Police Abuse of Roma in Bulgaria

07 November 2002

On August 26, 2002, Mr Adelin Miroslavov Asenov, a 23-year-old Romani man, testified to the ERRC that on June 21, 2002, he was verbally and physically assaulted by police in the Orlandovtzi District in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. According to Mr Asenov, at approximately 4:30 PM, he saw two police vehicles driving on the street on which he lives when suddenly the vehicles came to a stop and fifteenpolice officers, armed and wearing masks, jumped out of the vehicles and yelled at him, asking him his name. Mr Asenov reported to the ERRC that as he told the officers his name, they surrounded and entered his house. The twenty to twenty-five Romani women in the house watching videos at the time reportedly started screaming for help. According to Mr Asenov, the officers were yelling at the people in the house, asking if they knew the person for whom the officers were looking. When Mr Asenov told the officers that they didn't know the person, one of the police officers reportedly punched him twice and stated, "If you act smart and talk too much, we can take you to the police station with us. There, I'll kick you so hard, I'll break every single bone in your body." Another officer reportedly said he would beat Mr Asenov until he said what the police wanted. According to Mr Asenov, he asked to see the officers' badges and he was shown one, after which the officers began asking him about his car. They then told him that it had been used in a robbery. The officers reportedly refused to give Mr Asenov further information about the robbery when he requested it. At this point, he asked the police to see their warrant for entering the house, to which the police reportedly responded, "You dirty Gypsies. Who said you are ignorant? You are too smart. If you ask for a warrant we will arrest you all." At this point, Mr Asenov's aunt entered the house. The police left after she showed them papers proving that she had just undergone brain surgery and told them that they would be responsible if anything happened to her. Mr Asenov informed the ERRC that he had considered filing a complaint against the officers, but did not because he believed that nobody cared enough about Roma to help.

In other news, the Sofia-based non-governmental organisation Human Rights Project (HRP) informed the ERRC on September 9, 2002, that at approximately 10:00 AM on August 21, 2002, Mr Stefan Liydov Traianov, a 28-year-old Romani man, was brutally beaten by three police officers – Mr L.L., Mr K.A. and third unknown officer –in the town of Kjustendil in western Bulgaria. According to HRP, Mr Traianov was called to the police station to give information on a theft that had been committed. While at the police station, Mr Traianov gave the police his identification card and was reportedly told by police officers that there was evidence that proved that he had committed the crime. At this point, according to HRP, Mr Traianov admitted to the theft and the three police officers identified above entered the room, handcuffing Mr Traianov. The three officers then reportedly took Mr Traianov out the back entrance of the police station, placed him in a police car and drove out of the town to a nearby forest. HRP reported that, in the forest, Mr Traianov was pulled from the car and the three officers grabbed tree branches from the ground and began to brutally beat him with them. The officers allegedly then hung the still-handcuffed Mr Traianov from a branch of a tree and pulled down hard on his legs numerous times. After this, Mr Traianov's legs were reportedly handcuffed and the officers kicked him repeatedly. Mr Traianov told HRP that he lost consciousness twice during the beating.

After some time, the officers reportedly brought Mr Traianov down from the tree, took off his handcuffs and put him back into the police car. HRP reported that, while driving back into town, the officers warned Mr Traianov not to tell anyone about what had happened or he would "vanish into space." Mr Traianov reported being left on the side of the road in the country. Mr Traianov testified to HRP that, because he was unable to move, he lay on the side of the road bleeding for approximately one hour until two of his neighbours drove by on a cart and brought him home. HRP reported that, later in the afternoon on the same day, one of the police officers returned Mr Traianov's identification card to him and denied any knowledge of the brutal beating. Later that day, Mr Traianov visited a physician for medical treatment. According to the medical certificate issued on the same day, Mr Traianov suffered multiple haematoma and abrasions all over his body as well as a bruise on his left ankle and swelling.

Mr Traianov filed a criminal complaint against the three officers, with the assistance of HRP, on August 22, 2002. On August 30, 2002, HRP sent information about the attack to the Ministry of Interior and the Sofia Regional Military Prosecutor's Office. In a letter dated October 11, 2002, Kjustendil Regional Office of the Ministry of Interior informed the HRP that a preliminary investigation was conducted during which Mr Traianov had reportedly stated that the facts of his complaint were not true. The Sofia Military Prosecutor's Office informed the HRP in an October 28, 2002 letter that it would not conduct a criminal investigation against the accused officers based on the findings of the preliminary investigation.Police brutality against Roma continues with alarming frequency in Bulgaria. Further information on such cases is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org/publications/indices/bulgaria.shtml.



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