Letter to the Minister of the Interior and the General Prosecutor of Slovakia

05 January 1999

On November 2, 1998, the ERRC sent identical letters to the Minister of the Interior and to the General Prosecutor of Slovakia. The text of the letter to the Minister of the Interior follows.

Dear Minister,

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of abuse, is concerned by reports of a serious new case of police violence against Roma in Slovakia.

The ERRC has learned that, on 27 October, at around 4:30 a.m., police entered the homes of two Romani families in Hermanovce, Slovakia, where they beat two Romani youths — O.M., aged 14, and I.K., aged 21 — handcuffed them, then forced them into the trunk of a car and drove them to the police station in Hminenská Nova Ves. The police offered no explanation to the detained or their families; nor did they show arrest or search warrants to justify their actions. At the police station, the two youths were beaten with truncheons and kicked. They were interrogated and shown diverse items (for example, a sleeping bag) and pressed to falsely say that they had stolen some of them. They were released later the same day, apparently without having been charged with any crime. Doctors who examined them documented bruises consistent with a beating. At no point were the two detainees advised of their rights; nor, despite his minor status, was O.M. interrogated in the presence of a parent or another authorised person.

According to eyewitness accounts, the following day (28 October) at around 6 a.m., more than 20 policemen arrived in Hermanovce; some led police dogs. The police broke down the doors of Romani houses and beat Romani men, women and children, many of whom were still in bed at the time. At least one police officer used threatening, racist and vulgar language against a Romani woman while he was beating her. The police then brought six men — J. M., M.M., R.M., M.K., M.Kt. and K.N. — to the village mayor's office. Once again, the police offered no explanation for their conduct and showed no arrest or search warrants.

At the mayor's office, one of the detainees (J. M.) was released. Five others were taken to the Hminenská Nová Ves police station, then released by noon without being charged with any crimes. Two of the five were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

This act of mass police brutality targeting Roma puts in question the minority policy of the first post-Mečiar Slovak government. In recent years, although racist violence against Roma in Slovakia has increased, effective prosecution and punishment have been rare.

We urge you, Mr Minister, to undertake a prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the above-described events and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

We would appreciate receiving information about any action taken by your office concerning this matter.

The General Prosecutor's office acknowledged receipt of this letter and informed the ERRC that it would be forwarded to the office of the Presov district prosecutor. The Ministry of the Interior did not acknowledge receipt, but has started an investigation; the investigation is in progress.


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