Traces of Pogrom Past: Tatarbunary

10 April 1997

Incidents of violations of the rights of Roma are so numerous that they sometimes seem part of the very cultural fabric of Europe. Countless events have therefore to date gone undocumented and traces of past abuses occasionally emerge at random. The ERRC makes every effort possible to document and report to the general public on such past abuses.

The ERRC recently received an article from a local correspondent in Ukraine, published by the Odessa newspaper Yug on May 8, 1992. Yug writes: 

The media has reported on the events in Tatarbunary, where pogroms and disturbances have recently taken place. Yet in some cases the events are interpreted one-sidedly and without objectivity. They are ascribed a nationalistic tinge, and the militia is blamed for everything.

The tragedies in Tatarbunary were preceded by problems which had been accumulating for years: the functioning of trade organisations, road conditions, street lighting and housing and living conditions. It was these problems which predetermined the attitude of the district residents to the law and authorities, as revealed after the triple homicide.

Operatives of the Tatarbunary local militia office acted with a high degree of professionalism, having succeeded on the first day after the tragedy in arresting the suspects, who confessed to having committed the crime. Those arrested turned out to be Roma. Yet do only Roma commit crime?

Following this there was a meeting in which, along with reasonable suggestions, demands were expressed to deport all town residents of Roma nationality, and to lynch the indicted.

And although the Roma families had already left, the mob (about four hundred people) started to knock out doors and windows of their houses, set fire to and destroy buildings, and remove their belongings. The mob was made up predominantly of young men, but there were also several women and even children. The district and the town authorities and the regional militia office, with the help of the local militia offices of Tatarbunary, Saratov, and Frunze, succeeded in normalising the situation. Fortunately, there were no human victims. The situation is under control, and an investigation is under way. (Translation by ERRC)

A similar article, published in Odesskie Izvestia, also on May 8, 1992, mentions other incidents in which, "a natural indignation with respect to offenders... was transferred onto the national groups to which the persons who broke the law belonged" in the towns of Shiriaevo and Ananievo. (ERRC, Roma Organisation in Izmail)

Jevg Beaten to Death in Police Custody in Albania

On July 4, 1992, a 31-year-old Jevg (pronounced "yevg") named Seran Sadiku was beaten to death in police custody in the southern Albanian town of Korçë.1 He had been arrested together with his then 21-year-old brother Gazmir Sadiku, who also was subjected to severe ill-treatment by the police.

According to Gazmir; he and his brother were sitting in a bar at the local market with two friends around 2:00 PM on July 4, 1992, when three policemen in civilian clothes came in and sat down at the table next to theirs. The policemen allegedly began insulting the two brothers, including using racial epithets and calling them "Gypsies". Gazmir Sadiku claims that they were the only Roma/Jevgjit in the bar, and that the policemen began picking on them solely because of the colour of their skin. When Seran Sadiku asked the policemen to stop insulting them, they dragged him out of the bar and started beating him. One of the police officers, Mr. LS., allegedly hit Seran on the head with the butt of his gun.

The policemen paused in their public beating of the Sadiku brothers when several people passing stopped to watch. Soon thereafter, however, two police cars arrived in the market area carrying approximately twenty policemen. The policemen surrounded the two brothers and started beating them with sticks. They then forced the Sadiku brothers into the cars and drove them to the police station. According to Gazmir Sadiku, the two men were beaten all the way to the police station.

Gazmir Sadiku told the ERRC that when they arrived at the police station,

"We were put in separate cells next to each other. The seat in my cell was made of concrete. They made me sit handcuffed with my hands behind my back. Eight police officers came in and started beating me all over my body. The three policemen from the bar were the worst. They beat me with chair legs and kicked me all over. They broke my eardrums so that blood started pouring out my ears and they broke my ribs. Over my own screams, I could hear my brother screaming through the wall."

Gazmir Sadiku claims that he was beaten for two hours at the police station and that the beating only stopped when, suddenly, he couldn't hear his brother anymore:

"Then the door to my cell opened, and I could see police officers running in and out between our cells. Through the open door of my cell, I saw them carrying something covered in a blanket. I asked them what it was and they told me my brother had fallen ill and that they were taking him to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, I was taken to the hospital too. This was around 6 o'clock in the evening. The policeman who took me to the doctor told him, "This man tried to kill a policeman, so don't take too good care of him." The doctor put iodine on my wounds and then I was taken back to the police station.

The father of the Sadiku brothers, Mr. Ali Sadiku, told the ERRC that his sons’ friends had come on July 5, 1992 to tell him that his son had died and they accompanied him to the hospital. According to Mr. Ali Sadiku, Seran’s head was crushed, his body was black with bruises, and his teeth had been knocked out. The death certificate, issued by Dr. Robert Bicolli at the Legal Forensic Institute of Korçë on July 5, 1992, states that Seran died of „sub-dural haematoma and sub-pial focal haematoma of traumatic nature”. The exact time of Seran Sadiku’s death is not specified on the death certificate.

Gazmir was released by the police on July G, when the funeral of his brother turned into a protest in which his coffin was carried first to the police station and then to the offices of the ruling Democratic Parry. Gazmir told the ERRC, „After they had killed my brother, they didn’t touch me anymore, but I didn’t know he was dead until two days later when people came to protest in front of the police station. After that I was let out.”

Despite efforts to seek legal remedy by the Sadiku family, no one has been brought to justice for the killing of Seran and the ill-treatment of Gazmir. The family sent a letter of protest to President of the Republic Sali Berisha, to which they received a reply dated July 7, 1992, stating that their letter had been forwarded to the then Minister of Public Order Bashkim Kopliku. As of December 9, 1996, the family had not received any answer from the Ministry of Public Order.

The family also filed a complaint, and an investigation was launched by Mr. Azis Roshi at the Korçë Prosecutor’s Office. After two months, in September 1992, Mr. Roshi allegedly informed the family that the investigation was closed and that the police were not guilty of Seran’s death.

At the Korçë Prosecutor’s Office, the ERRC was told that there was no one in the office who could speak competently on the issue. According to sources with access to judicial documents, however, there is no record of the case in the register. The ERRC also learned that, „due to reforms”, Mr. Azis Roshi was fired in April 1996.

All efforts by the ERRC to obtain an official statement by the police have thus far been rebuffed. Unofficially, Officer Qemal Cani, head of the Public Order Division of the police, told the ERRC that Seran Sadiku had been killed during a fight between rival gangs and that the perpetrator had been in prison for four years already. Officer Cani also told the ERRC that Officer LS. had been dismissed in July 1996 after having been accused of rape.

The ERRC has strong reason to believe that the killing of Seran Sadiku and ill-treatment of Gazmir Sadiku have gone unpunished as a result of a deliberate cover-up by the Albanian law-enforcement and judicial authorities. The ERRC has sent a letter of concern to General Prosecutor of Albania Alush Dragoshi. As yet, our letter remains unanswered.

Endnote:

  1. "Jevgjit" are variously described as a people descended from Coptic migrants from Egypt, disguised Turks, or as assimilated Roma. Some Romani activists claim that Enver Hoxha invented the category to divide Roma between "authentic" and co-operative. Even if the Jevgjit as a group turn out not to be of Indian origin, since some Roma claim to have relatives who describe themselves as "Jevgjit", the term appears to be an assimilatory locus which draws in Roma. Finally and most importantly however, the Jevgjit live beyond the colour line in Albania, so news of their plight is appropriate here. The Sadiku family, asked to describe their relation to Roma, told the ERRC, "We are the same, but we speak Albanian."

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