Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Dr. Dimitrina Petrova
Part 2 of Submitted Testimony -

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[continued from part one]

As nationalist-extremist movements have been gaining increasing popularity in Russia, violent attacks on Roma by skinheads, Cossacks and other formal and informal groups have been reported with disturbing frequency. In its recent Concluding Observations on Russia, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has noted with particular concern “reports that some Cossack organizations have engaged in acts of intimidation and violence against ethnic groups. According to information received by the Committee, these organizations, which function as paramilitary units and are used by local authorities to carry out law enforcement functions, enjoy special privileges, including State funding.”

Examples of recent cases involving racially motivated violence against Roma follow:

On the afternoon of October 5, 2003, three racist hooligans attacked Mr. Alexander Klein, a Romani activist, near a marketplace in Pskov, northwestern Russia, according to the St. Petersburg-based non-governmental organisation Memorial. The attackers reportedly insulted Mr. Klein, calling him "black ass", then beat him, breaking his fingers and causing abrasions and bruising all over his body. The violence was reportedly stopped by a plain-clothed police officer. The latter refused to take the attackers into custody but offered to take Mr. Klein home. Soon thereafter, Mr. Klein went to a local hospital for medical treatment but was refused because the doctor was reportedly in a "bad mood" and did not want to assist him. After Mr. Klein returned home, a group of men visited his home and threatened him with violence should he file a complaint with the police. Mr. Klein did not lodge a complaint out of fear, according to Memorial.

In another incident, during a September 21, 2003 skinhead attack on a Romani camp in St. Petersburg, a 6-year-old Gypsy (Lyuli) girl from Tajikistan was killed and a 5-year-old and an 18-month-old were seriously injured, according to the St. Petersburg daily newspaper The St Petersburg Times of September 30, 2003. Police spokesperson Mr. Mark Nazarov was quoted in the daily as having stated that the skinheads, armed with an axe, a knife and a metal rod, ambushed two women and the children in front of a nearby store. The attack was reportedly part of ongoing harassment by skinheads of about 45 Gypsies (Lyuli) from Tajikistan settled near the Dachnoye railway station. The skinheads reportedly ordered the Lyuli to pay them money or leave the area. On November 9, 2003, Memorial informed the ERRC that police were investigating several individuals on suspicion of murder and racial hatred, in accordance with Articles 105(1) and 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, respectively. Mr. Nazarov also reported that police had detained the Gypsy camp residents after the attack. Some of them were reportedly sent by train to Arkhangelsk on September 28, 2003, according to the daily. Memorial estimated the number of Lyuli expelled from the city during the action to be approximately 50 persons. At the end of October 2003, a number of Russian human rights organizations, including Memorial, sent a letter to St Petersburg Mayor Valentina Matvienko, expressing concern about the incident and racist attacks against foreigners generally, as well as the failure of police to investigate such crimes. They called on Mayor Matvienko to take all measures possible to prevent further abuse. On December 17, 2003, Memorial announced that several skinheads had been charged in connection with the incident.

Earlier, on July 11, 2003, a cemetery in the city of Volgograd in southwestern Russia was desecrated, according to the Volgograd region daily newspaper Oblastnye Vesti. A number of Romani graves were destroyed. The daily reported that local police suspected a group of skinheads to have perpetrated the offence. When Mr. Yakov Yegorov, a Romani man from Volgograd, reported the incident to the local police, he was advised that even if the perpetrators were to be arrested, they would likely be charged only with vandalism.

According to the Volgograd-based Romani organization Asotsiatsia Tsygan, on May 10, 2002, at approximately 5 PM, seven Roma were brutally attacked by approximately thirty Cossacks in the town of Novopavlovsk in the Stavropol region (kray) in southern Russia. At approximately 10 AM on May 3, 2002, in the town of Novopavlovsk, Mr. Nikolay Gudenko, an 18-year-old Romani man, accidentally hit the wheel of a parked car while riding his bicycle. Despite apologies offered by Mr. Gudenko, the owner of the car, Mr. V. Grachov, initiated a fight with him, which ended with the owner of the car being knocked out. Subsequently, Mr. Grachov sought assistance from a local Cossack leader to organize revenge. According to Asotsiatsia Tsygan, on May 10, 2002, local Cossacks took revenge on the seven-member family of Mr. A.P. Kazachenko, who had not been involved in the argument or the ensuing fight. Asotsiatsia Tsygan reported that around 30 Cossacks attacked Mr. A. P. Kazachenko and his family in their garden outside their home, allegedly using baseball bats, rubber sticks, rakes and pitchforks. Simultaneously, members of the gang allegedly blocked all roads leading to the Kazachenko family house, which created an obstacle for the police who had been called by neighbors soon after the attack started. On May 11, 2002, neighbors reported to Asotsiatsia Tsygan that approximately five police officers had arrived at the scene about 10 minutes after being called, but seemed reluctant to intervene. According to Asotsiatsia Tsygan, the attack lasted for approximately a quarter of an hour. By the time the police managed to get to the house, the physical assault had ended and the officers witnessed only verbal insults. At approximately 5:15 PM, the police reportedly called an ambulance, which arrived 10 minutes later.

According to Asotsiatsia Tsygan, all six members of the Kazachenko family were taken to hospital with various degrees of bodily injury. Seventeen-year-old Ms. L.G. reportedly sustained the most serious injuries, with bruises all over her body and a laceration on her shoulder from a rake. The other victims also reportedly sustained bruising and injuries of various degrees, and some of the Roma reportedly lost teeth in the attack. Medical examinations were reportedly carried out at the hospital on all members of the Kazachenko family to establish the injuries sustained. In the days following the incident, Asotsiatsia Tsygan urged the municipality of Novopavlovsk, the Prosecutor of Stavropol County and the Commissioner of the President of the Russian Federation for the Southern Federal Region to take measures to identify the perpetrators of the attack and provide legal remedy to the victims. According to Asotsiatsia Tsygan, the organization received a telephone call from the police, requesting that no further inquiries or complaints be issued. No one has been charged in connection with the case.

