Violence by Non-State Parties Against Roma in Slovakia
07 November 2002
On September 17, 2002, the Slovak national daily newspaper Slovak News Agency (SITA) reported that seven young ethnic Slovaks carrying baseball bats and knives brutally attacked Ms S.P., a 24-year-old Romani woman, Mr L.D., a 32-year-old Romani man and Mr M.L., a 26-year-old Romani man on September 14, 2002, in Poprad in eastern Slovakia. According to SITA, the three Roma were returning home from a shopping mall when they realised that they were being followed by eight to ten young men carrying baseball bats. The three reportedly ran, but Ms S.P. tripped and fell. When the attackers reached her, they reportedly began hitting her repeatedly with baseball bats all over her body and stabbing her. The two Romani men were reportedly beaten by the young attackers as well when they returned to the scene upon hearing the screams of the woman. SITA reported that the attack lasted for some time until passers-by intervened.
According to SITA, Ms S.P. was hospitalised in Poprad where she received treatment for scull fractures, light bleeding in the brain, other head injuries and two stab wounds to the abdomen. The two Romani men reportedly suffered light injuries. Mr Zajac, the Poprad Chief of Police, was reported in SITA as having stated that police identified seven young suspects between the ages of 15 and 18. However, on September 18, 2002, Mr Široký˝, the Director of the Criminal Section of the Poprad Police was quoted in SITA as having stated that interrogations conducted failed to confirm a racial motive in the case and that the investigation in the case was ongoing, but that the attackers had not been remanded into custody.
In other news, ERRC field investigation, undertaken in co-operation with the Slovak Roma Press Agency (SPRA), revealed that late in the evening on February 28, 2002, the homes of the Kokyová, Lacková, Kocká and Čonková Romani families were attacked by approximately fifteen unknown men in Gánovce, in eastern Slovakia. According to the ERRC/SRPA research, the attackers reportedly beat seven Romani residents – 43-year-old Ms Ružena Kokyová, 27-year-old Ms Renata Kokyová, 26-year-old Mr Jan Koky Jr, 44-year-old Mr Jan Koky Sr, 18-year-old Ms Žaneta Kokyová, 29-year-old Ms Jarmila Kokyová and 27-year-old Ms Renata Čonková – with baseball bats all over their bodies and destroyed the furniture in their houses. According to ERRC/SPRA field investigation, the attack reportedly lasted for approximately ten minutes, at which time the attackers left the Romani homes and allegedly beat two Roma, 17-year-old Martin Kocko and 20-year-old Mr Rastislav Koky, who were returning home at the time, with baseball bats all over their bodies. The attackers then allegedly escaped in cars that were waiting for them. On October 13, 2002, the Bratislava-based non-governmental organisation League of Human Rights Adovcates (LHRA), which took over legal representation in the case, reported to the ERRC that Mr Jan Koky Sr called the police during the attack, but officers did not arrive at the scene until one hour after the attackers had escaped. The police opened an investigation into the case immediately. However, according to the LHRA, the police ruled out a racial motive in the attack. On March 13, 2002, the Slovak Press Agency (SITA) reported that Mr František Schwartz, director of the District Bureau of Investigation of the Poprad Police Department, confirmed that the incident was racially motivated.
ERRC/SRPA research revealed that, on April 26, 2002, Mr Ladislav Virlstok, the investigative officer working on the case, issued a decision to suspend the investigation, on the basis of insufficient evidence, despite witnesses to the event having clearly identified the attackers to the police. The LHRA filed a complaint against this decision and on May 3, 2002, the investigation continued. However, according to the LHRA, on June 26, 2002, the Police Bureau of Investigation again suspended the investigation in the case, as they were reportedly unable to identify the perpetrators. On September 18, 2002, the LHRA filed a complaint against this with the Slovak Constitutional Court, and as of November 11, 2002, the complaint was pending before the court.
(ERRC, League of Human Rights Advocates, SITA, Slovak Roma Press Agency)