APADOR-CH Report on Police Abuse against Roma Citizens in Racoș, Brașov County

Monday - 25 May 2015
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On May 13, 2015, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited Racoș, a commune 70 km north of Brașov, in Brașov County, in order to talk to several Roma ethnics who claimed they were constantly abused by the local police.

General considerations:

The Roma community in Racoș – consisting of more than 1,200 people, according to the local Pentecostal pastor, Ioan Dudaș – made a living by gathering berries or working as daily laborers at local farms, where they made hay or picked up potatoes. According to their own statements, the Roma had an understanding with the forest guards to pick up fallen wood from the forest, but they claimed this deal was overlooked by the police, who caught them with the wood and fined them, or beat them. Often, the Roma said, they would get both a fine and a beating.

Beatings, however, appeared to be frequent and unprovoked. The persons who talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH during their visit to Racoș claimed that the policemen beat the Roma with no connection to stolen wood or other offences against the law. The policemen identified as bullies by the locals were: Dan Ciucu (chief of the Racoș Police), Ionuț Alexandru Gheorghe and Ovidiu Țurcan. They were allegedly assisted by their colleagues from Racoș Community Police, especially by two brothers named Ioji. The only policeman who was unanimously described by the Roma as non-violent was Sorin Ionescu, an older cop in the village.

The same sources said that only Roma (which are separated in Romanian, Hungarian and Spoon-Maker Roma, as they call themselves) were brutalized by the police, but not other ethnic groups from the commune. According to the Roma, the police had beaten over 40 people only in this community. The abuse allegedly started 3-4 years before, when the squad led by chief Dan Ciucu was appointed to the commune after policing a neighboring village where they had several conflicts with the Roma population. This is why the Racoș Roma believed the policemen were taking their revenge on them.

Some of the citizens beaten during the last few years filed complaints against the cops, but the cases were all dismissed because there had been no witnesses to support the accusations and the policemen denied any wrongdoing. The Roma received legal support, and sometimes money to take their victims to the hospital in Rupea or Brașov, from ANBCC activists (The National Association of Citizen Counseling Bureaus), who ran a social equity project in several Romanian communities.

One of these activists, expert G.D., was beaten himself at the Racoș train station, on April 30, 2015, on a Thursday evening, by a group of four masked men, shortly after the policemen had warned him he was in a dangerous area and that “anything can happen between Racoș and Brașov.

During their trip to Racoș, the representatives of APADOR-CH to several Roma citizens from the “spoon-makers” group, with the Pentecostal pastor Ioan Dudaș, with expert G.D. and, in Brașov, with the commander of the Brașov County Police Inspectorate, Quaestor Ioan Aron.

Detailed cases:

When the representatives of APADOR-CH arrived in the village, a large part of the Roma community gathered at the house of one of the beaten victims and asked him to tell his story. We must say that all victims agreed to tell their stories, giving their full names and accepting to have their statements recorded. They said they no longer feared retaliation because the police were beating them anyway, out of the blue. The victims ask the authorities to take firm measures against the aggressors, or else the community will unite and take justice in their own hands.

***

Gheorghe Floarea, 40, said he was beaten by Racoș police on April 28, 2015. He was one of two victims for whose case the ANBCC expert had come to the village. According to the man, the incident took place shortly after had had a quarrel with his mother in law, who went to complain about him to the police. Leaving his mother-in-law house, Gheorghe Floarea said he was approached on the street by local police chief Dan Ciucu, who told him to accompany him to the police station “just to give you a warning”. The man said he agreed to get into the police car, thinking that he would be merely fined for disturbing public order. But once arrived at the station, his hands were handcuffed to the wall, but only after his sleeves were rolled down, so the cuffs would not leave any mark, and beaten over his ribs and legs. Gheorghe Floarea claimed that the beating lasted for more than an hour at the police station, starting at 3 p.m. and that he was realased around 6 p.m. He claimed that police chief Dan Ciucu said “let’s take him to the forest and beat him some more”, but that another cop, Sorin Ionescu, dissuaded him, saying that something risked to happen to Floarea while in the car. “They filled my mouth and nose with tissues because I was bleeding hard and punched me out the door. They were still hitting me on the front stairs”, Gheorghe Floarea said. The police did not issue any detention warrant.

He was taken to the Brașov hospital on the same evening, around 8 p.m., in a private car. The hospital released him at 3 a.m. because, he claimed, the Racoș police called the hospital and asked them to release him. According to the hospital file, he had suffered multiple lesions on his thorax and abdomen.

