Romani Man Beaten to Death in Romanian Penitentiary

07 November 2002

According to the Bucharest-based Romani organisation Romani CRISS, on June 5, 2002, Mr Nelu Bălăşoiu, an 18-year-old Romani youth, died during detention at the Târgu Jiu Penitentiary. Romani CRISS reported that, on April 5, 2002, three young Romani men, 18-year-old Mr Nelu Bălăşoiu, 17-year-old Daniel Dumitru and 16-year-old Mitică Căldăraru, were arrested in Târgu Cărbuneşti on suspicion of theft. According to Romani CRISS,Daniel Dumitru and Mitică Căldăraru maintain that all three of them were beaten by police officers while held in detention at the Târgu Cărbuneşti Police Station by three officers – Captain A., Sergeant C. and Officer B. (not their real initials) – in an attempt by the officers to make them confess to crimes they state they had not committed. Mitică Căldăraru was reportedly released after a few hours in detention, and was re-arrested on April 16, 2002. Daniel Dumitru and Mitică Căldăraru reportedly testified that all three boys had been beaten almost every day they were in detention, Nelu Bălăşoiu receiving the worst of the treatment. During several interrogations, Daniel Dumitru and Mitică Căldăraru heard Nelu Bălăşoiu screaming, according to Romani CRISS. Daniel Dumitru and Mitică Căldăraru also testified to Romani CRISS that, many times, the officers began beating and swearing at Nelu Bălăşoiu as soon as they had taken him out of his cell, kicking him in the stomach and punching him in the ribs. According to Romani CRISS, Mitică Căldăraru's father stated that Captain A. had admitted to him that he had beaten Mitică Căldăraru and that he and Sergeant C. had both beaten Nelu Bălăşoiu. Further, Romani CRISS stated that the wife of Nelu Bălăşoiu's brother testified that he informed her of the torture he was subjected to by the Târgu Cărbuneşti police during several visits she made to the police station.

On May 15, 2002, Nelu Bălăşoiu was transferred to the Târgu Jiu Penitentiary. According to Romani CRISS, the commander of the penitentiary stated that Nelu Bălăşoiu's medical examination upon transfer to the penitentiary found that he did not exhibit any particular signs of mistreatment and was in good health. Mr Rozmarin Polisor, an inmate at the Târgu Jiu Penitentiary, reportedly subsequently informed Nelu Bălăşoiu's relatives in a letter that Nelu had been placed in quarantine at the penitentiary. According to Mr Polisor, he informed the cell warden that Nelu's was in serious condition. When the cell warden asked Nelu what was wrong, he reportedly lifted his shirt to reveal his swollen stomach and said that he vomited everything he ate. When asked who had beaten him, Mr Polisor wrote that Nelu said "people in camouflage" and police investigators had beaten him in Târgu Cărbuneşti. Mr Polisor further wrote that Nelu had pleaded with the cell warden not to tell anyone because he was afraid of being beaten again.

On June 4, 2002, Nelu Bălăşoiu was reportedly taken to the Jilava Penitentiary Hospital in Ilfov County. According to a Romani CRISS press release of June 29, 2002, Colonel Dan Mărcuşan, head of the hospital, stated, "He (Nelu Bălăşoiu) was in very serious condition when he came in […]." Colonel Mărcuşan stated that Nelu Bălăşoiu died at the Jilava Penitentiary Hospital on June 5, 2002 at 10:20 AM. According to the medical certificate issued on June 7, 2002, by Dr Maria Burghele of the Forensic Medicine Service of the City Hospital in Ilfov County, the cause of Nelu Bălăşoiu's death was acute cardio-respiratatory insufficiency. However, according to a report by the Bucharest-based non-governmental organisation Romanian Helsinki Committee, medical records from the Jilava County Hospital revealed that Nelu Bălăşoiu was taken to the Jilava County Hospital before being admitted to the penitentiary hospital. Doctors at the county hospital reportedly established that Nelu Bălăşoiu was in serious condition due to kidney failure. The Romanian Helsinki Committee alleges that Nelu Bălăşoiu's kidneys were destroyed as a results of repeated beatings while in custody at the Târgu Cărbuneşti Police Station.

According to Romani CRISS, approximately two weeks after the initial arrest, Nelu Bălăşoiu's family filed complaints with the Craiova Military Court, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior. Nelu Bălăşoiu's family did not receive a response to their complaints until Nelu's death. Romani CRISS reported that a commission of the General Inspectorate of Police has been formed to investigate Nelu Bălăşoiu's death. As of October 24, 2002, Romani CRISS informed the ERRC that Nelu's family was still waiting for the results of the investigation undertaken by the Craiova Military Prosecutor's Office.

In other news, ERRC field investigation, conducted in co-operation with the Târgu Mureşbased non-governmental organisation Liga Pro Europa, revealed that at approximately 1:00 PM on May 8, 2002, Ms R.E., a Romani woman, was physically assaulted by two public guardians in Târgu Mureş in Mureş County. According to testimony given to the ERRC/Liga Pro Europa by Mrs R.E. immediately following the incident, she was passing through the centre of Târgu Mureş with Mr P.L., a Romani man, when two public guardians stopped her and asked for her identity card. Ms R.E. told the ERRC/Liga Pro Europa that she believed she was stopped due to her Romani ethnicity, so she asked one of the public guardians to tell her why she had to show her card. According to Ms R.E., "Without answering, he slapped me in the face. Because I didn't show my identity card, I was pushed under a gateway and kicked by the same public guardian. The other public guardian, who was nearby, did not intervene." When the ERRC/Liga Pro Europa arrived, after being called to the scene by Mr G.K., a witness to the event, the public guardians, with badge numbers 7022 and 3139, tried to bring Ms R.E. to the Public Guardians Office. According to Ms R.E., she refused this request and asked that the police be called because she had "heard from several Roma that they were beaten there." The ERRC/Liga Pro Europa witnessed the public guardians disappear when Mr G.K. returned to the scene with a camera. On the same day, the ERRC/Liga Pro Europa offered to assist Ms R.E. in filing a criminal complaint against the public guardians, which she refused, because she was afraid that the public guardians would take revenge on her. On May 16, 2002, the ERRC/Liga Pro Europa sent a letter to the Prosecutor's Office in Târgu Mureş, requesting that an investigation be undertaken in the case. On July 2, 2002, a representative of Liga Pro Europa and Mr G. K. gave statements at the Prosecutor's Office. On July 12, 2002, Liga Pro Europa was reportedly informed by the Târgu Mureş Prosecutor's Office that the case had been closed due to a lack of evidence. On September 13, 2002, Liga Pro Europa informed the ERRC that on July 22, 2002, it had filed a complaint with the Târgu Mureş Prosecutor's Office on the grounds that not all witnesses to the incident had been examined during the investigation, but had not received a response to its complaint. Incidents of violence against Roma in Romania are a regular occurrence and the involvement of state actors in such cases is reported with alarming frequency. Detailed information about such cases is available on the ERRC's Internet website at:

(Aven amentza, ERRC, Liga Pro Europa, Romanian Helsinki Committee, Romani CRISS)


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