Humiliating Treatment of Roma in Italy

10 May 2003

At the end of September 2002, police officers in Rome reportedly subjected U.A., a 17-year-old Romani youth, and three of his friends, to haircuts as a form of extra-judicial punishment. On November 12, 2002, U.A. testified to the ERRC that he and three friends between the ages of 16 and 19 usually work cleaning car windshields at the stop light at the Piazza Ungheria in Rome. About a week before the incident, U.A. stated, police officers stopped the four youths and warned them that they should not come there anymore because the officers "were tired of seeing Gypsy beggars on the streets." At around noon on the day in question, U.A. and his three friends were reportedly sitting on the steps of a local church on the Piazza Ungheria when they were picked up by two officers and taken to a police station near the Piazza. According to U.A., on the way to the station, one of the officers, who laughed the whole time, said that the youths had not respected orders. The officer also reportedly threatened to teach the boys a lesson and beat them with a special truncheon made out of rubber that "would hurt a lot, but would not leave any marks." At the station, U.A. told the ERRC, the four boys were made fun of, pushed around and laughed at by four officers. "They hit us with open fists. They insulted us, always using the word 'Gypsy' or 'Nomad', but also 'dog', 'animal', 'beast'?they said very ugly things," U.A. stated. One of the officers then grabbed a pair of scissors and, according to U.A., "grabbed me by the neck and made me sit down. He chopped at my hair and left bald spots. The officers did the same to my friends, too." U.A. and the other three youths were released at 1:30 PM without having been charged.

The Italian weekly magazine Panorama reported on October 25, 2002, that a train conductor in Rome had advocated cutting hair as a means of punishment or warning. According to the article, the train conductor stated that he had cut off a piece of hair from a young Romani girl allegedly trying to pull down a fire extinguisher and told her, "Next time, I'll shave off all your hair."

(ERRC, Panorama)


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