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Slovak Police charge four eyewitnesses to raid on Romani settlement with making false accusations

12.9.2017 7:48
Moldava nad Bodvou, Slovakia (PHOTO: Repro SME.sk/MECEM)
Moldava nad Bodvou, Slovakia (PHOTO: Repro SME.sk/MECEM)

Slovak newspaper Denník N reported on 7 September that the Slovak Police are pressing charges of making false accusations against the men who alleged that officers beat them up during a raid on a Romani settlement in eastern Slovakia four years ago. The officers were initially charged themselves with trespassing and abusing the power of a public official through the indiscriminate use of force bordering on brutality.

The Slovak Interior Ministry Inspectorate, however, eventually dropped all charges about the officers committing such errors during their intervention. NGOs and the Romani residents themselves had objected to the stunning nature of the police operation in Moldava nad Bodvou.

According to civic activists, 20 police vehicles and approximately 60 riot police wearing balaclavas arrived in the settlement in June 2013 and proceeded to burst into people's homes, demolishing their furnishings and assaulting the inhabitants, according to locals. The activists said the police intervention was disproportionate.

"The officers went from house to house busting down doors, breaking windows and furniture, and assaulting the inhabitants very aggressively without communicating with them in any reasonable way whatsoever. People were harmed, some of our clients had to seek medical treatment, we have the medical records," Martina Vavrinčíka of the ETP nonprofit, which runs a community center in the settlement, was quoted by news server iDNES.cz as saying immediately after the raid.

According to the Denník N news server, three more people have now joined the first eyewitness charged with making false accusations. The detectives' decisions to investigate them were delivered to them on 6 September.

Their attorney intends to file a complaint against the charges. The news server reports that during their interrogations four years ago the settlement inhabitants named the officer who beat them.

The victims were also able to positively identify the officer in a lineup. They also have medical reports about their injuries and photographs of themselves taken after the police raid.

Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák defended the police at the time, while Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico later criticized then-Ombudsperson Jana Dubovcová for voicing her own criticism of the police raid. She said the intervention did not meet the condition of being absolutely essential, which means that the fundamental rights and freedoms of the settlement inhabitants had been violated, news server Romovia.SME.sk reported.

"It's one thing to lie to journalists when they point their camera lenses at you and another thing when you are facing the criminal justice authorities. You should have told the truth," Kaliňák said on 7 September when he learned the Romani eyewitnesses had been charged.

The raid, according to settlement residents, was police payback for a previous incident. Several inhabitants of the settlement are said to have damaged a police vehicle during a previous visit by officers.

The police, of course, deny that version of events and claim the raid was conducted in order to seach for wanted persons and that it had been planned in advance. When the raid was over, officers took 15 persons in for questioning, seven for misdemeanors or on suspicion of committing a felony.

The police raid in Moldava nad Bodvou was not the only controversial Slovak Police action never to be captured on video. For quite some time there has been a discussion in the country about changing how the police Inspectorate functions, with the aim of enhancing its independence.

SELECTED PROBLEMATIC POLICE INTERVENTIONS AGAINST ROMANI PEOPLE IN SLOVAKIA

August 1999 - A 21-year-old Romani man dies after a police interrogation as a result of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. According to the official version of events, the man grabbed a detective's pistol and shot himself during interrogation at a police station in Poprad. The case made it to the European Court of Human Rights 11 years later thanks to the efforts of the young man's widow.

6 July 2001 - At a police station in the central Slovakian town of Revúca, several police officers beat a 51-year-old Romani man, Karol Sendrei, so brutally that he died as a result of his injuries. Seven police officers were charged in the case and released six months later. Four of them were then convicted and given sentences ranging from four to eight and a half years in prison.

21 March 2009 - Police officers in Košice detained six Romani boys aged 10 -15 after they allegedly injured and robbed an older woman. At the police station, under the threat of corporal punishment and a constant torrent of verbal abuse, the police forced the boys to kiss each other, to slap each other, and to strip naked. The scenes of humiliation were recorded using a mobile telephone. Nine police officers were fired in connection with the crime. On 27 February 2015 all 10 of the current or former police officers prosecuted in connection with the crime were acquitted.

9 May 2010 - After a riot unit intervention in Tornal'a during the annual celebrations there to honor the victims of the Second World War, a 46-year-old Romani man died of suffocation after police officers allegedly used a disproportionate amount of teargas against him. According to eyewitnesses, officers beat and kicked the man.

16 June 2012 - A former municipal police officer in Hurbanovo, southern Slovakia, shot a 44-year-old man, the man's son and the man's father-in-law with a weapon he was not licensed to use. Another son of the main victim survived a gunshot through the lung and his wife suffered a leg injury during the incident. The ex-officer said he wanted to "solve the problem of inadaptable inhabitants" by shooting them.

19 June 2013 - Ten police officers and riot police occupied the Romani settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou during the evening. Officers were allegedly looking for wanted persons there. Shortly after the police raid, however, occupants of the settlement claimed the officers broke into their homes for no reason, attacking children and women and reportedly using stun guns and tear gas.

2 April 2015 - Police officers allegedly beat up approximately 19 Romani people in the municipality of Vrbnica, Michalovce District, during a house-to-house search code-named "100". Medical attention was sought by 10 residents.

2 August 2015 - In the Romani settlement in the municipality of Rudňany, Spišská Nová Ves district, a conflict happened between a group of local residents and police officers. Each side describes the course of events differently. According to police, a man from the settlement called the emergency number because he was afraid for the life of his family and pregnant wife, who were being assaulted by other local residents. A woman from the settlement said a conflict between two brothers was the issue and that the officers who responded to the call began bursting into the homes of people who had nothing to do with the initial conflict over which they had been called. They began to drag the men out of their homes and to "pacify" them, which escalated the situation.

16 April 2017 - Slovak police officers in Zborov (Bardejov district) called there to address a shoving match intervened brutally. Several officers attacked children using their truncheons and one brutally pushed an elderly woman to the ground. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) published video footage of the brutal intervention taken by an eyewitness. Romani politician Peter Pollák, the former Rapporteur to the Government of the Slovak Republic on the Romani Community, said at a press conference on 25 May broadcast online through his Facebook page that four years after promises by Slovak Police Director Tibor Gašpar and Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák to require police officers to wear video cameras, the equipment is still not part of the police uniform. 

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Police, Razie, Slovensko, Soud



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