Romani woman in Slovakia dies after beating

03 October 2000

According to Slovak and international media sources, on the night of August 20, 2000, three unknown intruders entered the house of the Baláž family, a Romani family living in the northern Slovak town of Žilina, and beat Mrs Anastazia Balážová and her daughters with baseball bats. The aggressors reportedly shouted racial insults during the attack. Mrs Balážová, a fifty-year-old mother of eight children, died in the hospital three days later, on August 23, of cerebral hemorrhage caused by blows to the head. Two of the children were also treated for injuries. According to Slovak Radio Twist , on September 21 police detained three suspects, but on the morning of September 22 released one of them, for lack of evidence. The remaining two men, Mr Marian Z., a 23-year-old man from Žilina, and Mr Petar Ch., a 19-year-old man from Rajec, have been charged with violations including racially motivated assault with the intent to cause bodily harm.

The brutal attack provoked shock and outrage locally and internationally, among the public and at the governmental level. Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda issued a statement deploring the violent act and promising to ensure "that this criminal act is investigated as soon as possible and the citizens of Slovakia are informed about the motives that induced it." Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Kukan, Deputy Foreign Minister Ján Figel, Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky and Slovak Ambassador in Washington D.C., Mr Martin Bútora, all issued statements condemning the attack, and other manifestations of racial discrimination and viol ence in Slovakia. On August 24, 2000, the Slovak parliament observed a minute of silence in memory of Mrs Balážová. On the international level, Christopher H. Smith, US Republican congressman and Chairman of the Helsinki Commission of the US Congress, con demned the murder, saying "This murder proves that much remains to be done in the fight against injustice towards Romanies." He called for governments to realise their responsibility to protect their Romani citizens. US Amabassador to the OSCE, Mr David T. Johnson, and Secretary General of the OSCE, Mr Jan Kubis, also issued statements condemning the attack. On August 30, the Romani Children and Youth Association of Žilina organised a demonstration in Žilina to protest racism against Roma. The protest was at tended by approximately 300 people, including several members of parliament, and proceeded peacefully, despite the presence of skinheads.

In another case, on August 28, 2000, Mr Ján Šuman, a Romani man, was reportedly shot and injured in his right-hand by a pellet gun while doing clean-up work as part of a public work scheme for the long-term unemployed in Prievidza, according to TASR. The case, which was being investigated by police for racial motive as of August 30, may, according to the Prievidza-based non-governmental organisation Romani Self-Government Chairman Marek Baláž, have been carried out by a skinhead supporter living in the vicinity, who has allegedly shot at Roma in the p ast. The fifty Roma participating in the work scheme, organised by the local Romani self-government, have reportedly been attacked by skinheads in the past.

(Associated Press, Central Europe Online, Nový čas , Radio Free Europe, Slovak Helsinki Committee, Slovak Spectator, SME, TASR)


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