On March 21, 2002, Mr. M.M., a Roma from the town of Peri, St. Petersburg region, told researchers from the ERRC and the human rights organization Memorial that racist skinheads had frequently assaulted the local Romani community and harassed its members. According to Mr. M.M., Romani women appeared to be the primary targets of these attacks. Skinheads typically waited on the platform of the local railway station for Romani women to arrive. When the women stepped down from the train, the skinheads attacked them with spray canisters filled with tear-gas. The attackers usually wore caps that have painted on them what Mr. M.M. called “the sign of death”. The skinheads frequently accompanied their assaults with abusive language and threats such as “death to Gypsies”. Reportedly graffiti with similar messages could also be frequently seen in the area. According to Mr. M.M., skinheads had severely beaten a pregnant woman from the community. Mr. M.M. also told researchers that “the police is on their side; when they beat us, nothing happens – but should we fight back against the abuse, they intervene.”

One particularly alarming development has been the growth of groups whose primary activities include, under the banner of "waging a war against drugs", targeting minorities for vigilante human rights abuse. As a result of a wave of media action promoting a link between "Gypsies" and drug-related crime, Roma are particularly targeted for abuses including the invasion of privacy, arbitrary and wholesale destruction of property and physical abuse. In one particularly disturbing case, the Ekaterinburg-based non-governmental organization City without Drugs has openly advocated killing Roma who deal in drugs, as well as imprisoning and/or evicting all "Gypsies". The Roma are being portrayed as alien “invaders”, along with "persons of Caucasian nationality" and Tajiks, all of whom are deliberately “killing our children” through causing drug addiction. The group has repeatedly undertaken vigilante actions including the wholesale destruction of a house belonging to a Roma whom they have accused of selling narcotics. The media have publicized broadly and often sympathetically these activities, while the group’s Internet website: http://www.nobf.ru/index2.html contains overt insults of Roma. The protection provided to Roma by authorities against human rights violations is often inadequate or entirely unavailable. The Russian government has undertaken nothing to reduce anti-Romani sentiment or to stem the tide of vigilante anti-Romani human rights abuses.


6. Discrimination of Roma in the Criminal Justice System

The ERRC has documented cases revealing a plethora of gross violations of fundamental rights of Roma by the organs of the criminal justice system in Russia. Roma have suffered discrimination both in the capacity of defendants and as victims of crime.


6.1. Denial of Fair Trial

In a number of instances, criminal investigation against Roma and subsequent trial proceedings have been carried out in a manner incompatible with international and domestic human rights standards of fair trial. Roma have been sentenced on the basis of controversial and inconclusive evidence. Courts have admitted evidence obtained in violation of procedural rules. Courts have ignored defense’s requests for verification of evidence where allegations existed that evidence had been fabricated. Romani defendants have been denied essential due process rights such as the right to legal defense, the right to use an interpreter, the right to examine witnesses, etc. Romani defendants have been subjected to pre-trial detention more often and for longer periods of time than non-Roma, and received disproportionately severe sentences.

The frequent use by criminal justice system officials of offensive language referring to the Romani ethnic background, which the ERRC has documented in the course of its monitoring in Russia, indicates that the conduct of criminal proceedings against Roma is not free from racial bias. Moreover, certain statements by judicial officials undermine the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence with respect to Romani defendants. For example, the court verdict of Natalia Pachkovskaya, who was found guilty of theft by the Kunchevskyi district court of Moscow on October 20, 2003, reads: “Natalya Pachkovskaya has been able to commit crime, and she committed the crime" . In another instance, when representatives of the Moscow-based Romani organization Romano Kher were trying to discover the whereabouts of two Romani individuals from Lyubertsi, Moscow region, who had been taken into police custody, the police officer on duty allegedly told them that it was "one hundred percent certain that the Roma would end up in prison”. The police officer further stated that he did not care about the Russian Constitution and that "no Gypsy will live free".

A summary of the most striking cases of denial of fair trial to which Roma have recently been subjected in Russia, as documented by the ERRC, follows:

On March 4, 2004, the district court of Promyshlenny district of Smolensk sentenced Mr. Roman Kozlov, 26, Romani man from Smolensk, to 14 years imprisonment for murder. The decision of the court was appealed on March 4, 2004 by the attorney, Mr. Suhih, before the regional court of Smolensk. On May 25, the regional court of Smolensk repealed the decision of the first instance court and ordered the first instance court to try the case again with a new jury.

The case related to a killing in 2002 in Smolensk. On April 30, 2002, an unknown person stabbed Ms. Polyakova to death and seriously injured her son, Mr. Igor Polyakov, as well as Mr. Mikhail Tarnavskiy, in the house of the Polyakovs in Smolensk. On September 28, 2002, Mr. Tarnavskiy identified Mr. Roman Kozlov as the perpetrator of the murder. Before the court, Mr. Tarnavskiy stated that prior to the identification procedure he had been given Mr. Kozlov’s photo by the police and this fact had influenced him to identify Mr. Kozlov. At a later stage of the investigation, Mr. Tarnavskiy retracted his initial testimonies and declared that he had made a mistake when he identified Mr. Kozlov as the perpetrator of the murder. In written statements submitted to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Russian Federation, and the media Mr. Tarnavskiy declared that Mr. Kozlov had not committed the murder. In a letter to Mr. Lukianov, Russian MP, Mr. Tarnavskiy stated that he had been subjected to psychological pressure and harassment by the police and the prosecution organs once he had decided to state that he had made a mistake when he identified Mr. Kozlov as the perpetrator of the murder. He filed complaints to the district and regional prosecutors’ offices of Smolensk pertaining to his victimization by police and prosecutors.

