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Romani Union of Slovakia: Police brutality against children must be investigated by independent commission, the ministry could be biased

29.4.2020 15:42
On Monday, 27 April 2020, a police officer is said to have used a truncheon to beat five young children in the Romani settlement of Krompachy, which is currently in quarantine because of COVID-19. According to the children's testimony, the officer is even said to have threatened to shoot them. (PHOTO:  Press TV, Facebook, collage:  Romea.cz)
On Monday, 27 April 2020, a police officer is said to have used a truncheon to beat five young children in the Romani settlement of Krompachy, which is currently in quarantine because of COVID-19. According to the children's testimony, the officer is even said to have threatened to shoot them. (PHOTO: Press TV, Facebook, collage: Romea.cz)

The Romani Union of Slovakia has expressed its opinion of the case in Krompachy in which a police officer is said to have beaten young children from a Romani settlement with a truncheon and threatened to shoot them. The group is calling for the incident to be investigated by an independent commission because there are concerns that the Interior Ministry Inspection Authority could be biased.

According to the Slovak wire service TASR, the Interior Ministry has stated that the officer's superiors investigated the matter shortly after the intervention and that the Inspection Authority is already reviewing the case. Andrea Bučková, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, and MEP Peter Pollák, who is a member of the Crisis Team created by the Government in associaton with the pandemic, have both said that they consider the police intervention against the children to have been disproportionate and substandard.

"Attacking children is unacceptable. Yesterday I filed a motion with the Inspection Authority of the Interior Ministry to investigate this brutal beating by police officers who struck defenseless children in Krompachy under quarantine. It is absurd for anybody in uniform to even raise a hand against children. It's unprofessional and what's more, it's illegal," the MEP said.

The Slovak National Center for Human Rights has called on Police President Milan Lučanský to investigate the case. The children were meant to remain inside the area under quarantine but were spotted outside it by police.

The police officer was said to have been performing a patrol of the settlement along with members of the Army. When he saw that the children were far away from their residences, he is said to have assaulted them.

The officer is said to have threatened the children with his service weapon and to have beaten them with his truncheon, according to the Romani Union of Slovakia. "We ask that this incident be investigated by an independent commisson because we no longer have faith that the Inspection Authority of the Interior Ministry will be impartial. More than once, repeatedly, it has happened that similar interventions have ended up, after investigations by the Inspection Authority, with the victims themselves being accused of wrongdoing and with the police intervention being defined as authorized," the Romani Union representatives said.

The Romani Union is asking for a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič, Slovak Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (both with the governing OĽaNO party) and the Public Defender of Rights, Mária Patakyová, to discuss the case. The Plenipotentiary is calling on police officers to be responsible when they consider using coercive means as part of their policing powers.

"Personally I am sorry the number of controversial police interventions against Romani community members is increasing. I believe that in Krompachy the police officers lost control of themselves in their behavior toward the Romani children, because such interventions do not contribute to increasing trust in the police," the Plenipotentiary said.

The Office of the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities is planning to figure out the most effective ways to collaborate with police representatives in order to prevent tense situations from arising and to increase Romani people's faith in the police. The Slovak National Center for Human Rights is calling on Lučanský to investigate the facts in the matter of the beating of the children and to take the necessary measures should it be confirmed that the police did take the approach reported in the settlement.

"Neither the current situation nor the state of emergency gives the authorities a mandate to so seriously violate citizens' human rights and dignity by disproportionately using force and violence," said Tomáš Földes, the interim manager of the center. He added that the quarantine measures in the Romani communities have been set up in such a way as to be very fragile.

The Slovak Government Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality said it was disturbed to see that violations of the human rights of many groups and individuals are currently happening during the state of emergency. The council is calling on the Government and other bodies and institutions to consistently uphold human rights and freedoms during this extraordinary situation.

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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