Romania: 37-year-old Roma man alleges police brutality, European Court of Human Rights has found the state liable for more than 20 such violations since 2015
A man with facial bruises and a swollen eye whose children are crying and distressed. Roma community members in Romania have been sharing a video with such content through social media in recent days.
The 37-year-old Roma man from Piatra Neamț, located to the north of Bucharest, has alleged he was beaten by police officers. The reason for the beating, allegedly, was that when police stopped the taxi in which he was riding, he refused to identify himself.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has republished information about the allegations from Libertatea, a newspaper in Romania. A video clip shared on social media by Roma rights activist Ciprian Necula shows the man leaving a police station, unsteady on his feet, his shirt bloodied, with bruises on his face and a swollen eye, and his children waiting for him, crying and distressed.
The man later called the emergency 112 number and reported that he had been assaulted by police. Another video shows him being taken away in an ambulance.
According to the police, on Saturday, 18 June at around 20:30, the man was riding in a cab when he allegedly insulted both local and state police. The police then halted the taxi, and when the passenger allegedly refused to identify himself, “he was immobilised and taken to the Piatra Neamț Police Headquarters in order to establish his identity and take the necessary legal measures", after which he was fined RON 2,000 (EUR 404).
Libertatea reports that police will open an internal investigation into the incident. This is far from the first case of police brutality committed against a Roma community member in Romania.
The ERRC has issued its own report on similar cases happening in other EU Member States, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has found many credible allegations of police brutality in Romania, as well as a broken and ineffectual complaints system for victims. “There is nothing peculiar about police violence, which is a universal problem. What is peculiar about the Romanian situation is that the rules that currently apply could be seen as a charter for harassment. The system includes characteristics that make abuse easy and ensure that accountability will be the rare exception rather than the norm,” Alston said in his end-of-mission statement on Romania.
The Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in its 2019 report on Romania, also warned that Roma are frequently subjected to the use of disproportionate force by law enforcement there. The report underlines that since 2015, “the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered over 20 judgments condemning Romania for cases of police violence and the failure of the authorities to effectively investigate inhuman and degrading treatment by police, including racially motivated ill-treatment.”
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