Racist Mayor Strikes At Slovak Romani Family Again
16 December 2004
As of September 29, 2004, at least 12 members of the Romani families Šarkozi and Malik from the village of Záhorská Ves, western Slovakia, were living in the streets of Bratislava following the demolition of their accommodation in Záhorská Ves ordered by the local mayor, Mr Boris Simković, according to information from the Bratislava-based League of Human Rights Advocates (LHRA) working in cooperation with the ERRC. There is a history of racist and violent actions between the Šarkozi and Malik families and Mayor Simković, who earlier this year expelled the family from the village and registered ownership of a large portion of their land in the name of the village council (background information is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=1885).
On September 29, at around 10:30 AM, police and private security guards demolished the shack built by Mr and Ms Šarkozi on their own land, in place of their house which had been burnt during a violent racist attack in December 2003. At the time of the demolition, in the shack there were just two of the Šarkozi children. A bulldozer levelled the shack, burying
all personal belongings of the family, including all their documents. Then, according to testimony of neighbours to the LHRA, the remains were thrown out. The demolition took place following Ms Šarkoziova’s rejection of the mayor’s proposal, dated August 31, 2004, to sell her land to the village. According to Ms Šarkoziova’s legal representative, Dr Columbus Igboanusi of the LHRA, she wanted to keep her land, receive help to rebuild her house and live in the village where she had been born and lived all her life. The shack which was destroyed on September 29 had been built by the Šarkozis after a mobile house provided for them by the LHRA was removed from the village on orders from the mayor. According to the LHRA, on August 19, 2004, at about 8 PM, when the mobile house was brought to Záhorská Ves, the mayor had organised a demonstration on the part of the non-Romani villagers against the settling of the Šarkozi family in the village. The mayor himself reportedly aggressively intervened to prevent the placement of the mobile house. Moreover, he verbally abused Mr Igboanusi, calling him “nigger from Somalia”.
The removal of the mobile house and the subsequent destruction of the Šarkozis’ home had been preceded by a series of violent attacks on members of the family reportedly aimed at their expulsion from the village. According to the LHRA, at around 12:20 PM on July 3, 2004, the mayor of Záhorská Ves, Mr Boris Simković, accompanied four security guards armed with baseball bats, who proceeded to beat the family of Mr Stefan Šarkozi and Mr Marian Rehak, both Romani men. Mr Šarkozi and Mr Rehak were treated at a local hospital due the injuries they sustained as a result of the attack. Earlier on the day in question, Mr Šarkozi, his wife Olga and their six children were preparing to build a small wooden hut on their land when Mayor Simković arrived and ordered them to leave immediately, stating the land was not theirs and threatened that they would see what happened if they did not leave. The Šarkozi’s stated they owned the land and continued with their activities. At this point, according to ERRC research, Mayor Simković made a phone call and, within minutes, Mr Drahos Jindra, a village resident, arrived with a truck and removed all of the Šarkozi’s building materials. Angry, the Šarkozi’s went to the house of their son Dušan followed by Mayor Simković. Mayor Simković stated that all Šarkozi’s should leave the village because they are dirty and cause violence. The family left Dušan’s house and went to sleep under a bridge at the Morava river.
The family reportedly awoke suddenly when two cars arrived – one carrying Mayor Simković and the second carrying the security guards – and ran away in different directions. The guards chased the family members and beat them with bats: Mr Šarkozi sustained a broken arm as a result; his daughter Olga sustained injuries to her legs; his son Jozef sustained injuries to his face and chest; his youngest daughter, Adriana, was thrown into river; and his son Roman was injured. Mr Rehak was stopped and beaten by the security guards while they were looking for the Šarkozi family.
The incident was immediately reported to the Malacky District Police Department and Dr Columbus Igboanusi of the LHRA intervened with the Ministry of the Interior in Bratislava, which assigned an investigator to the case. That evening, Mayor Simković reportedly announced on a local radio station that he would finish all of the Gypsies in the village that night, causing the Romani inhabitants of the village to wait up all night armed with iron bars for protection. Several times since the beginning of July, Mayor Simković returned to the land on which the Šarkozi family was building its hut and threatened to take the land away from them. On August 8, Mr Rehak filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office.
The LHRA reported that on September 6, security guards forced Mr Roman Malik, the Šarkozi’s relative, into a car and drove to a forest twenty kilometres outside of Záhorská Ves where they beat him with truncheons. After some time, Mr Malik managed to escape and spent the night hiding in the forest. Mr Malik has since filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office.
In the period September 2003-September 2004 the Šarkozi family had been subjected to violence, intimidation and coercion to leave the village of Záhorská Ves. These actions had been directly ordered or otherwise sanctioned by the village mayor, who on many occasions made inciteful racist statements committing to expel the Šarkozi family from Záhorská Ves. The LHRA in co-operation with the ERRC had filed 9 criminal complaints and 5 civil suits against the mayor of Záhorská Ves and in relation to the racist attacks against the Šarkozis. No legal action had been undertaken by the relevant Slovak authorities. In February 2004, the ERRC wrote to the Prime Minister of Slovakia calling attention to the case and urging him to take action. In May 2004, the ERRC and the LHRA met the Prosecutor General of Slovakia to raise concerns about the situation of the Romani family. The latter made promises to pursue the criminal complaints filed by the victims against the illegal actions of the mayor of Záhorská Ves and against their assailants. To date, no action has been undertaken by the law enforcement and judicial authorities.