Violent Police Raid Leaves Two Roma Dead and Four Injured in Romania

10 May 2003

On December 5, 2002, at around 11:00 AM, fifteen police officers from Buhuşi, approximately thirty special troops from Bacău and Neamţ Counties and twenty gendarmes raided the Orbic Romani neighbourhood in the town of Buhuşi, in northeastern Romania, fatally shooting two Romani men and injuring four other Roma, including an elderly woman and child, according to an ERRC interview with the Bacău-based Romani organisation RomStar Bacău (RomStar). RomStar representatives, who investigated the incident on the same day, told the ERRC that when they arrived, gendarmes were not allowing anyone to enter the area because an investigation was about to be undertaken. Romani children had been gathered into one house and Romani adults on the street were reportedly crying for help. According to RomStar, Mr Damian, Bacău County Police Chief, stated that police officers and the special troops entered the Orbic neighbourhood in an operation intended to locate and arrest three people who had committed a robbery. Police Chief Damian stated that the three criminals hid in an empty house in the neighbourhood and, after the officers fired a warning shot in the air, the community became hostile, leading to the injury of one gendarme and three special force troops. According to RomStar, Police Chief Damian claimed "our actions were legal."

However, RomStar informed the ERRC that, based on witness testimony, the police operation appeared to be anything but legally executed. According to RomStar, when the police and special troops entered the town, Romani men from the neighbourhood ran to the forest out of fear but were forced back into the neighbourhood by special troops waiting for them in the forest. At this point, Mr Cristinel Ciubotaru, 24-year-old Mr Florin Călin and 23-year-old Mr Ovidiu Ciubotaru, who were under police investigation, hid in the attic of an empty home owned by Ms Valeria Gruia and her husband.

According to the testimony of Mr Viorel Călin, a witness to the event, given to RomStar, he went close to the house to see what was happening. Police and special troops reportedly surrounded the house to capture the three unarmed young men. Viorel Călin reportedly stated that the police threw canisters of tear gas into the house. Mr Călin also witnessed an argument between 42-year-old Mr Gelu Ciubotaru, the father of five children, and a gendarme at a fountain where Mr Ciubotaru went to fetch water. The gendarme shot Mr Ciubotaru with his firearm. A second gendarme reportedly then shot Gelu Ciubotaru with his firearm three more times. Mr Simion Ardelean, Buhuşi Police Chief, reportedly came and reprimanded the two gendarmes for having shot Gelu Ciubotaru, according to Mr Călin. Mr Călin then witnessed 72-year-old Ms Anica Ciubotaru, Gelu's mother run over and try to protect her son, at which time gendarmes beat her with fists on her head and back, then threw her in a ditch. RomStar informed the ERRC that, according to Mr Mirel Ciubotaru, the 28-year-old brother of Gelu Ciubotaru, he then went to the fountain where his brother was lying dead on the ground, and was shot in the hand by one of the gendarmes.

Ms Valeria Gruia testified to RomStar that she and her husband had been ordered to open their house, which was surrounded by police and special troops. Ms Gruia and her husband testified that they opened the house, which was already full of tear gas, and the police entered and started shooting. Mr Gruia reportedly stated that the young men in the attic started to throw pieces of wood from the roof, and the police shot again, hitting two of the young men. At this point, according to Mr Gruia, Cristinel Ciubotaru jumped down from the attic, yelling that the other two young men had already been shot and surrendered. Florin Călin and Ovidiu Ciubotaru then reportedly came down from the attic of the house and the police, from a distance of about two metres shot again, this time fatally wounding Florin Călin, according to Ms Gruia. The officers then dragged Florin Călin and Ovidiu Ciubotaru out of the house. Ms Gruia told RomStar that the officers told her that they had orders to bring in the three men, alive or dead. The officers also reportedly stated that they had to kill Florin Călin because he had an axe. However, Ms Gruia stated to RomStar that Florin Călin did not have an axe in his hands at the time he was shot. Ms Gruia stated that following the incident, she overheard another officer telling the officers involved that they should never do again what they had done that day. Mr and Ms Gruia's house was destroyed in the incident.

RomStar reported to the ERRC that, when Roma in the neighbourhood heard gunshots, they went to the house where the three Roma were hiding and tried to stop the police by throwing stones at them. Ms Ana Romaşcu testified to RomStar that officers shot her 14-year-old son Vasile Vâtu, who was among the people throwing stones at the officers, twice in the back. According to Ms Romaşcu, around fifteen minutes after her son was shot, an ambulance brought them to the Buhuşi hospital, and they were immediately taken to a hospital in Bacău. Ms Romaşcu reported that at the hospital in Bacău, gendarmes prevented her from seeing her son for one week. More Roma from the community were reportedly beaten during the raid.

