Romani Man Beaten to Death in Russia, Police Involvement Suspected

29 October 2003

On January 13, 2003, in the village of Trubitchino in Novgorod County, northwestern Russia, a 54-year-old Romani man, Mr I.I. was beaten to death in his home, according to the testimony of Ms J.I., sister of the victim, taken by the ERRC on June 17, 2003. According to Ms I., on the day in question, Mr I. had been at his home with two friends when two police officers suddenly burst into his home. The officers alleged that they were searching for a man named Andrej who was suspected of having committed a theft. When the officers did not find the person they had been looking for in Mr I.'s house, they reportedly demanded that Mr I. and his friends provide information as to the whereabouts of Andrej. According to Ms I., when Mr I. and his friends responded that they did not know, the officers began to beat them, insisting to be informed where Andrej could be found. After a while, one of Mr I.'s friends reportedly named a made-up location where the officers could possibly find the man they were looking for. Ms I. reported that before the police officers left, they threatened the Roma that should they not find Andrej at the specified place, they would come back and resume the beating. After the officers left, Mr I.'s friends left for fear that the officers would return and continue to physically assault them. However, Mr I. stayed because he thought that he had no reason to leave as he had not done anything wrong.

After some time, one of the friends, fearing that the police officers might have returned to Mr I.'s house and assaulted him again, phoned Mr I.'s cousin, Ms Z. According to Ms I., Ms Z. went to the home of Mr I. and found him dead, bent over a chair with a pool of blood beneath him. Ms Z. called the police. Shortly after their arrival, the officers reportedly locked the house. Ms I. reported, however, that she believed during the night, the two officers who had physically assaulted the three Roma broke into the house of Mr I. and cleaned the blood from the floor.

An official investigation into the death of Mr I. was undertaken shortly thereafter. According to Ms I., a forensic examination conducted by the investigation authorities established the cause of Mr I.'s death to be alcohol-induced intoxication. According to Ms I., Mr I.'s friends, who were at his home on the day in question stated that Mr I. did not drink any alcohol on that day. Mr I.'s sister, Ms I., made a verbal inquiry at the Novgorod Prosecutor's Office and was similarly told that Mr I. had died of alcohol-induced intoxication. Ms I. was also informed that the investigation into the death of her brother had been closed. With the assistance of the St.Petersburg branch of the human rights organisation Memorial, Ms I. filed a criminal complaint with the Novgorod Prosecutor's Office.

(ERRC, Memorial)


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