Arson attack resulting in death of a child in Russia

21 November 2005

The ERRC sent a letter of concern on November 17, 2005 to Mr. Vlamidir Tokarev, Procecutor of the Novosibirsk Oblast, copied to the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation and to the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Russian Federation, on the occasion of arson attacks on Romani houses in the town of Iskitim. The text of the letter is the following:

Honourable Prosecutor Tokarev,

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), an international human rights organisation, has been provided with information that in Iskitim, Novosibirsk oblast, on November 10, 2005 two Romani houses were burned. One Romani woman sustained severe injures and her child died three days later due to the arson attack.

This grave incident is the culmination of a wave of violence against Roma that has apparently remained without efficient law enforcement response to date. In particular, on February 14, 2005, approximately twenty individuals attacked and burned a number of Romani houses in that town. According to reports, the assailants managed to destroy entirely around ten dwellings in the course of the attack. After the incident, the Romani inhabitants were forced to leave their houses. Similar acts of violence had reportedly also taken place in January 2005 and in April 2005.

On 21 February 2005 the ERRC sent you a letter of concern about arson attacks on Romani houses in Iskitim with a copy to the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation. On 29 March 2005, we received a response from Mr Afanasiev, deputy prosecutor of Novosibirsk oblast, who promised to act on our concerns.

We have been informed by local human rights activists that a number of criminal investigations on violent incidents have been opened and seven perpetrators have been detained. However, it can be assumed that law enforcement bodies and the local municipality did little or nothing to prevent further arson attacks on Romani houses and racial violence against Romani people. While the authorities have taken some steps, we believe they have been inadequate as the attacks continued and, moreover, resulted in a death of a child.

Honorable Prosecutor Tokarev, regarding the legal obligations of competent authority in similar cases, we draw your attention to the recent case of Moldovan and others v. Romania, in which the European Court of Human Rights found Romania in violation of several provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights, in connection with a similar case. For example, the Court noted that the "obligation of the High Contracting Parties under Article 1 of the Convention to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention, taken together with Article 3, requires States to take measures designed to ensure that individuals within their jurisdiction are not subjected to ill-treatment, including ill-treatment administered by private individuals. Also the Court established that "the attacks were directed against the applicants because of their Roma origin.". In its ruling the European Court of Human Rights refered to Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (right not to be treated inhumanly), Article 8 (right to privacy), and Article 14 (non-discrimination).

In accordance with the decision of the Court, the Government of Romania was obliged to compensatory damages to 7 Romani victims in the amount of 238,000 Euro.

Violent acts by non-state actors against members of ethnic minorities also engage the provisions of a number of other international human rights law treaties by which the Russian Federation is bound, as well as provisions of the Constitution and relevant laws of the Russian Federation.

Honourable Prosecutor Tokarev,

The ERRC calls on your office to ensure that all perpetrators involved in the recent violent arson attacks on the homes of Roma in Iskitim are swiftly brought to justice, and that the victims be protected from further abuse. We urge you to use the power under Article 27 of the Law on Prosecutor's Office, as well as any other powers available to your office, to ensure protection for those Romani people who live in Iskitim.


Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director


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