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Slovakia: Brutal police intervention against Romani children, elderly woman

24.5.2017 20:31

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has published video footage capturing a brutal intervention by Slovak police officers in Zborov (Bardejov district) that happened during the early evening of 16 April 2017, when police were called to address a shoving match among Romani residents. Several officers can be seen attacking children using their truncheons, and one brutally pushes an elderly woman who is just calmly standing apart, pushing her to the ground.

The police officers can be seen in the video footage repeatedly striking people with truncheons who are not making any active show of resistance to them. According to ERRC sources, three people, including a minor, had to seek medical aid after the police intervention.

Among those harmed, according to the ERRC, is a person living with disabilities and a person with heart disease. Moreover, officers blocked the access road when emergency medical services were called, the ERRC has discovered.

"The first police patrol arrived between 17:00 and 18:00. After some time, another six uniformed officers and two plainclothes detectives also arrived. A little boy was harmed during the police intervention and a man approximately 40 years old was pushed to the ground by them, despite the fact that his relatives informed the officers that he was suffering from a heart problem. The elderly woman who can be seen being shoved to the ground in the video also has health problems," a witness told the ERRC.

The eyewitnesses who recorded the entire incident were visited that same evening by Slovak Police force members who told them to delete all of their footage of the incident. The person who provided the video to the ERRC refused to do so, saying: "What we recorded happened in a public location, why should I delete it?"

The police patrol was called after a shoving match broke out among Romani residents. According to the ERRC , the police response to the situation was to draw their truncheons, sparking fear among the inhabitants, and to beat the children, men and women at the scene.

"Anybody who wanted to express themselves about what was going on was beaten," an eyewitness described the incident. Slovak Police President Tibor Gašpar told Slovakia's public broadcast television station RTVS that "Several of these interventions seem obviously disproportionate to me. I have sent the video to the Inspectorate, which will immediately begin a proceedings so the entire intervention will be investigated."

Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák had previously announced a plan to increase the number of police force members in localities with bigger numbers of Romani inhabitants. "If this is the type of police work we can anticipate, will Romani people be any safer if the number of police officers is increased? We do not want more officers whose idea of doing a good job is to beat up the people in these localities," said ERRC President Đorđe Jovanović.

The ERRC has compared the recent statistics on criminality among the regions where the minister plans to increase the number of police units. "We have ascertained that while the areas where police unit numbers are slated to be increased have not reported a higher degree of criminality, they are areas with big Romani populations. The Slovak Interior Ministry, however, rejects the idea that there is a racial basis to their choice of localities, even though these places are inhabited by Romani people to a great extent," the ERRC says in its statement on the issue.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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