Police Abuse of Roma in Russia

07 November 2002

ERRC field research, conducted in partnership with the Saint Petersburg-based non-governmental organisation Memorial and the Moscow-based Romani organisation Romano Kher revealed that, in many instances, police officers are the perpetrators of acts of violence and discrimination against Roma in Russia. Due to the underreporting of human rights violations against Roma in Russia, the ERRC believes the following to be a non-exhaustive list.

On June 19, 2002, Mr Graf Ivanovich Pavlov testified to the ERRC/Memorial that, on June 7 or 8, 2002, following the death of an OMON special forces officer, he was beaten by police officers while in detention in an apparent attempt to coerce him to admit he was responsible for the death of the officer, in the town of Pskov in north-western Russia. Mr Pavlov reported that police officers – two of whom he identified as Officer A.Y. and Officer S. – from Pskov and Porchov arrested him while he was waiting with his wife, Ms Nonna Alexandrovna Suchanova, at a bus stop in the village of Polonoe near Pskov. Mr Pavlov was reportedly handcuffed in front of Ms Suchanova and pushed into a police vehicle. Mr Pavlov claimed that Officers A.Y. and S. began to beat him immediately after he got in the car and accused him of the murder of the special forces officer. Mr Pavlov was then reportedly driven to a police station in Porchov and, once in the station, was beaten again while still handcuffed and with his legs tied. Throughout the assault, Mr Pavlov told the ERRC/Memorial that the officers tried to coerce him into confessing to the crime. When this did not work, the officers reportedly offered him alcohol and drugs, saying that if he gave a written confession they would help him secure a lesser sentence. Mr Pavlov refused to answer the questions of the officers without a lawyer present, but when Ms Suchanova hired one, the lawyer was reportedly not permitted to enter the police station to meet with Mr Pavlov. Mr Pavlov testified that, by decision of the local prosecutor, Mr Sergei Vladimirovich Gubin, he was held in detention until June 18, 2002, because he was not properly registered and he did not have his passport with him. However, Mr Pavlov stated that the police had confiscated his passport earlier. According to Mr Pavlov, throughout the ten days in detention, the officers at the station referred to him as "Gypsy face" and he was repeatedly threatened and beaten by police officers. One officer, Officer V.I., reportedly threatened to rape Mr Pavlov in the presence of other officers, one of them Officer A.N.K., during an interrogation. Mr Pavlov told the ERRC/Memorial that he did not file a complaint against the officers. As of November 8, 2002, ERRC/Memorial research revealed that there had been no police investigation in the case.

In another case, on June 25, 2002, Ms Raisa Ivanovna Polikova, a 54-year-old Romani woman, testified to the ERRC/Memorial that on May 25 or 26, 2002, police officers conducted an abusive raid on her house in Saint Petersburg in north-western Russia. Ms Polikova told the ERRC/Memorial that she asked the officers to show her a search warrant, but they did not. The officers proceeded to take her television and her family's passports and birth certificates, according to Ms Polikova. Ms Polikova stated that the officers took the television because she was unable to produce the receipt for it, even though she had purchased it in a store. Ms Polikova stated that she did not know where to go to secure the return of her family's possessions.

In other news, on June 20, 2002, Mr Vasili Anatolyevich Bogdanov, a 44-year-old Romani man, testified to the ERRC/Memorial, that on May 15 or 16, 2002, he was violently assaulted by three police officers in the town of Opochka in north-western Russia. According to Mr Bogdanov, he was arrested by three police officers while he was walking home from the home of his relatives, apparently on suspicion of having hidden drugs at his relatives. Mr Bogdanov reported that he was pushed into a police vehicle and driven to quarry. At the quarry, the officers reportedly demanded that Mr Bogdanov work as an informant for them and threatened to torture him if he refused. The officers then began to beat Mr Bogdanov until he agreed to work with them, according to his testimony. At this point, Mr Bogdanov reported that one of the officers took a can of gasoline from the police vehicle and threatened to pour it on him and set him on fire, stating: "Nobody will be able to recognise you. Only by your teeth will you be recognised." Mr Bogdanov stated that he promised to give information to the officers on May 25, 2002, and when he did not, he was again arrested by the same three officers on May 29, 2002, and taken to the police station. In a room in the station, Mr Bogdanov testified that he was kicked to the ground by the officers and beaten with truncheons while lying on the ground. The officers allegedly accused Mr Bogdanov of not having kept his promise to help them and told him that they had his promise on tape. Mr Bogdanov asked to hear the tape, and one of the officers brought over a book, placed it on his head and hit the book hard with a baseball bat. The officers again demanded that Mr Bogdanov help them. One of the officers continued to beat Mr Bodganov until he agreed to help them. At this point, Mr Bogdanov was released and the following day, he went to a hospital, where his wounds were registered. Mr Bodganov then reportedly filed a complaint against the officers with the local prosecutor, Mr Alexander Anatolevich Pashkov. According to Mr Bogdnov, the officers visited his soon thereafter and asked him to withdraw his complaint, suggesting that he might suffer negative consequences if he did not. Therefore, Mr Bogdanov withdrew his complaint, reportedly out of fear. Soon thereafter, on, Mr Bogdanov told the ERRC/Memorial that he was visited by Romani activists from Saint Petersburg who convinced him to file another complaint. Mr Bogdanov reported that, soon after the second complaint was filed, he received a telephone call in which the caller threatened him. Mr Bogdanov told the ERRC/Memorial that he also withdrew his second complaint.

