medical certificates attesting to their injuries. According to his medical certificate, Mr Žiga suffered a rupture to an internal organ located at the thoracic region, causing internal bleeding. He also suffered a broken jaw, abrasions of the lower lip and a concussion. According to the LHRA, Mr Žiga underwent intensive medical treatment while on sick leave until June 16, 2002, by order of his doctor. Mr Ferk suffered abrasions to his right eyelid, a broken nasal cavity, internal bleeding in the cephalic region, a concussion and Grade VII damage of the central nerve of the brain, according to his medical report. LHRA reported that Mr Ferko underwent intensive medical treatment while on sick leave until July 15, 2002, by order of his doctor. According to her medical certificate, Ms Ferková suffered a broken bone in her upper right arm and was placed on sick leave for eight weeks following the attack. Mr Gabčo suffered a broken lower left femur, internal bleeding in his upper left leg and a dislocation of his left foot, according to his medical certificate.
LHRA reported that, on May 30, 2002, Mr P. Bednár, an investigative officer with the Slovak District Bureau of Investigation, took over responsibility for the case, stating that many mistakes had previously been made in the investigation. According to the LHRA, on the same day, Corporal L.R. was charged in accordance with the Slovak Criminal Code under Article 221 (1b) for intentionally causing bodily harm with racial motive, Article 9 (2k) for acting as an accomplice and Article 202 (1) for causing public nuisance. The LHRA reported that Corporal L.R. was not suspended from duty. According to the LHRA, by a resolution dated July 22, 2002, the district prosecutor of Košice II cancelled all charges against Corporal L.R. in connection with the incident, based on a reported lack of sound evidence. According to the LHRA, the district prosecutor stated in the resolution that "the statements of the Roma involved in the incident are not trustworthy and cannot be relied on to as cause to continue prosecution in the case." Subsequently, on September 30, 2002, investigation into the case was discontinued. On October 9, 2002, the LHRA appealed the decision of the district prosecutor and the investigating police officer. As of November 11, 2002, the LHRA had received no response in the case. A list of cases of violence and discrimination against Roma in Slovakia and the failure of authorities to provide justice to Romani victims is available on the ERRC Internet website at: www.errc.org
(ERRC, League of Human Rights Advocates, Slovak Roma Press Agency)