“The authorities do not treat Roma like ordinary citizens” | World Bank News

Rights groups, experts, lawyers and several community members interviewed by Al Jazeera stated that during the European pandemic, the Roma are the largest and most marginalized minority group in Europe, and they face increasing security and police violence.

In several European countries such as Romania, North Macedonia and Slovakia, it is reported that as the world continues to respond to the coronavirus health crisis, racism, violence and abuse of state power have increased the number of Roma, women and children.

Al Jazeera interviewed a 20-year-old Roma who was shot and killed by police in Homochea, a village in northern Romania, in October last year. He was later arrested for assaulting the police.

“Initially, the argument about marriage turned into a quarrel between my client and his neighbors. His lawyer Eugen Ghita told Al Jazeera that locals and state police were called to the scene, and there was a group of people there. Gather to watch this battle.

“My client got out of the fight and tried to flee the scene. That was six shots by the state police without warning.”

The Roma, who requested anonymity, was hospitalized and suffered serious back injuries.

After three days in the emergency forces, he was arrested for beating a police officer.

He said: “He went straight from the hospital to the prison, and in the next six months, he did something he hadn’t done. Since March, he has been under house arrest at his parents’ home,” Gita said. .

“My client’s parents are in an unstable situation and have to find a job every day. This is a very difficult situation for everyone.”

Al Jazeera talked to the man via video call.

He said: “I don’t know if I will survive.” “If I am with the police, I will not trust them to help, because I suspect that they will treat me differently because I am Romani.”

Nico Remus, the chief inspector of the Romanian Vrancea County Police Inspectorate, said that the police officer acted in accordance with the law.

In Miskolc, Hungary, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, a Roman militant brought food donations [Bernadett Szabo/Reuters]

“Due to the unfair attack by the aggressor, our officers are immediately in danger. In this case, the authorities may use weapons to defend themselves.

But Kita insists that allegations of violence and unfairness against Roma are standard practice.

“The authorities do not treat the Roma like ordinary citizens. Whenever minor problems of the Roma are involved, the police often use disproportionate force and impose maximum penalties.”

One of these incidents has entered the European Court of Justice. In October 2017, police killed a 21-year-old man in Mures, a county in central Romania.

“This 21-year-old young man and his three nephews are between 10 and 14 years old and walk through the forest. The locals called the police and informed them that a Roma was stealing wood from the forest.

“When three minors watched, the police appeared and shot him to the head. One hour later, he died in the hospital. The Romanian court released the police officer and ruled that this was a manslaughter case.

The case is still pending in the European Court of Justice.

At the time of publication, the Romanian Ministry of Interior had not yet responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Romania has one of the largest Roma population in Europe.

A study by the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) this year shows that most of the alleged incidents of police violence against Roma in Europe occurred in Romania.

However, reports from Amnesty International and Roma rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the ERGO network and the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) also include reports of police misconduct against Roma in other parts of Eastern Europe.

ERRC spokesperson Jonathan Lee said that during the pandemic, countries including Romania, Serbia, Turkey, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Slovakia saw an unprecedented increase in the number of police complaints of misconduct.

“In the first half of April alone, we received seven cases of police misconduct from several European countries. [last year] Rather than before the pandemic, we only received one or two complaints a month. “Li said.

“Right now, excuses for violence are almost always related to COVID measures, such as someone not wearing a mask, gathering in a larger crowd or not showing up on them.”

A report issued by the ERRC in October 2020 included an incident in Slovakia in which a Roma was allegedly violently attacked by the police.

The man smoked in front of his home in Bánovcenad Bebravou in northwestern Slovakia, but the police stopped him because he was not wearing a mask.

ERRC talked to the victim’s nephew, who recalled the scene.

“They immediately pushed him to the car and twisted his arm. They pressed on his neck and my uncle was dead. Moreover, the personnel themselves did not wear the required masks correctly.”

Gipsy TV recorded the incident and was reported and reported by a Roman media in Slovakia.

Barbora Cernusakova, a human rights researcher at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera that she was concerned that law enforcement authorities might abuse their power over minorities during the lockdown and get away with impunity.

“The Roma communities in Bulgaria, Romania, France, Serbia, and Slovakia are under strict police control in 2020, including the deployment of the army. We have also obtained information on illegal use by the residents of several such communities by law enforcement officers. Information about force.”

According to the December 2020 amnesty report, a police officer beat five Roma children between the ages of 7 and 11 in Krompac in eastern Slovakia with a truncheon.

The organization said the four girls and a boy went to find wood and played in a previously permitted place when a policeman chased them and threatened to shoot them.

The children speak to Gypsy TV.

“When the police started chasing us and yelling at us, if we don’t stop, he will shoot us and we will cut the wood. After that, he defeated us,” one person said.

According to a report from Gypsy TV, the children were treated by local military doctors. But their parents did not receive medical records of their injuries.

The investigation of police misconduct is still ongoing.

The spokesperson for the Slovak Ministry of Interior, Petra Friese, told Al Jazeera in a written statement that the investigation is continuing.

Cernusakova of Amnesty International believes that the government must ensure that allegations of police brutality are promptly, fairly and thoroughly investigated.

She said: “The ruling agency should immediately formulate measures to mitigate the disproportionate impact that the blockade measures may have on marginalized groups.”

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