In other news, on June 19, 2002, Mr Nikolai Bogdanov, a 42-year-old Romani man, testified to the ERRC/Memorial that he was beaten by two police officers while in detention in Pskov in north-western Russia. Mr Bogdanov reported that on May 14, 2002, he was arrested in Pskov because he did not have his "propiska." Propiska is a police registration for people released from prison. Mr Bogdanov was subsequently held in detention for ten days. According to Mr Bogdanov, while in detention, he was severely beaten by two police officers who appeared to be about 30 to 35-years-old. Mr Bogdanov reportedly sustained three broken ribs as a result of the police abuse. However, Mr Bogdanov stated that, after his ribs were broken, the officers threatened him and inflicted more physical abuse on him to force him to sign a written statement that he had broken his ribs when he fell down a staircase while drunk. Mr Bogdanov's father, Mr Nikolai Alexandrovich Kozlov, told the ERRC/Memorial that the police in Pskov had arrested and detained his son without reason. Mr Kozlov expressed the view that the Pskov police were "bad and violent." Mr Bogdanov did not file a complaint against the officers. As of November 8, 2002, ERRC/Memorial research revealed that there had been no police investigation in the case. The incident took place at the same police station in Pskov in which Ms Fatima Aleksandrovich, a 23-year-old Romani woman, died on May 24, 2002, under suspicious circumstances (additional information in the case is available at: Suspicious Death of a Romani Woman in a Russian Police Station ).

Testimony provided to the ERRC/Romano Kher, by several Roma who wished to remain nameless revealed that on April 2, 2002, seven police officers in two cars raided a neighbourhood densely populated by Roma in Saint Petersburg in north-western Russia. According to the Roma with whom the ERRC/Romano Kher spoke, police planned to detain two Roma, despite having not found any drugs in their possession, but did not because bribes were paid on the spot. According to the Roma interviewed, police officers openly demanded bribes in the amount of 5,000 US dollars (approximately 5,085 euros), threatening to otherwise "find" two grams of heroine in each detainee's pockets. The Roma also stated that the police used abusive language during the raid. The operation reportedly continued for nearly twenty-four hours. The Roma told the ERRC/Romano Kher that around twenty Roma living in the neighbourhood hid on the day in question in order to avoid police harassment.

In other news, a Romani family was "warned" by police and the local administration in the town of Egorjevsk approximately one hundred kilometres south-east of Moscow that "problems would arise if they continued to live there," according to testimony given to the ERRC/Romani Kher by 32-year-old Mr Jan Masalskij, a relative of the family, at the end of April 2002. According to Mr Masalskij, the family had moved to Egorjevsk about one month before the incident. One the day in question, they were reportedly warned by the police and local administration during a visit to the municipality for the purpose of registration. The local administration and police reportedly explained that problems would arise if they continued to live there. When the ERRC/Romano Kher travelled to the Egorev district on April 29, 2002, the Romani family had sold their house.

In another case, Ms Lidia R., a 51-year-old Romani woman from the town of Balashiha, approximately fifteen kilometres away from Moscow, testified to the ERRC/Romano Kher that at around 9:00 AM on March 24, 2002, police attempted to frame her and Ms Maria N. on drug charges at the Leningrad Train Station in Moscow. According to Ms R., she and Ms N. were walking along the train platform when two police officers approached them and asked the women to open their bags. When the Romani women opened their bags, one of the police officers allegedly dropped a handkerchief into Ms N.'s bag. According to Ms R., Ms N. immediately realised that the handkerchief contained drugs so she began to shout and threw the handkerchief out of her bag. One of the police officers reportedly then hit Ms N. hard in her chest once with the butt of his gun. Ms R. stated that the officer placed the handkerchief in Ms N.'s bag again and the officers took both women to the nearest police station in a police vehicle. Ms R. reported to the ERRC/Romani Kher that at the police station, one of the police officers ordered her to open her bag, using abusive language, and placed a small packet of drugs into it, explaining that they were going to search the women in front of witnesses. Ms R. told the ERRC/Romani Kher that she was afraid of a similar blow to her chest because she had recently undergone heart surgery. One of the officers allegedly stated that Ms R. could go home if she paid the officers 15,000 US dollars (approximately 15,300 euros). After some negotiations, Ms R. reportedly managed to bring the amount down to 6,000 US dollars (approximately 6,120 euros). According to Ms R., she was allowed to make a telephone call to her family and she explained the situation to her husband. Ms R.'s family reportedly had 2,000 US dollars (approximately 2,040 euros) in savings and her 53-year-old husband allegedly borrowed the remaining 4,000 US dollars (approximately 4,080 euros). Ms R. stated that she was released at about 5:00 PM after her husband brought the money and Ms N. was charged in accordance with Article 128 (4) of the Russian Criminal Code, for drug trafficking. The case went to trial on May 17, 2002. Again, the case was reportedly decided with the help of a bribe paid to an officer of the court who promised to deliver the money to the judge. Ms N.'s case was reportedly decided out of court. Romano Kher told the ERRC that a bribe is the single realistic way for Roma in Russia to avoid an undeserved punishment and that there are many similar cases, most of which go unreported, mainly because Roma are afraid of further atrocities. Further information on police abuse and harassment of Roma in russia is available on the ERRC's Internet website at http://www.errc.org/publications/indices/russia.shtml
(ERRC, Memorial, Romano Kher)


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