According to RomStar, following the incident, Cristinel Ciutotaru and Ovidiu Ciubotaru were taken to the Bacău Penitentiary Hospital, and from here, Ovidiu was transported to the Jilava Penitentiary Hospital for the treatment of serious injuries. Doctors removed two bullets from Ovidiu. Afterwards, Ovidiu was returned to the Bacău Penitentiary Hospital. RomStar informed the ERRC that, in a meeting with Police Chief Damian and Mr Dumitru Isache, a Bacău County Police Colonel, it was stated that one gendarme and three special troops - Mr E.I., Mr C.V., Mr C.S. and Mr N.N. respectively - were hospitalised following the events in Buhuşi. RomStar informed the ERRC that Mr E.I. was being treated for an eye injury, Mr C.V. for cranial trauma, Mr C.S. for an injury to his left shoulder and cranial trauma, and Mr N.N. for an open wound on his cranium.

According to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) report of December 11, 2002, in Bucharest on December 10, 2002, around fifty people, the majority of whom were Roma, protested against police violence after the incident in Buhuşi. According to the Bacău-based daily newspaper Monitorul de Bacău of December 10, 2002, Mr Hurmuzache, Bacău Regional Gendarme Chief, stated that he had rewarded the twenty gendarme officers that were involved in the incident, because "they had the courage to enter the community." As of December 12, 2002, a preliminary investigation, undertaken by the Bacău County Police, was finalised and sent to the Bacău County Appeal Court Prosecutor. RomStar reported that the results of the investigation were that the officers had acted in self-defence and their actions were justified. Ten Roma were reportedly being investigated for their actions in connection with the incident. On December 13, 2002, the ERRC, in co-operation with RomStar, took over representation of seven complainants in the case, including the families of the deceased, Ms Ana Romaşcu and three Roma beaten during the raid. On January 13, 2003, seven Roma filed complaints against the police and gendarmes with the Bacău Prosecutor's Office, with the assistance of RomStar and the ERRC. As of April 1, 2003, the investigation into the case was ongoing. Fourteen-year-old Vasile Vâtu had been called to testify without the presence of his parents or legal representative, in contravention of Romanian law.

As of April 1, 2003, RomStar reported that Cristinel and Ovidiu Ciubotaru were in detention at the Bacău Penitentiary, where they had been held since their release from the hospital. They have been charged with robbery and two counts of theft.

In another instance of police brutality against Roma, during an ERRC field mission conducted in October 2002, it was found that three gendarmes beat a Romani man and sprayed his wife and nine-month-old baby girl with tear gas. On October 9, 2002, Mr Adriene Lingurar, a 36-year-old Romani man, testified to the ERRC that on October 3, 2002, he, together with 32-year-old, 6-month-pregnant wife Maria and baby girl Smaranda Mihaela and other Roma from his community, were in the market in Târgu Lapus in northern Romania. Mr Lingurar, whose wife was standing beside him with their baby in her arms, was speaking with a Romanian vendor when three gendarmes approached him and asked him what he was doing. According to Mr Lingurar, after he responded that he was speaking with the Romanian man, the gendarmes sprayed him, Maria and Smaranda Mihaela in their faces with tear gas, and began to beat him. Mr Lingurar stated that the gendarmes hit him with truncheons all over his body for around twenty minutes, at which time they pulled him around the corner to another street, where they continued to beat him. According to Mr Lingurar, "They hit me all over my body with their truncheons and also kicked me and punched me. I lost consciousness, I was told, for about half an hour." Ms Lingurar told the ERRC that she and the Romanian man with whom her husband had been speaking threw water on her husband to wake him up. The gendarmes reportedly then brought Mr Lingurar to a police station and placed him in a room. Mr Lingurar testified that, in the room, the police chief ordered the gendarmes to beat him, then left the room. For approximately thirty minutes, the gendarmes beat Mr Lingurar with truncheons and kicked him all over his body. At the end of this, Mr Lingurar was reportedly fined for not having his identification card with him and released. Mr Lingurar then went home with his wife and baby girl, who were waiting for him at the station with the Romanian man with whom he had been speaking. Ms Lingurar informed the ERRC that after waiting for a long time, her husband came out of the room he had been brought to at the police station. Ms Lingurar stated, "His face was covered in blood and his chest was bruised and swollen. He had scratches on his body too. He looked very bad for three days." Ms Lingurar also told the ERRC that she had to wash Smaranda Mihaela's eyes with water from a puddle in the street after they had been sprayed with tear gas because she was crying. Mr Lingurar did not file a complaint about the incident, he told the ERRC, because he was afraid of further acts of violence by the police.

On the same day, Ms Cristina Boldijar, a 45-year-old Romani woman from the Ponorâta Romani settlement of the village Vălenii Lăpuşului, near Târgu Lapus - the same community as the Lingurar family - told the ERRC that she was at the market in Târgu Lapus with her husband on the day that the gendarmes beat Adriene Lingurar. According to Ms Boldijar, "The gendarmes took my husband and me out of the market and said that people from our community weren't allowed to go there anymore. They threatened to hurt us if we returned. Everyone from here goes to the market every Thursday to get food. Now, we are all afraid to go there." Additional information on violence and discrimination against Roma in Romania is available on the ERRC's Internet website at:

(ERRC, Monitorul de Bacău, RFE/RL, RomStar Bacău)




Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities