European Roma Rights Centre gives legal aid to victims alleging Slovak police brutality
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has issued a press release announcing it is providing legal aid to Romani people who allege they were repeatedly physically assaulted by police officers in the village of Milhosť in eastern Slovakia. The incident happened on 23 July, when the officers first arrested and physically attacked two Romani men in a local pub and then later physically assaulted their female relatives in their homes.
The international organization is prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The police had been called to the scene of a brawl in the pub involving its owner and the two young Romani men, who were detained.
After being pacified by the intervening officers, both of the Romani youths were repeatedly attacked while being driven to the police station, according to the ERRC. "They took us into the car and starting hitting us all the way there," one of the victims said.
According to the ERRC, the youths allege they were then forced to stand with their foreheads against a wall at the police station while the officers continued to physically assault them. One alleges the police also spat into his mouth.
The youths say they demanded medical treatment but that it was denied them, and after being transferred between several different police stations, they were eventually released. In the meantime, the mother and aunt of one of the detained Romani men, after learning that they had been arrested and would be kept overnight, went to the pub where the incident had occurred to find out what happened.
A conflict arose between the detainees' relatives and others in the pub. When the women arrived back home, several police patrols were waiting outside their homes.
Police officers then entered and began physically attacking the families. “The cops came looking for us in the courtyards, they found me and grabbed my hair and pulled me out onto the bridge, where they started beating me,” said the sister-in-law of one of the detained Romani boys.
During the raid a handgun was allegedly pushed against her forehead by one of the officers. Another officer physically assaulted and racially abused a Romani man who was an onlooker.
A witness to those attacks contacted police and was told by the operator that an additional police patrol would be sent out, but no other patrol arrived at the crime scene to investigate. Three female relatives of the two Romani men involved in the pub incident were then detained and brought to the police station in Čaňa, where they were locked in the men’s toilets and the warehouse instead of being taken to the interrogation rooms, which are normally covered by CCTV cameras.
The women suffered further violence at the police station before being released at around 4:00 PM on 24th July. “It is no secret that the police in Slovakia regularly brutalize ... Roma communities. We have brought this to light publicly on several occasions,” said ERRC President Ðorđe Jovanović.
“We are getting tired of hearing excuses and observing practices which mean that police officers get away with these crimes when the investigation finds ‘no wrongdoing’. The ERRC is prepared to take this case, and others, to the European Court of Human Rights if the Slovak Police Inspectorate is once again unable to carry out an effective investigation which is not tainted by its own racist bias against Romani citizens.”
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