He did not file any complaint against his abusers because the person supposed to assist him to do so, G.D. of ANBCC, was also beaten.

***

Steluța Ferdelaș, 42, said that on November 14, 2013, she took the horse out to the pasture, and left it to graze, only to find it the next day, November 15, shot in the leg. Later, the horse had to be sold to a slaughterhouse and the Ferdelaș family was left without its only support. The woman said that, before the incident, policemen Dan Ciucu (the Racoș police chief) and Gheorghe Ionuț Alexandru threatened their family that they would “send their horse to the butcher’s”, which led her to think that they were the ones to shoot the animal.

The woman said it was difficult to get a certificate stating the horse was shot and that even the local veterinary was afraid to issue the document, for fear of the police. Finally, a vet from Brașov issued a certificate proving that the animal was shot. .

Steluța Ferdelaș said that she sued the policemen suspected to have killed her horse, but the trial was still pending. However, because of the trial, she said her family was kept under terror and her husband needed to hide from the policemen, who allegedly threatened to shoot him, too, if they ever caught him. “The cops beat minor children, pregnant women, they threaten us all and they are backed by those in Brașov and Rupea, they are all together in it and nothing happens to them. What can we do, we have no one here to plead to, except for God!”, Steluța Ferdelaș complained.

***

Aurica Borzoș, 44 de ani, claimed she was beaten by the Racoș cops at the police station, on May 15, 2014. She wen to the station after finding out her son, Ionuț Borzoș, was there, being picked up by the police on his way from the station. „The boy came by train at 4.30 p.m. and was picked up from the Mateiaș Station by policeman Dan Ciucu, who wore plain clothes, short pants, and by cop Țurcan Ovidiu. They took him to the station without explaining what they had against him”, Aurica Borzoș said. When she learned he had been detained, she went to the station and asked the police what they had against the boy, then started to cry in despair when she saw him lying down on the floor and thought he was dead.

She said that through the window she could see policemen Dan Ciucu and Ovidiu Țurcan take her son by one arm each and carry him to another room. Then they returned to her, sprayed her with an irritating substance and hit her head several times. The incident took place outside, in front of the police building. Aurica Borzoș claimed there were witnesses, people who lived nearby, but said no one wanted to testify because they were afraid of the police.

The woman ran away, but was caught in a neighboring yard, where she attempted to wash her eyes. One of the policemen allegedly said “You don’t even deserve water over your eyes”. Aurica Borzoș claimed that policemen Dan Ciucu and Ovidiu Țurcan continued to beat her on the street, and that they “were wearing plain clothes and had been drinking”.

The forensic certificate issued a few days after the beating stated that Aurica Borzoș had suffered a brain trauma by aggression, a spine concussion, several scalp injuries, a swelling of the nasal pyramid, requiring 10-12 days of medical care.

Aurica Borzoș filed a complaint against the policemen, recorded as no. 463/P/2014 at the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Rupea First Instance court and later taken over by the Brașov Prosecutor’s Office under no. 383/P/2014. The case was dismissed, on October 7, 2014, by prosecutor Marius Sulu, who concluded that the victims were to blame – respectively Iosif Borzoș and his cousin, who were drunk and blocked traffic between Mateiaș and Rupea. The policemen only took them to the station to calm them down and fined them by 300 lei each. The resolution that closed the case also stated that the policemen had the support of eyewitnesses – the same people Aurica Borzoș said saw her being beaten but failed to testify against the police for fear of retaliation. The witnesses said that the victims already bore marks of violence on their bodies before being picked up by the police and taken to the station, the only violent acts of the police being a few truncheon strikes applied because the youngsters refused to get into the police car. The prosecutor found those truncheon strikes legal. As for the lesions suffered by Aurica Borzoș, the witnesses called by the cops said they were caused by an accident, when she tripped and fell in her hurry to get to the police station.

***

Nicolae Coșcodar, 33, claimed that in the winter of 2013 he was taken to the station, alongside his brother, after an argument with the neighbors, who called the police. “We argued with someone here, on the street, the police was there, in their car, but said nothing. We had a fight, but then we made up. But the police squad left for reinforcements. They took me and my brother to the police station in Hoghiz and there they beat us from 9 p.m. until midnight. They beat us so bad I could not take my hand to my mouth or earn any money to feed the kids”, Nicolae Coșcodar said.