Furthermore, Mr. Igor Polyakov, the second witness --who himself subsequently died of his wounds inflicted by the perpetrator -- in his testimony provided on May 1, 2002, shortly before his death, did not identify Mr. Kozlov as the offender. According to the description provided by Mr. Polyakov, the offender's name was "Sasha" and the offender was well known to Mr. Polyakov. According to Mr. Polyakov, the perpetrator was between 30 and 40 years old, while Mr. Roman Kozlov was 26 at the time of the killing.

In addition, an eyewitness confirmed that on the day of the murder, he and Mr. Roman Kozlov had been fishing in a nearby village. The prosecution did not refute Mr. Kozlov's alibi.

From the case file, it is evident that Mr. Kozlov’s fingerprints were found on a glass jug in the house approximately one year after the murder, following an order from the prosecution dated April 7, 2003. According to an expert invited by the defense, fingerprints cannot be discovered one year after they have been left on an object, unless the object is examined in a special laboratory test. No such test was undertaken during the instant case.

In addition to the controversial evidence presented by the prosecution as purportedly attesting to the guilt of Mr. Kozlov, the criminal investigation was thwarted by numerous procedural violations, but the defense lawyer’s complaints about these violations were ignored. For example, on June 16, 2003, prior to the court hearing scheduled on that date, Mr. Tarnavskiy, who had been subpoenaed to testify before the court, was abducted. According to Mr. Tarnavskiy’s testimony, the kidnapping was carried out by police officers. The abduction allegedly had as its the purpose postponing the court hearing until the entry into force of expected amendments to the Russian Criminal Procedure Code allowing the admissibility of witnesses’ and victims’ testimonies provided during the investigation, even in the absence of the consent of the person concerned. Furthermore, the two witnesses assisting the police during the identification procedure were not independent from the police as stipulated by the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation. One of them had been an intern in the police department and was appointed to the department on the very day of the identification, and the other one was a plaintiff in a case being investigated by the same police department. The identification procedure itself had allegedly been biased. Mr. Tarnavskiy, who was charged with identifying the perpetrator, was presented in the police line-up with three persons – Mr. Roman Kozlov and two individuals of Azeri origin. The Azeris' physical appearance was completely different from that of Mr. Kozlov.

Both the lawyer and the family of Mr. Kozlov believe that Mr. Kozlov is innocent and that the police, the prosecution and the court have collaborated to fabricate a case against Mr. Kozlov. According to Mr. Kozlov’s family, the police picked Mr. Kozlov because of his Romani ethnicity. The ERRC also learned that Mr. Kozlov’s first defense lawyer was forced to abandon the case because of threats he had received by telephone.

On August 26, 2004, at the time of the meeting between the ERRC and Mr. Kozlov’s lawyer, the mother of Mr. Tarnavskiy called to say that her son had been found unconscious on the staircase in front of his home. According to the mother, Mr. Tarnavskiy was injured on the back of his head. Mr. Tarnavskiy was in emergency care in the hospital and still unconscious when the ERRC left Smolensk. He died of his head injury on September 8, 2004.

In another case, on December 25, 2003, the Sovetskiy district court of Volgograd found Mr. Fyodor Gomonov, 21, a Romani man from Volgograd, guilty under Article 105, part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, and sentenced him to an 18-year term of imprisonment for murder. Mr. Gomonov also had to pay a fine of 100,000 rubles (approximately 3,300 US dollars) to the victim's relatives. The verdict of the Sovetskiy district court of Volgograd was appealed before the regional court of Volgograd. On March 9, 2003, the Regional Court upheld the verdict. A second complaint was filed with the Presidium of the regional court of Volgograd on March 25, 2004. As of September 2004, the complaint is pending before the Presidium of the Regional Court of Volgograd.

The sentence is based on the testimonies of four witnesses, according to which on January 7, 2001, Mr. Gomonov, in a state of alcohol intoxication, stabbed Mr. A. Pozhidaev during a street fight in Volgograd, causing the death of the latter. In the course of the criminal investigation, the defense lawyer of Mr. Gomonov presented two documents issued by the hospital of Promyshlenny district of Samara, dated September 9, 2003, stating that after a high blood pressure crisis on January 6, 2001, Mr. Gomonov had been taken to hospital, where he remained in the period January 7-9, 2001. Samara is located approximately 1000 km away from Volgograd where the alleged murder had been committed.

According to Mr Gomonov’s lawyer, the court did not conduct an objective assessment of all evidence. He also told the ERRC that numerous procedural violations were committed both during the pre-trial investigation and the trial phase. The defense’s protests were ignored. For example, in his complaint before the Presidium of the regional court of Volgograd, dated March 25, 2004, the defense lawyer stated that during the criminal investigation and the trial, Mr. Gomonov declared that his native language was Romani and he did not understand and could not express himself in the Russian language. Mr. Gomonov's poor command of Russian language was noted in the district court’s judgment as "Gomonov’s choice to speak an incomprehensible language". Mr. Gomonov’s capacity to understand the investigation and court procedures was further limited due to his moderate mental retardation. The defense's requests that the defendant be provided with an interpreter, as stipulated by Article 18 (2)(3) and Article 169 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, were declined by both the organs of pre-trial investigation and the court. According to the defense, the fact of Mr. Gomonov’s poor command of Russian was abused by the investigation and the judiciary. In the court room, district judge Ms. Perepilitsina asked Mr. Gomonov questions and then proceeded to answer these questions herself. She also allegedly forbade the defense lawyer to ask questions of his client. Finally, on December 23, 2003, district judge Perepilitsina allowed the defendant to make his last statement. On that particular date, Mr Gomonov’s defense lawyer was unable to attend the court hearing, a fact of which he had notified the court earlier and the basis on which he had requested re-scheduling of the hearing. His request was not granted. Mr. Gomonov’s request in the court room to make his final statement in the presence of his lawyer was also refused.

According to the lawyer’s statement, at least seven witnesses specified by the defense were not admitted to testify in the pre-trial investigation or during the court trial. The district court allegedly refused a number of requests and submissions by the defense. Nor did the court respect the defense’s request to eliminate invalid evidence. For example, according to one investigation protocol, Investigator Dyakov took part in investigative procedures on January 17, 2001. Investigator Dyakov, however, received the criminal case only on January 20, 2001.

The defense's requests for an open trial were also overruled by the judge. The trial was held behind closed doors, preventing journalists and a representative of the local human rights organization Committee on the Rights and Freedoms of Russian Citizens from attending.

In another case involving serious procedural violations, on November 3, 2003, at around 6:30 PM, two Romani women, Ms. Oksana Povpa and Ms. Olga Povpa, engaged in a fight with one Ms. Chakova, a non-Romani woman, in a grocery store in the city of Volzhskiy, Volgograd region. On November 5, Ms. Chakova was assaulted in an unrelated incident by unknown persons and died in hospital of her injuries six days later. Ms. Oksana Povpa and Ms. Olga Povpa were detained on November 15 and accused of assaulting and inflicting bodily injuries to Ms. Chakova, causing the death of the latter. Ms. Olga Povpa is a widow and has five children under 18 years of age. Ms. Oksana Povpa has three children and a disabled husband. According to the defense lawyer, the criminal investigation was not conducted objectively. The lawyer stated that the evidence of their guilt was inconclusive. In the course of the criminal investigation, witnesses had allegedly changed their testimonies, and the testimonies presented were inconsistent. In addition, a number of violations of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation had allegedly been committed in the course of the pre-trial investigation. In particular, on November 15, Ms. Oksana Povpa and Ms. Olga Povpa had been subjected to an excessively long interrogation session, which continued until the early morning hours of November 16. Proceedings in the framework of the investigation had been performed absent prior notification of the defendants.

According to Ms. Elena Konstantinova, chairperson of the Volzhsky's branch of the organization Assotsiatsia Tsygan, the investigator of the case has demonstrated clear anti-Romani bias. When Ms. Konstantinova went to the police station to offer reference on behalf of Ms. Olga Povpa and Ms. Oksana Povpa pursuant to Article 103 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the investigator, Mr. D. Dolgin told her that "this document from Assotsiatsia Tsygan is forged, all Roma are drug dealers, and they are bad and dishonest people". Ms. Konstantinova's complaint to the court about this incident was left without consideration.

Ms. Olga Povpa and Ms. Oksana Povpa have been in detention pending trial since November 15, 2003. In the course of the criminal investigation, their indictments were re-qualified such that they could be kept longer in custody, despite habeas corpus requests for release on bail filed by their lawyer. As a result of her detention, Ms. Oksana Povpa was prevented from breast-feeding her 5-month-old child.

In another recent case, on October 20, 2003, the Kunchevskiy district court of Moscow found Ms. Natalia Pachkovskaya, Romani woman from Pokrov, Vladimir region, guilty of theft of property by fraud on a large scale. The court sentenced her to a six year term of imprisonment and property confiscation under Article 159, part 3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the court verdict, on March 27, 2003 at about 3:00 PM Ms. Natalia Pachkovskaya came up to Ms. Lunyak, an under-age girl on Kunchevskaya street in Moscow and told her that she was under a spell and would not be able to bear children. Ms. Pachkovskaya said about herself that she was five months pregnant. She offered the girl to disperse the spell on her in exchange for her mother’s jewelry (which was later evaluated by the court to be worth 1,494,000 Russian rubles, approximately 50,000 US dollars). The girl brought out golden and other jewelry from her home and gave it to Ms. Pachkovskaya. Half an hour later, Ms. Lunyak went to the Kunchevo police department where she identified Ms. Pachkovskaya among the photographs presented to her by the officer on duty. On April 3, 2003, the police searched the house of Ms. Pachkovskaya and found among her belongings two golden rings allegedly belonging to Ms. Lunyak's mother. Ms. Pachkovskaya was taken into custody.

During the trial, Ms. Pachkovskaya pleaded not guilty. She stated before the court that on March 27, 2003 at about 12:30 PM she had an appointment with her gynecologist at the clinic in Pokrov, Vladimir region. Her visit has been registered in the clinic's records. After the appointment she had returned home and spent the rest of the day there. She denied having traveled gone to Moscow during that days. Ms. Pachkovskaya insisted that the two golden rings found among her belongings had been planted there by the police.

On October 29, 2003 a lawyer hired by Ms. Pachkovskaya appealed the sentence before a higher instance court. In the appeal, the defendant stated that the court had accepted as proven that she had been in Pokrov at 12:30. However, it would have been impossible for someone to cover the distance from Pokrov to Moscow in such a short time as to be on the opposite end of Moscow in relation to the direction of Pokrov at approximately 3:00 PM. when the alleged crime had been committed. The defense's request for an investigative experiment was turned down. The appeal also mentioned that Ms. Panchkovskaya had had a miscarriage in May 2003, while in custody.

On December 23, 2003 the Moscow regional court upheld the decision of the lower court and Ms. Pachkovskaya's sentence remained in force. Following the entry into force on December 8, 2003 of amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the original sentence of a six-year term of imprisonment was lowered to four years.


6.2. Denial of Access to Justice

The ERRC research revealed that Romani victims of human rights violations have rarely been able to obtain redress from a court of justice. Roma filing complaints against police officers or other perpetrators are frequently subjected to threats and other psychological pressure to withdraw their complaints. In the few instances when Romani complaints have been processed, cases have been terminated without results.

