Slovak Police demolish Roma settlement, infant reportedly hospitalized as a result
On Sunday, 16 June 2013, some of the Romani residents of a settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou, Slovakia allegedly damaged a police vehicle. On Wednesday, 19 June, police returned to their community in force.
According to a local nonprofit organization, the settlement was surrounded by 20 police cars and a special police unit wearing balaclavas started demolishing fixtures inside people's homes and making mass arrests. Police deny the allegations of brutality.
A police raid of this kind has not taken place in Slovakia for a long time. "The officers went from one dwelling to another, breaking down doors, smashing furniture and windows, and attacking individual residents in a very aggressive way without communicating with them in any reasonable manner whatsoever. People were injured. Some of our clients had to seek medical treatment, for which there are medical records," said Martin Vavrinčík of the nonprofit organization ETP Slovensko, which runs a community center in the settlement.
The victim in the worst condition is reportedly a six-week-old infant who was taken to hospital unconscious. Police, however, are rejecting allegations that the intervention by the unit from Košice was brutal and illegal, as well as allegations that it was done as revenge for the alleged demolition of a police vehicle.
"According to the district director of the Košice-venkov police force, the raid was a planned, targeted search for wanted persons and property," news server Pravda.sk has reported. The TASR press agency cited Jana Mésarová, spokesperson for the Košice Regional Police, as giving the following statement: "We consider the publicized information about alleged brutality or illegality to have an ulterior motive. We do not rule out the possibility that this is an effort by inadaptable citizens to prevent similar operations in future or an effort to receive some sort of financial compensation for fixtures and property that they damaged or depreciated themselves or that had been damaged prior to the operation. We also thoroughly deny that a minor suffered injuries as a result of the police operation, as is being reported by the media."
"A total of 63 detectives, riot officers and traffic police were deployed for this operation. During the operation a total of 15 people were detained, eight in order to verify their identities, five in order to document their commission of misdemeanors, and another two on suspicion of the felony crime of attacking a public official," Mésarová said.
Dramatic situations reportedly developed during the raid. One Romani resident is said to have attacked the officers with an axe. One officer involved managed to avoid the blow in time and got away with only light injuries. It is not yet clear what the situation was when that assault took place, whether the man was protecting the infant who had been attacked by the officers or whether the circumstances were otherwise.
"Force was used only against those who did not obey the police summons and who presented active resistance while being lawfully detained," Mésarová said. She said another operation at the same place could take place soon.
Local Romani residents consider the police operation to have been revenge. Their opinion is supported by the people working in the ETP organization's community center.
"We are asking whether all of the procedures necessary for house searches were undertaken, whether the police had a court order for this operation, and whether the force they used was in accordance with the law on the police corps, the penal code, and the law of criminal procedure," Vavrinčík told the Slovak media. The association is considering submitting the entire matter for investigation to the Slovak Interior Ministry Inspectorate.
The Korzár daily reports that Vavrinčík was involved in the initial incident that allegedly started this all. On the night of Saturday 15 June his association was having a party. Police officers reportedly visited the event twice to get them to "quiet down". The second visit was at 1 AM Sunday. By then the party was already over, but the officers entered the premises nonetheless. Reportedly a clash took place between the patrol and a local Romani man. "The local children and youth started throwing rocks at the officers and their vehicle, which was probably damaged," iDNES.cz quotes Vavrinčík as saying.
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