At the station, police chief Dan Ciucu and the Ioji brothers, the community policemen, allegedly truncheoned the two Coșcodar brothers, soaked them in water and used electroshocks. Nicolae Coșcodar showed the representatives of APADOR-CH the truncheon marks on his back he claimed he got from the police beating.

Coșcodar said they were detained from 9 p.m. to midnight and then left in the Turzum forest (not far from the village). An ambulance came later (most probably called by the policemen) and took them to the Rupea hospital, where they said they were only given a painkiller and sent home at 3 a.m. The police gave them no official warning.

Coșcodar claimed he filed a written complaint against the policemen with the Brașov Prosecutor’s Ofice, but that he was told “they haven’t beaten you enough, cause police, they don’t beat you up for nothing”. Coșcodar could not provide a written proof of his dealings with the prosecutors, saying he had lost it.

***

Cornel Borzoș, 40, was the second victim of the beating that had brought the ANBCC expert to the commune. On January 17, 2015, the man left the village to sell a pair of shoes brought from spain. The buyer also gave him 2 liters of wine that he later drank at home with his son-in-law and another person. At some point, he started arguing with his son-in-law, and Cornel Borzoș called the emergency number, 112. A police car arrived and asked him to come to the station and file a statement against the son-in-law. There, the man claimed that policeman Ovidiu Țurcan only pretended to take his statement, then told him to leave. Cornel Borzoș said that he only made a few steps outside when the police invited him to step into the car, saying they would leave him in his neiborhood, where they had another case to attend.

Instead of heading towards his home, the police drove to a landfill outside the village (between Augustin and Racoș), made him empty his pockets, asked him about a knife and he said he didn’t have one, took his phone and removed the battery. Then the community policeman identified as Ioji punched and kicked him and was joined by other cops in a beating that allegedly took from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., after which he was abandoned at the landfill. The violent cops identified by the victim were: Alexandru Ionuț Gheorghe, Ovidiu Țurcan, Dan Ciucu and Ioji, the community policeman.

When he came around, the man made it to a friend of his, Macău Daniel, who took him home. He called the ambulance the next day, on Sunday, around 3-4 p.m., and went to the Brașov hospital, where he was admitted from January 18 to Jan. 21, with multiple trauma, according to his admittance forms.

Later, Cornel Borzoș filed a petition with the Ministry of Justice, because he noticed that none of the complaints made in Brașov by fellow villagers who were beaten by the same policemen received a favorable solution, the people in Racoș being convinced that the local police squad had support at county level.

The petition Borzoș filed in București was redirectioned, however, to the same Brașov Prosecutor’s Office and Mihaela Ceapă was appointed case prosecutor. Borzoș said that at his hearing on April 6, 2015, the prosecutor asked him if he had any witnesses. He said that many people from the community saw him leaving home in the police car and returning injured the next morning, but no one actually saw how the police beat him at the landfill, during the night.

Borzoș said that his family (his wife and eight children) suffered from his beating, because the head of the family was unable to work of bring firewood, etc.

The investigation is pending at the Brașov Prosecutor’s Office.

The forensic certificate issued on January 23, 2015, showed that Borzoș suffered brain trauma, thoracic and abdominal injuries, knee and left tigh injuries – all produced on January 17 and requiring 4-5 days of medical care.

Pastor Ioan Dudaș said that he was aware of all the facts the Roma described and that he tried to help them organize and systematically file complaints with the authorities against the abuse. The pastor said he never actually saw the police beating the Roma, but he did see them come home beaten and none of their complaints filed at county level ever produced any effects. Ioan Dudaș said he, too, had received veiled threats not to take the Roma’s side anymore. Dudaș fears for his own safety, especially since, as he puts it, “I have my own van and I carry things around and, you know how it is, many things can happen on the road”.

 

The social and economic situation of the Roma community in Racoș and the assault against the ANBCC expert:

 

G.D., 28, is a student in Brașov and also works as an expert for the ANBCC program entitled “4 ACCES – Activating citizens in four communities for social equity”, implemented in Ghirbom village in Alba Iulia County, Corbu Vechi village in Brăila County, Racoș commune in Brașov  County and Favorit neighborhood in Roman, Neamț County.

