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Police officers tried to extort money from Roma and frightened them with war

Kharkiv Community Law Center’s lawyers had to deal with an offending case of discrimination and unlawful conduct of local police officers. Lawyers defended Roma people together with representatives of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and journalists.

The Center’s lawyers received a call from Vovchansk city on 17 December 2014. The head of local social services department informed that a conflict happened in the center for IDPs. Twenty Roma, fleeing war, have found refuge in Vovchansk but were aggressed by local law enforcement bodies.

Three men without uniforms entered the Center for IDPs and went directly to Roma family. They presented themselves as policemen. Mykola Burlutskiy, head of local Community Law Center, explored this story further: one of the visitors appeared to be head of criminal investigations of Vovchansk. Others were also identified as representatives of police forces. They started threatening Roma and asked for 2000 UAH. They said that without money, Roma would have to return to conflict zone they fled before.

2000 UAH or back to war

Whentheheadoffamilyaskedforpolicemen’sdocuments they started beating him. Six family members were immediately arrested and taken to local police office. Policemen threaten to send Roma and their six little children back to conflict zone. The family was so frightened that decided to give money. However, they only managed to collect 600 UAH. After receiving money, policemen let them go.

Human rights defenders take action

Mykola Burlutskiyarrived as soon as he learned about this case. He took an observer from OSCE and a local representative of the Ministry of Interior Affairs with him.

Mykola Burlutskiyexplains that at first they visited the abused family. Then, they went to the local police office and tried to talk with the head of criminal investigations of Vovchansk. The men refused to acknowledge his guilt and started a fight with Mykola. Human rights defender called upon local journalists and asked them to give headlight to this story.

An ad hoc meeting was held by Vovchansk regional State administration on 22 December 2014. Among participants: head of local social services department, Roma family, human rights defenders, journalists and State officials.

As a result, the head of police office presented his excuses to Roma family and returned 600 UAH extorted by his subordinates. He also promised that the three policemen will be fired. Thanks to timely intervention of human rights defenders and Community Law Center’s lawyers, Roma family was protected from discriminating and offending attack by local police.

Additional Information: Community Law Centers which provide free legal aid for Roma people are established with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation within the framework of “Roma of Ukraine” programme initiative. You can learn more on the Centers network activities, basics and principles of work here: www.legalspace.org

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