Albion Monitor /News

Editor's note: For additional information on the persecution of the Roma people, see Caravans of Fire" in a previous edition of the Albion Monitor]

Gypsies Under Police Attack, Report Says

A human rights group has issued a report stating that police brutality has replaced the pattern of mob violence and human rights abuses against the so-called "Gypsy" people of Romania and Hungary.

The 62-page report, "Sudden Rage at Dawn: Violence Against Roma in Romania," reports that Romani communities throughout Romania are now the target of police violence, and fundamental human rights are routinely violated.

Police claim that raids are a "necessary preventive action" to combat mob violence

Before the fall of Communism, the report says that Roma people were often the target of racial assults by Romanian or Hungarian villagers. Angry mobs would frequently also attack neighboring houses of Roma, and sometimes entire Roma communities would be burned and the residents dispersed.

Today, the report says, mob violence has been replaced by systematic harassment by law enforcement officials. According to the report's authors, violence against the Roma is now officially sanctioned.

The report states that the Romanian government recognizes the problem of violence against Roma and starting in 1994, began initiatives to confront it. A new institution, the Department of Prevention, was created within the Romanian General Inspectorate of the Police to develop strategies to prevent community violence.

But the report by the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) says that those strategies were aimed at preventing the Roma from committing crimes, so that the majority population will not be tempted to take the law in their own hands. The core issue of community violence was defined as the need to deal with the Roma minority rather than with the majority population.

According to the report, Romanian law enforcement officials claim that the current raids are a "necessary preventive action" to combat mob violence against the Roma.

The Department of Prevention told the ERRC that raids are not aimed at Romani communities more than at any other group, since the only criterion used in selecting a target community for a raid is the frequency of lawbreaking. Raids have, however, not been conducted against any other ethnic group than the Roma.

Police shootings of Romani have also increased

The report notes similarities in victims' and witnesses' statements demonstrate a systematic pattern of abuse. Police arrive in large numbers, heavily armed and in the company of dogs. In the raids, often at dawn, police do not present warrants or explain the reasons for their actions. They break into Romani homes, force residents out of bed, and bring them to the police station for interrogation.

In addition to police raids, the ERRC observed that shootings of Romani by police is also on the rise. Separate incidents in April, May, and June left two Romani dead and others injured. In the June incident, police opened fire on a group of Roma in the village of Coltau in northern Romania, seriously injuring two of them, one of them so badly that his leg had to be amputated. Numerous other incidents of law enforcement officials using firearms against Roma have occurred in Romania the last 12 months, according to the report, making it difficult to regard such events as isolated cases.

The report concludes with almost a dozen recommendations to the Romanian government, including investigtion of police brutality, an affirmative action program to bring Romani into the police force, review of Romanian civil rights laws, and free legal services to disadvantaged groups such as Roma.

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Albion Monitor December 21, 1996 (

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