On 24 September 2020, a video was published on social media which clearly shows how police officers in Bitola beat people belonging to the Roma community. Police brutality, especially against the Roma, is becoming a common practice for which we have reacted many times.
We ask the Ministry of Interior to work intensively on clearing up the case and to act in accordance with their powers and competencies determined by law, as well as to inform the Public Prosecutor’s Office about the case in order to initiate criminal proceedings against the police officers, who obviously act outside their authority and violate basic human rights. At the same time, we demand that the public be informed in a timely manner about the entire investigation process and the actions taken against the police officers. The practice of impunity of law-breaking police officers is a key reason for such brutal behavior and abuse of power to harass and humiliate members of marginalized groups.
We ask the Ministry of Interior to immediately open an inclusive process of amendments to the Law on Police and the Rulebook on the manner of conducting police work, as well as to adopt bylaws that will address the problem of racist behavior.
According to the statements of the involved persons, the event took place on Tuesday, 22 September 2020, when three Roma had a car accident and hit a concrete wall. There was traffic police in the immediate vicinity of the accident, who for no reason took the people out of the car and started beating them brutally, without asking if they needed medical help. Additionally, they were detained at the police station until 5 am, insulted and harassed. The persons wanted to report the case to the Department of Internal Control, Criminal Investigations and Professional Standards at the Ministry of Interior but were rejected.
Of particular concern is the fact that police brutality against Roma is a practice, not an exception. Only three months ago, we reported on the brutal behavior of the police towards the homeless Roma at the Railway Station. These cases speak to the existence of racist prejudices and confirm the arbitrary, unprofessional and illegal conduct of police officers.
Finally, we are pleased with the quick reaction of the Ministry of Interior, but we appeal to the Ministry of Interior to take measures to prevent the recurrence of such events because it is obvious that racism is a structural problem in the police. The police have strictly prescribed powers and must abide by them, and police brutality is a conduct punishable under the Criminal Code.