The following case provides an example of the lack of legal remedy in cases of police violence against Roma:

On June 20, 2002, Mr. Vasiliy Bogdanov, a 44-year-old Romani man, testified to the ERRC/Memorial that on May 15 or 16, 2002, he was violently assaulted by three police officers in the town of Opochka, in Pskov region. According to Mr. Bogdanov, he was walking home from the house of his relatives when he was arrested by three police officers, apparently on suspicion of hiding drugs with his relatives. Mr. Bogdanov reported that he was pushed into a police vehicle and driven to a quarry. At the quarry, the officers reportedly demanded that Mr. Bogdanov work as an informant for them, and threatened to torture him if he refused to do so. The officers then began to beat Mr. Bogdanov until he agreed to work for them. Mr. Bogdanov reported that one of the officers took a can of gasoline from the police vehicle and threatened to pour it on him and set him on fire, stating: “Nobody will be able to recognize you. Only by your teeth will you be recognized.” Mr. Bogdanov stated that, on May 25, 2002, he promised under duress to give information to the officers; when he failed to come forth with any information, he was again arrested by the same three officers on May 29, 2002, and taken to the local police station. Mr. Bogdanov testified that at the police station he was held in a cell, where the officers kicked him to the ground and then beat him with truncheons. The officers reportedly accused Mr Bogdanov of not having kept his promise to help them and told him that they had a tape recording of the promise he had made during their previous encounter. When Mr. Bogdanov asked to hear the tape, one of the officers brought over a book, placed it on his head and hit the book hard with a baseball bat. The officers continued to beat Mr. Bogdanov until he agreed to help them, after which he was released. The following day, Mr. Bogdanov went to a hospital and had his injuries documented. Mr. Bogdanov then filed a complaint against the officers with the local prosecutor, Mr. Aleksandr Pashkov. According to Mr. Bogdanov, soon thereafter, the police officers who had attacked him came to him and asked him to withdraw his complaint, suggesting that he would suffer negative consequences otherwise. Mr. Bogdanov withdrew his complaint, reportedly out of fear. Soon thereafter, Mr. Bogdanov told the ERRC/Memorial that he had been visited by Romani activists from St. Petersburg who convinced him to file another complaint. Mr. Bogdanov reported that, soon after the second complaint was filed, he received a threatening telephone call. Mr. Bogdanov subsequently withdrew his second complaint as well.

When Roma have been victims of crimes by non-state actors, they have been denied protection by the authorities and their complaints have been ignored. The following case illustrates state irresponsibility in cases of crimes committed against Roma:

The Romani family of Mr. Nikolay Orlov, 50, developed its business of parking services and wholesale timber trading in the town of Aleksandrov in Moscow region. Mr. Orlov was also the leader of the local Romani organization. Since September 2002, Russian racketeering groups engaging in extortion of money under the pretext of offering security services to businesses in Aleksandrov and neighboring areas began to harass the family. The bandits insisted on payment for providing the business of the Orlov family with informal "protection" (krysha in Russian slang) and said repeatedly that "all Russians pay to us and only you, Gypsy people, don't pay; while you should in fact pay double amounts since you are Gypsies". During the period January 25-29, 2003, several fires set by unknown persons occurred in the timber store owned by Mr. Orlov’s firm. A criminal investigation was opened, but no one has yet been charged with the arson.

Mr. Nikolay Orlov and his son Mr. Leonid Orlov consistently refused to pay money to the Aleksandrov racketeers. On February 11, 2003, a group of about ten people came to a parking lot owned by the Orlov company and started beating Mr. Leonid Orlov, his brother Mr. Yanosh Orlov and a non-Romani friend of theirs with baseball bats and iron sticks. Mr. Yanosh Orlov was seriously wounded, his nose was broken and he was covered in blood. Mr. Leonid Orlov was also severely beaten, as was their non-Romani friend. Seeing the motionless and blood-covered bodies of his brother and his friend, and thinking they have been murdered, Mr. Leonid Orlov reached for his legally owned handgun hidden in his car and produced a shot at the attackers. The bullet hit and killed Mr. Bolshakov, one of the racketeers. Mr. Vasiliy Bolshakov, leader of the local racketeer grouping and father of the victim, was seen and heard, during his son's funeral, pledging solemnly to kill the entire Orlov family in revenge.

From that day, the grouping led by Mr. Vasily Bolshakov began hunting for an opportunity to kill the Orlovs. In particular, on May 1, 2003, unknown persons shot at Mr. Leonid Orlov when he was in the yard of his house. A criminal investigation was opened against unknown perpetrators for attempted murder. Separately, a criminal investigation was underway against Mr. Leonid Orlov, and in the course of that investigation, the charge against him was transformed from Article 107 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (murder in a state of affect) to Article 105 (premeditated murder). Unknown persons called Mr. Leonid Orlov before the re-categorization of the charge and urged him to reconsider his testimonies against the racketeers, threatening that the charge will be replaced with one carrying a heavier punishment. Mr. Leonid Orlov refused to cooperate. Accordingly, the charge against him was altered to an Article 105 offence.

On March 17, 2004, Mr. Nikolay Orlov was shot dead in broad daylight in the central square of Aleksandrov, in front of the police station, as he was walking out of the court building. The assailant approached Mr. Orlov, produced seven shots from close range using a handgun with a silencer, and ran away. An investigation against an unknown perpetrator is ongoing as of September 2004.

Mr. Leonid Orlov and other members of his family have repeatedly asked the Department on Fighting Organized Crime to ensure the protection of their family. However, the family has received no help from the Russian authorities to date. The children of Mr. Leonid Orlov and those of his brother have stopped going to school, out of fear that they can be kidnapped.


7. Hate Speech against Roma in Russian Media

The Russian media contributes to the perpetuation of anti-Romani racism by creating a strong association between Roma and crime, and even by encouraging in some instances violence and discrimination against Roma by state authorities as well as non-state actors. The media persistently identifies Roma as the main actors in the Russian drug trade, using “drug dealer” and “Gypsy” interchangeably in reporting. Bypassing the presumption of innocence entirely, both mainstream and tabloid media treats all Roma, including young children, as fair game for slander and stereotyping as drug traffickers. A few instances of racial stereotyping of Roma in the media follow:

On February 10, 2004, a documentary film entitled Coma and devoted to "Roma drug dealers" in Kimry, Tver region, was shown on the NTV -- a TV channel with national coverage. It contained hate speech against Roma, indirectly appealing to exterminate Roma. In particular, Father Andrey (Lazarev), a well-known local orthodox priest, repeatedly urged to burn out Romani houses. He stated in the documentary that Kimry has become one of the chief transit points of the drug trafficking in Russia and identified Roma as the main actors in the Russian drug trade. The same message was repeated by one drug addict, a non-Romani man named "Sasha", who said that "only napalm can solve the problem with Romani drug dealers". Moreover, Ms. Tatyana Petrovskaya, director of a local state-owned House of Culture, stated that she does not allow Roma to enter the establishment. She explained that "Roma behave in an aggressive way, they can bring drugs to the discotheque, and take money out from Russian youngsters".

