Police Action

10 July 2002

According to several Russian media sources, during the first week of March 2002, Russian police launched an action entitled "Operation Tabor". Under "Operation Tabor", Romani settlements throughout Russia were raided by police who checked the identity papers of the residents. Fingerprints and personal data were taken from Roma who lacked proper documents or were arbitrarily thought to be suspicious by police. The information collected on Roma was reported to have been included in a special police database. It was also reported that non-Roma who housed and supported Roma were also checked by police. In Russia, "tabor" is the word for a Romani camp or a large Romani settlement.

The ERRC conducted field research in the town of Pskov in northern Russia on March 19-25, 2002. According to testimony given to the ERRC by Ms Tamara Pavlovna Vasiljeva and Ms Galina Alexandrovna Dmitrieva, both Romani women, during the searches, Roma had not been allowed to invite independent witnesses, while police provided their own witnesses. Also according to Ms Vasiljeva and Ms Dmitrieva, during such searches, police officers planted money and drugs in their houses, which were subsequently found and confiscated.Similar raids and searches have been reported from other towns and cities of Russia.

Most national newspapers, TV and radio programmes supported the police operation with intensive anti-Romani propaganda, daily reporting about Romani criminals who cheat naive Russian citizens, rob them, and entice them to become drug addicts. Announcements were made on national and local television, on the radio and in the press in Russia to the effect that authorities are increasing the fight against drug trafficking. In these reports, Roma were repeatedly named as the main perpetrators of this criminal activity, and frequently "drug dealer" and "Gypsy" appear to be used synonymously. For instance, in a report about the fight against drug trafficking in the KrasnojarProvince of Russia, broadcast during the evening news on the state channel RTR on February 25, 2002, it was reportedly explicitly stated, without presenting any corroborative evidence, that Roma of the city of Krasnojar (apparently all Roma of Krasnojar) are to blame for these crimes. As an illustration of the statement, the family of an alleged Romani drug dealer was shown – a person who had apparently not yet been sentenced for any crime and whose innocence should therefore have been presumed, in accordance with international norms, notably Article 14(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The broadcast showed not only the alleged drug dealer, but also his children and grandchildren. An approximately three-year-old Romani girl was shown, the link between drug trafficking and very small children remaining entirely unelucidated.



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