Slovak prosecutor investigates police for brutality in raid on Romani settlement
The Slovak Prosecutor-General has ordered an investigation into a June raid by police officers on a Romani settlement in eastern Slovakia that has been criticized by NGOs and Romani residents for its use of force. The prosecutor's statement implies that local police who participated in the intervention could face criminal prosecution.
Police have defended their actions and previously found that no errors had been committed during the maneuver. Activists say the police raid on a settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou involved several dozen members of a special police unit who undertook house searches there.
Many eyewitness testimonies say the police behaved aggressively and assaulted several local residents who had to seek medical treatment as a result. International human rights organizations Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre have called for an investigation of the intervention.
The Slovak Interior Ministry's Inspectorate reviewed the case in the summer and found no wrongdoing on the part of the police officers. The public prosecutor has now taken a diametrically opposed position on what happened during the raid.
"The Prosecutor-General has come to the conclusion that there is reason to begin a criminal prosecution," spokesperson Andrea Predajňová said without giving further details. The Interior Ministry responded that it respects the Prosecutor-General's procedures.
The ministry also insists that initial reports of dozens of persons, including a child, being injured during the raid were never confirmed. Police did not make a video recording of the intervention.
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák previously stood up for the officers and called their use of force against seven people from the settlement justified. The Slovak media reported testimony from Romani residents claiming the officers were taking revenge over damage to a police car several days prior, allegedly by inhabitants of the settlement.
Police deny that version of events and claim the raid was planned in advance to search for wanted persons. Officers took 15 people in for questioning, seven of whom were suspected of having committed crimes or misdemeanors.
Eyewitness testimony of the raid
On the Sunday before the raid, Romani people from the settlement allegedly damaged a police vehicle. On Wednesday, 19 June 2013, police officers returned to the settlement.
A local nonprofit organization says 20 police cars surrounded the settlement and special police units in balaclavas jumped out of them, taking people into custody en masse and demolishing the interiors of several homes. "Police officers went from one dwelling to the next, breaking doors and windows, smashing furniture, and attacking individuals very aggressively without communicating with them in any reasonable way. People were injured and some of our clients had to seek medical treatment, there are medical reports," said Martin Vavrinčík of ETP Slovakia, which runs a community center in the settlement.
An unconscious six-week-old baby who was taken to the hospital was in the worst state of all. The Czech News Agency reported that the child was released from hospital on Monday, 24 June.
The deputy director of the hospital in Košice said the infant was in good condition upon release. Romani activists say the newborn was injured when police officers used teargas during the raid.
The Slovak daily Sme reported that police have denied those allegations. A total of 63 officers from the criminal, riot and traffic police units were deployed during the raid.
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