On June 28, 2004, the ERRC in cooperation with the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights sent a letter to the General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation urging him to investigate the lawfulness of documentary film Coma. On August 9, 2004, the General Prosecutor informed the organizations their letter has been referred to the prosecutor's office of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow.

In an earlier case, on February 25, 2002, a documentary film on so-called “Gypsy drug dealers” in Ekaterinburg was shown on the state television channel RTR. The documentary presented an intimidation method that exploits racial tensions as a potential solution for combating drug-related criminality: According to the filmmakers, the local police spread a rumor that drug dealers would be beaten and that their houses would be burned; the filmmakers reported that the strategy was successful, since around 10 Romani families left the city immediately after the rumor was spread.

A report about the fight against drug trafficking in the Krasnoyarsk region (kray) of Russia, broadcast during the evening news on the state channel RTR on February 25, 2002, explicitly stated, without presenting any corroborative evidence, that the Roma of the city of Krasnoyarsk are to blame for drug-related crime. As an illustration of this statement, an alleged Romani drug dealer was shown, a person who had apparently not yet been sentenced for any crime and whose innocence should therefore have been presumed by reporters. The broadcast showed not only the alleged drug dealer, but also his children and grandchildren, whose involvement in the drug trade, though never explicitly stated, was presumed.

On March 1, 2002, the state television channel ORT broadcast a news story about the fight against the drug mafia in the Tyumen region in central Russia. While voice-over narration informed that approximately one thousand drug dealers had been arrested, the camera showed an elderly Romani woman and a seven-year-old Romani boy, whose relationship to the drug trade was not substantiated.

On March 13, 2002, the Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty published an article entitled “I Am a Heroin-Mother”. The article covered the activities of the Ekaterinburg-based non-governmental organization City Without Drugs, whose head had declared that, since authorities had been ineffective in combating drug-related crime, the organization had decided to take matters in its own hands. The text of the article deployed widespread anti-Romani stereotypes, using the words “Gypsies” and “drug dealers” interchangeably and implying a causal link between rich “red brick castles” being erected in the Romani settlement in recent years and hospital wards filling up with “half-dead bodies in drug-induced comas”.


8. Lack of Personal Documents

With a few exceptions, the personal documents system in Russia officially recognizes only the internal and international passports as papers identifying a person. The law also requires obligatory registration of residence and stay, and assumes an obligation to live or stay at the place of registration. The law is enforced through administrative (police) control over residence registration. This system of registration is closely linked with other public registries: taxation, military draft, police records, etc. In practice, the passport system in Russia is very repressive and restrictive and the most frequent victims of this system are people who physically differ from others, particularly migrants and ethnic minorities. Administration officials, especially in housing and immigration departments, abuse the discretionary decision making power given them by the passport system to discriminate against members of certain targeted minorities, including Roma. According to Aleksandr Osipov, an expert on ethnic relations from the Moscow-based Memorial, “the most massive and painful problems of the country are related to the so-called “passport system”. It is a classical example of institutional racism, with elements of organised direct discrimination by the state.”

Police treatment of thousands of Romani people living without passports and/or resident registrations, or holding invalid passports is unceremoniously brutal. As a rule, Roma (as well as other people perceived as coming from the Caucasus Mountains area or Central Asia) are stopped in the streets for document checks more frequently than others. The routine way to be left alone or released from custody if taken there for failure to produce regular identity documents is to pay bribes not hinted at but arrogantly demanded by police. Desperate, Roma pay those bribes for each of their numerous encounters with police officers, since obtaining regular personal documents seems to be even more difficult for them than bribing. The police simply consider Roma walking in the street or selling in market places as a potential source of easy money.

Despite the provision of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the law, Russian human rights activists have underlined that “in practice, the institution of registration technically becomes a condition for the citizens to enjoy their rights: acquisition of the citizenship and formalities in this connection; employment; marriage registration; participation in elections; medical care; higher and occasionally even secondary education; pensions and allowances.” Without a residence registration, a citizen cannot receive a passport when he or she reaches the age of 14 or in case of loss or damage, nor can he or she pay taxes, register a vehicle, obtain a driving license, etc. As a rule, a person cannot bring an action before a court of justice if he or she has no passport. Many Roma suffer disproportionately from such conditions. Moreover, Romani people meet numerous bureaucratic obstacles, some of which in violation of the law, during the process of applying for new passports. Departments responsible for issuing passports sometimes require a special document certifying the absence of housing debts, including debts on heating, water, gas, etc., in violation of the law. The poor are thus in a very disadvantaged position. They have to overcome bureaucratic hurdles also when trying to obtain residence registration. One typical hurdle is the fact that many Roma live in buildings, which they have erected themselves, but which are not registered anywhere. In these cases, which are the rule rather than an exception, residence can’t be registered. Thus, the linkage established by the state between personal identification, residence registration, and registration of dwellings, creates enormous difficulties for Roma and apparently leads to human rights violations.


9. Access to Social and Economic Rights

There is no reliable data about the status of Roma in various sectoral fields nationwide. The ERRC research during the period 2000-2004 suggests that large Romani communities throughout Russia live in severe poverty and do not have access to basic social and economic rights such as education, adequate housing, health care services, and employment. During field missions in Russia, the ERRC has witnessed degrading poverty and inhuman conditions in many Romani settlements. Many Roma do not have access to gainful employment or any employment at all. While lack of education or low education plays a significant role for the exclusion of large parts of the Romani minority from the labor market, ERRC also heard reports about discrimination against Roma in employment. In Smolensk, Krasnodar and numerous other places during field missions in the summer of 2004, the ERRC was told by Romani individuals that employers would not take them even for low-skilled jobs because they don’t trust Roma. For many Romani families, comprising usually of more that 4 members, the only source of income is the child benefit of 70 rubles per month (approximately 2.5 US dollars).


