Romani woman attacked in Poland
03 October 2000
According to reports by the Tarnów-based Cultural Center of Roma in Poland, on August 27, 2000, at around 2:00 AM, two men wearing masks broke into the home of Ms Agata Ciureja, a 32-year-old Romani woman, mother of six children, at number 11 Fabrycznej Street, in the outskirts of Tarnow, and attacked her with an axe. Ms Ciureja suffered serious physical injuries and had to be admitted to the hospital. Ms Ciureja told members of the Cultural Center of Roma in Poland that she believed that the attackers were members of a group of about 20 skinheads who had broken into her apartment about three weeks previously, in an attempt to scare her out of the neighborhood where she had been assigned a flat by the government. She reported the attack to the mayor of the city and the police, and as she believed that she knew who the attackers were, the police detained two suspects but were reportedly unable to proceed for lack of evidence, and released them soon thereafter. Ms Ciureja also asked the mayor if she could be assigned a different apartment, but he reportedly refused, stating that the attack could have happened to anybody. After an appeal by the Cultural Center of Roma in Poland, the city council agreed to build a new home for Ms Ciureja, in a different neighbourhood. As of October 9, she was in hiding.
In its June 27, 2000, review of Poland, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed concerns on several topics, including racially motivated violence against Roma. ECRI noted that according to some reports, police do not react appropriately to racially motivated crime. Roma have reportedly been the victims of attacks, often carried out by skinheads. Police response to such acts is reportedly slow and investigations inadequate. ECRI also expressed concern about allegations of police violence and abuse directed at members of the Romani community. ECRI stresses that the authorities should not tolerate any police brutality, and that this should be made clear by a firm and public condemnation by politicians and police leaders. Steps should be taken to investigate all alleged malpractice and to punish offenders. ECRI calls on the government to "ensure that criminal prosecution of offences of a racist or xenophobic nature is given a high priority and is actively and consistently undertaken." ECRI also stresses the importance of training police officers in issues of racism and discrimination.
According to the ECRI report, prejudices against the Romani community persist in Polish society and lead to discrimination in everyday life. Romani children face disadvantages in the field of education and Roma often have disproportionate difficulty in finding employment. ECRI states that issues of racism and intolerance are still relatively unacknowledged in Poland, and legislation in the field is insufficiently implemented. ECRI recommends that Polish authorities take further action to combat racism and intolerance, including ensuring that relevant legislative provisions are implemented in practice, increasing training and awareness-raising of officials in various key sectors, and establishing a system of monitoring and evaluation of the situation of minority groups as regards possible discrimination. The report points out the need to raise the awareness of the general public and opinion leaders concerning problems of racism and intolerance.
(Cultural Center of Roma in Poland, ECRI)