Violence against Roma in Bulgaria
07 November 1997
Roma continue to fall victim to community violence and acts of vigilante justice in Bulgaria. On June 4, the Bulgarian daily Duma reported that a guard at the Mill Complex in Sliven shot a 7-year-old Rom named Stefan Stefanoff. The guard allegedly claimed he had been attacked by a mob of Roma throwing stones at him and he felt forced to fire his weapon. The child was wounded in the jaw and is said to be recovering.
The Bulgarian daily Trud reported on June 7 that a Romani man from the town of Lovech was beaten by two non-Roma. The two aggressors accused a Rom, Mr Georgi Dimitrov, of having stolen the cherries he was selling at the local market. When Mr Dimitrov Jenied the theft, the two men reportedly beat him.
The Bulgarian media also reported that acts of vigilante violence had taken place in the last week of July. According to 24 Chasa of July 24, a mob of local non-Roma beat two Romani women for their part in an alleged theft of vegeta bles in Dalgo Pole, district Plovdiv. Before the beating, the women were reportedly both shot in the buttocks by the guard of a near-by fish-breeding pond. According to the paper, local non-Roma have circulated a petition protesting against Roma thieves in the village. In the village of Tranitsa, reported Dneven Trud on July 26, local people beat three Romani women severely after they were caught breaking into an uninhabited house. Dneven Trud also reported on July 30 that a group of twenty men had attacked three Romani women caught pick-pocketing at one of the Sofia markets. A non Romani woman then allegedly cut off the hair of the Romani women.
The Standart of August 1 contained a report that locals in the village of Marash, district Shumen, had poured concrete over Roma. The Roma had allegedly stolen from their gardens at numerous occasions and the locals had decided to "punish them severely".
Standart of August 15 reported that a 16-year-old skinhead attacked an 11-year old Romani boy in the Black Sea port of Burgas with metal chains. The Romani boy subsequently had to be hospitalised.
Amnesty International reported on September 1 that investigation in the Montana region in northwest Bulgaria had revealed a number of instances of violence and harassment by police and municipal authorities in the period February-June 1997.
Amnesty reported that on May 16, 1997, a Romani woman suspected of petty theft named Yordanka Borisova was beaten both outside and inside the police station in the town of Lom. Another Romani woman told Amnesty that she had been beaten on April 14 in the town of Vulcherdrun; 50-year-old Mrs Darina Naidenova Pacheva reported that she was beaten on her hands and on the soles of her feet by police who were questioning her in connection with the theft of some hens. One officer also allegedly pulled her hair, hit her once on the shoulders and head, and told her "I will get alt you Gypsies."
In another case, Roma digging for scrap iron at an abandoned tile factory in the town of Yakimovo on March 29, 1997, were allegedly set upon by a police officer who first shot in the air and then beat Mr Yordan Kirilov in the head with his gun. A local doctor allegedly told Mr Kirilov, "You don't need a certificate because you won't be able to do anything with it." The Sofia-based human rights organisation Human Rights Project (HRP) additionally reported that on May 3, 1997, 16-year-old Plamen Dimitrov Borisov from the village of Cherni Vrh, was summoned by the local police officer to the Mayor's Office of the village. According to Mr Borisov, the police officer inflicted several blows upon him and kicked him while wearing boots.
The victim filed a written statement to the respective police department and to HRP and HRP subsequently called the attention of the Directorate of National Police's to the incidents. The police responded that there had been no abuse on part of the police officers and that the complaints of the Roma were unjustified. In response to these allegations, Amnesty and Human Rights Project organised a public meeting with Montana authorities to discuss the problem of police ill-treatment in the region. It was later reported to Amnesty that, one day after the meeting, on June 5, a 23-year-old Romani man in the town of Vulcherdrun was taken to the police station and beaten by four police officers on the palms of his hands and soles of his feet. When he told one of the police officers that he would file a complaint about the abuse, the officer allegedly replied, "What did Darina achieve with her complaint?" The victim filed a complaint at the Military Prosecutor's Office of Pleven. In August 1997 his complaint was turned down and the prosecutor refused to initiate criminal proceedings.
HRP also reported incidents of police brutality in other areas of Bulgaria; on May 16, 1997, Mr Rossen Anguelov and two other Roma were picking grass on the outskirts of the village Vehtovo, district Shumen. At approximately 9 p.m. they were stopped by policemen from the local police and were brought to the mayor's office of Vehtovo. Mr Anguelov told representatives of HRP that he was brought handcuffed into the mayor's office, where the Mayor of the village, who was allegedly drunk, beat him. Rossen was again beaten by the mayor in the presence of the police officers. As a result of the beating, Mr Anguelov suffered bruises and internal bleeding and one of his teeth was knocked out.
On June 12, 1997, at about 10 p.m., 50-year-old Mr Ilmi Akifov was taken to the mayor's office of the village Lyatno, district Varna, by the mayor of the village and two policemen. Mr Akifov was accused of having stolen a refrigerator. He refused to confess the theft claiming that his son had bought the refrigerator, and suggested that his son should be interrogated. According Mr Akifov, one employee of the mayor's office then took a truncheon from a policeman present and struck him several times with it. As a result of the blows, Mr Akifov lost consciousness. His forensic certificate indicates haemorrhages on the face and a laceration wound on his back. The victim filed a complaint with the Regional Prosecutor's Office of Novi Pazar in June 1997. As of September 1997, the prosecutor's office has not responded.
On July 10, 1997 at around 8 p.m., three Romani girls – 14-year-old Anelia Ivanova, 11-year-old Silvia Ivanova, and 10-year-old Nadezhda Ivanova – were allegedly maltreated by police officers from the Regional Police Department of Elhovo, district Burgas. The girls were at a playground near a block of flats in Elhovo. According to testimony by the girls, one police car with two officers stopped at the playground and one of the police officers emerged brandishing a gun and threatening to kill anybody who attempted to run away. The same officer allegedly forced the children to crawl on the ground while insulting their ethnic origins. One of the girls, Anelia Ivanova, fainted. Her sister told the policemen that Anelia is epileptic. The policemen then started slapping Anelia in the face. Silvia Ivanova told the HRP that one of the policemen hit her on the right leg and on the back with the truncheon. The girls were then taken to the Police Department of Elhovo. There they were intimidated by the police officers in order to make them confess to various thefts. The parents of the three girls were not informed by the police that the girls had been detained. The girls were released around 10 p.m. Forensic certificates acquired thereafter by the parents of the three girls indicate that they had been caused suffering and pain. The parents of Anelia, Silvia and Nadezhda filed a complaint with the Military Prosecutor of Sliven immediately after the incident. As of October 1997 there has been no response to their com plaint.
(ERRC, Human Rights Project, Amnesty International)