9.1. Access to Education

Thousands of Romani children in Russia are completely excluded from the system of formal education. Precise figures about Roma without any formal education are difficult to obtain due to the fact that there have been no special nationwide surveys. Some indication about the proportions of Romani children not attending school is provided by the 2004 report of the Minister for Nationalities of the Russian Federation on the situation of Roma in the Russian Federation. According to this report, education remains among the most acute problems affecting Roma. For example, in Bolgrad region, out of 1,048 Romani children only 189 go to school and still fewer of them continue their education after the fourth grade; in Kostroma region, out of 240 Romani children of school age, only 59% go to school.

In each community visited by the ERRC throughout Russia, adult individuals with at least primary school education were an exception. Large numbers of Romani children have either not attended school at all or have dropped in the early stages of school.

The reasons for this catastrophic educational status of Roma are rooted in decades of neglectful attitude towards Roma by the Soviet state which failed to provide Roma with an opportunity to access education. A large number of Roma who remained nomadic until the late 1960s despite the legal prohibition of nomadism introduced in 1956, were effectively excluded from the education system. More recently, in addition to the rigidity of the educational system and the neglectful treatment of Roma by Russian educational authorities, factors such as growing poverty, discrimination due to lack of personal documents and humiliating treatment of Romani children by teachers and fellow students started to play a role in the exclusion of Roma from education.

Many Romani parents, illiterate themselves, find it impossible to cope with difficult and arbitrary bureaucratic requirements imposed by local officials and which they are frequently unable to overcome. For example, in August 2003, a group of about twenty Romani families from Volzhsky, Volgograd region, expressed their willingness to send their children to the local school and asked the local Romani activist Ms. Konstantinova to help with all documents needed for enrolling their children in elementary school. It turned out that children had to undergo medical tests necessary for enrolment the school. The tests cost approximately 10-15 US dollars. Ms. Konstantinova tried to collect documents proving indigence, to make the test free of charge for poor Romani people. However, low-income status of a family must be proved before local administrations with relevant personal documents, including residence registration. Almost all Romani people from that group lacked residence registration and as a result none of the children had a chance to enroll in first grade in 2003.

In some instances Roma reported that school enrolment of their children is taken by educational authorities as an opportunity to extort money from Roma. In some schools of Nizhniy Novgorod, according to the local Romani leader Mr. Bogomolov, when Romani parents attempt to enroll their children in school, headmasters first say that there are no places, but then explain that if the parents could make a contribution to the school fund for renovation, they could decline other parents’ requests for enrolment and enroll the Romani children in their place.

Humiliating treatment by teachers and classmates who freely express racial prejudice against Roma is also a factor discouraging Roma from attending school. In Kimry, for example, Roma testified to the ERRC that their children have stopped attending school because non-Romani children harass them, calling them "drug-dealers". The Roma from the community allegedly collect money to pay a teacher who comes to the neighborhood to teach the children.

In some places Romani parents told the ERRC that differential treatment of Roma at school rose to the level of segregation of Romani children. In Cheboksary, the capital city of the Chuvash republic, during field research in August 2004, the ERRC learned that in the local mainstream school attended by Roma and non-Roma there is one separate room on the ground floor for the Roma. This class – which has a separate entrance – is attended by Romani children of various ages: from 7 to 14. Classes reportedly last for only two hours per day. According to testimonies by several Romani children, schoolteachers ask various amounts of money from them allegedly for renovation of the school. Roma also claim that at the opening new school year ceremonies, they sit separately from non-Romani children and that they are also requested to pay various amounts of money for yearly enrolment. The quality of education, according to Roma, is poor. The teachers have no interest in providing quality education to Romani children. All Romani children have to pay for books. Some children complain that non-Romani children verbally abuse them making degrading references to their Romani ethnicity. According to a Romani man, a schoolteacher once declared: “I will not teach Gypsies.” Romani parents complained to the headmaster. Following the complaint, the teacher’s husband, who was a police officer, reportedly went to the Roma and said: “If you want to live peacefully, don’t send your kids to school.”

In some instances schools are located at a big distance from Romani settlements, which renders attendance, especially for the younger children, very difficult. For instance, in the city Tver, central Russia, during field research in the Romani settlement Savatyevo in August 2004, the ERRC was told that the nearest school is located 3 km away. The school is attended predominantly by Romani children from the settlement. Several attempts of the Roma to ask the local authorities for transportation for their children were met with indifference. The same problem was communicated to the ERRC by the Roma from the Kalinovo settlement in the city of Ivanovo, central Russia. The school is far away from the settlement and the children have to cross a big boulevard on the way to school. Some years ago the Roma petitioned the local administration to build a school in the settlement and were allegedly told to collect money and build the school themselves.






9.2. Access to Adequate Housing

A large number of Roma live in a state of complete separation from mainstream society, in segregated settlements or ghettos in substandard conditions, often without basic infrastructure and/or utilities such as electricity and running water.

Most Romani settlements and neighborhoods visited by the ERRC and its partner organizations in recent years are located on the outskirts of towns and municipalities, with little access to public transportation and no public means of communication with the outside world, such as a telephone system. For Roma in Russia, segregation in the field of housing complicates problems in accessing education or employment. In the absence of public transportation, Romani children often have to walk long distances to attend school, even in the cold Russian winter.

Roma in segregated areas usually live in appalling conditions, in makeshift shacks that offer little protection from the elements. Moreover, local authorities have failed to date to provide these settlements with basic infrastructure, such as drinking water, heating, sewage or even electricity in some cases, and public services such as garbage removal or road repair are virtually unheard of in the majority of Romani settlements.

