Slovak ombud says police raid on Roma settlement was unnecessary
The SITA agency reports that the Slovak Public Defender of Rights (the ombud), Jana Dubovcová, says the police raid on the village of Vrbnica in Slovakia this past April was not necessary and should never have happened. She has completed her investigation of the intervention.
The ombud says police violated the fundamental rights and freedoms of 15 people during the raid. She has contacted police head Tibor Gašpar and asked him to correct the situation as soon as possible.
She is also asking the Police President to investigate whether such raids are racially motivated, targeting Roma in Slovakia because of their ethnicity. She believes that is the case.
According to police statistics, the so-called "search action 100" that police performed in Vrbnica is customary police practice in the region. Since 2013 there have been no such interventions in the Bratislava Region, but there have been 259 in the Prešov Region.
"This is a disproportion that prompts serious doubts as to why such interventions are undertaken," the ombud said at a press conference. Police are only permitted to carry out such interventions in certain situations, but the ombud said that the Vrbnica case did not rise to that level.
"This was not a case of protecting the national interest or the public interest, nor of preventing crime or unrest," she explained. Police were looking for wanted persons in the Romani settlement, but they are only permitted to invade someone's home when they know for certain that a specific person is there.
"The police did not know where the wanted persons were staying, and because they did not know, they did not have the option of breaking into people's homes on the basis of that consideration," she said, adding that the legal requirements for such an intervention were not met. Police claimed after the intervention that they used no force against inhabitants of the settlement, but medical records and photographs from the scene of the raid show the opposite.
Dubovcová is reproaching police for not having produced a video recording of the intervention even though the Slovak Interior Minister instructed police to acquire such footage during such raids as long ago as 2007. A detective with the Slovak Interior Ministry's Inspectorate initiated a general criminal investigation on 9 April with respect to the Vrbnica raid on suspicion of abuse of the powers of a public official but has not yet charged anyone specifically.
SITA reports that the Slovak Interior Ministry's press department says that investigation is still ongoing. Mayor of Vrbnica Jaroslav Tokar says many Romani people were injured during the raid.
Inhabitants of the village claim police officers used disproportionate force during their house searches. They also complained that the raid swept up people who live respectably and have never broken the law.
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