According to ERRC research in August 2004 in the city of Volzhskiy, Volgograd region, over fifty Roma live in a building on 9 Udarnaya street. Only one Russian family lives in the building, which is referred to as a “Gypsy house”. All the flats in the building belong to the municipality. The building is in a dilapidated condition despite the fact that the municipality has registered the building as fit for dwelling. Some windowpanes and even frames are missing. The walls inside the flats are made of carton paper and in many places are falling apart. There are mice in the flats, so children are scared to walk to the bathroom during the night. Many flats feature high levels of humidity. Some Roma suffer from tuberculosis and live together with their family members. Most of the flats are overcrowded, in some cases up to fifteen people, including a high proportion of disabled, live in two small rooms. In 2003 the municipality sent workers to perform renovation of the building, but apart from minor jobs – e.g. a minimal amount of plaster applied to those parts of the wall which were in the worst condition -- no proper renovation was carried out. The workers reportedly had three Roma sign the protocol that the renovation had been completed. No cleaning is provided in the vicinity of the building, although the municipal cleaner who performs cleaning in the area is obliged to clean the area around the house as well, but, according to the Roma who live in house, the person only mentions: “Hm, the Gypsy house”, laughs in the face of the Roma and walks away. The Roma pay their rent regularly. When Roma seek assistance from the local department of housing, the officials reportedly send them away in a humiliating way using foul language. There is no gas provision in the building. The electricity has been cut off, although the families claimed that they make regular payments. According to Ms. Konstantinova, Russians and refugees receive municipal flats that are in a decent condition, but such flats are inaccessible for the Roma.

In another example, in July 2001, the ERRC and representatives of the Moscow-based non-governmental organization Memorial visited a Romani settlement in Pushkinskiye Gory near Pskov, in northwestern Russia, where makeshift housing with no electricity or heating appeared unfit for human habitation even on warmer, longer summer days. In the same area, the children of the Samulevich family from the Romani settlement of Vasyugino, near the town of Novorshev, had to walk three kilometers to attend the nearest school in winter, a feat which becomes effectively impossible to accomplish during the hard northern winters. At the time of the ERRC/Memorial visit, in the small, wet and cold hut in which the Samulevich family lives, the children slept on the floor. At the time of an ERRC/Memorial visit in 2001, in Gorelovo, outside St. Petersburg, Mr. Piotr Martsinkevich, an elderly Romani man, lived with his wife and his two grandchildren in a barrack with an earth floor. Mr. Martsinkevitch, who suffered from tuberculosis, had to sleep on the bare ground. Such examples stand in stark contrast against the widespread stereotype of the "rich Romani palaces" featured in Russian media and condemned as having been built out of drug dealing income.

Furthermore, the ERRC and its partner organizations have documented instances in which local authorities in Russia have forced Roma out of integrated housing — either by intimidating them into leaving, or simply by escorting them out of town with the assistance of local law-enforcement officials. The following instances are illustrative:

In early April 2002, a Romani family was “warned” by police and local administrators in the town of Egoryevsk, approximately one hundred kilometres south east of Moscow, that “problems would arise if they continued to live there,” according to testimony given to the ERRC and Romano Kher by 32-year-old Mr. Jan Masalskiy, a relative of the family, in the end of April 2002. According to Mr. Masalskiy, one month after his relatives had moved to Egoryevsk, they were threatened by police and local officials while they were seeking to register themselves as locally resident in the offices of the municipality. When ERRC/Romano Kher traveled to the Egoryev area on April 29, 2002, the Romani family had sold their house.

In mid-August of 2001, 16 Romani families – approximately 115 people – recently moved from the Voronezh province of central Russia to the city of Krasnodar, in the south of Russia -- were expelled by local authorities in Krasnodar. Following their arrival in Krasnodar, the Roma registered as locally resident with their relatives and received temporary residence permits. Local authorities insisted on fingerprinting the newcomers and on videotaping them. When the newly arrived Romani families started building houses in one of the suburban areas without having sought official permits for construction, authorities reacted swiftly: On the evening of October 12, 2001, the street where the newcomers were living was blocked by police. Most of the recently arrived Roma were forced into two buses, and their personal belongings were loaded onto twelve lorries. Some of the Roma were allowed to leave in their own cars. Flanked by police cars, the motorcade set off for the Voronezh province, more than 500 kilometers away from Krasnodar.

In March 2001, 18 Romani families seeking to improve their difficult housing conditions obtained permission from the joint stock company Omskgidroprivod to use 0.7 hectares of the unexplored land next to Dunayevskogo street in Omsk, Siberia, for building 8-10 wooden houses. The Roma started collecting the necessary documents and applied to the Omsk Land Resources Committee. Their inadequate housing conditions forced them to start building the houses prior to having obtained all the necessary documents. On October 15, 2001, the Head of the Kirovskiy Administrative District of Omsk city issued an Order ¹382-1 to demolish the Romani houses in Dunayevskogo street, stating that these houses had been built in violation of the land and town planning regulations. The decision about the removal of the houses had been taken without participation of the Roma. In order to survive the cold Siberian winter, the Romani families built sheds on the site of the demolished houses.

After sending several complaints to the Governor of the Omsk region and the mayor of Omsk, the Roma families were informed that the building of the houses in Dunayevskogo street could not be renewed because it interfered with the general planning of the city. The Roma were informed that the site was reserved for future construction of a main road. However, no houses located at the same site and inhabited by non-Romani families were demolished. At the beginning of 2004, the Roma were offered land lots outside the city where they could start building their houses. The area however is hardly fit for housing. During an ERRC visit in August 2004, there was no sewage system or running water. The Roma had to walk long distances in order to fetch drinking water from a village fountain. According to the information provided to the ERRC by the Romani families, ten children were sick with malaria. The Roma stated that the only reason for the negative attitude of the authorities towards them was their nationality, as no Russian family has been forced to demolish their own house at the beginning of the winter.