He had visited the Roma community in Racoș frequently over the previous 2-3 months, helping them to find solutions and get involved in problem-solving with regard to getting fire wood and facing police abuse. G.D. said the project he worked on did not consider the latter aspect in the first place, but the tensions with the police became a topic during his discussion with the people. Initially, his project aimed at improving the social and economic situation of the Roma, who had no jobs, no means of subsistence and, according to social investigations, were discriminated against even when it came to the price of wood extracted from neighboring forests – co-owned by a local community. With the aid of ANBCC experts and of the APADOR-CH attorney, the Roma managed to take the legal steps regarding the forest owners and obtain equal rights with Romanian and Hungarian ethnics in using the wood resource. They also thought the police abuse would stop if they had the legal right to purchase wood.

On a Thursday, April 30, 2015, G.D. went to Racoș to help two of the Roma citizens recently beaten by the police to write their complaints. In the evening, while he was waiting for his train back to Brașov, he was approached on the train platform by two local policemen who checked his ID, claiming that they had been informed about a suspect person, a stranger to the area.

G.D. said that the policemen, among whom local police chief Dan Ciucu, also asked him, without any grounds, to show them the contents of his bag, and that he obeyed in order to avoid the alternative of being taken by force to the police station, where he knew what could await him. A plain clothes man, who did not introduce himself, accompanied the cops, G.D. said.

The discussion with the police was perceived by G.D. as a threat, since he was not a stranger  to the area (he had been visiting the Roma community for months). The policemen told him: “It’s dangerous to come to Racoș and anything can happen on the way from Racoș to Brașov”.

Shortly after the cops left, four men in overalls and (two of them) masks, bearing no other distinguishing signs, came on to the platform. They advanced quickly towards G.D. He said he sought refuge in the station clerk’s office, asking him for help, but the latter left the room. The four attackers – G.D. identified the plain clothes man who had accompanied the police – beat G.D. in the clerk’s office of the Racoș station.

G.D. reported the assault to 112 at 8.42 p.m. from the house of pastor Ioan Dudaș, because he was afraid to take the train and did not trust the local police. Calling 112, he expressly asked for other policemen to come and make the report, because he suspected that the Racoș squad was involved in the attack. Accompanied by the Brașov police, G.D. had the courage to go down to the Racoș police station to give a statement.

At 2.30 a.m., he went to the Brașov County Hospital for an exam. On May 5, 2015, the Forensic Department of the hospital issued a certificate mentioning the consequences of the physical aggression on April 30 and recommending 7-8 days of medical care.

The opinion of the commander of the Brașov County Police Inspectorate:

 

Quaestor Ioan Aron, in charge of the Brașov County Police Inspectorate, talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH about the alleged assaults in Racoș and about the incident at the train station, when four unidentified men beat G.D.

The commander said that the incident at the station was part of a pending criminal investigation led by the Transport Police, an institution which was not subordinated to the County Police, and that he could not make any assumptions about the Racoș squad being or not connected to the events, as the beaten student claimed. It would be a very serious matter if confirmed, but I cannot interfere with the investigation. I asked the Control Unit to look into it since the first night, but you know how it would seem if I started to make my own investigation? It would mean to disrupt the case, Quaestor Ioan Aron said.

The Quaestor did not see any cause-effect connection between the warning G.D. received from the Racoș police and the beating that followed shortly, but was inclined to think it was a coincidence. „The police have the obligation to check when an unknown person shows up in a locality. Their gesture was an offer to protect G.D., so next time he came by he would first let the police know, because otherwise they cannot guarantee his security in the Roma community. The fact that he had been there several times before Maybe he made some followers, but maybe he also made enemies, because he was not beaten by the police, for the time being he was beaten by unidentified persons. We are waiting for the Transport Police to catch the perpetrators and for the latter to declare whether the police put them up to it, then well take steps.

As for the complaints of local Roma that they were frequently beaten by the police, Quaestor Ioan Aron claimed he had no information of the kind and that the Roma in the village may, like any other citizens, file complaints about the behavior of policemen: I know that if they have any complaint they may come and file it, and if the complaints were dismissed by the prosecutors it means they were not real.

The Quaestor insisted that the situation in Racoș required a broader view, taking into account the high level of criminality in the area and the poverty issues among the Roma population. I am not saying that the Roma there are some angels, but if they were caught stealing wood and they dont own one meter of land you can give the diagnosis yourself. Two-three years ago, we had some family conflicts generated by the Roma and a mobile patrol was sent to put an end to the conflicts. If that also generated some restraint activities, in order to extract people from the conflict it might have had. But I dont agree they should beat them if they catch them stealing”.

Conclusion

APADOR-CH considers that the situation in Racoș is tense and that the statements of the local people and of G.D. lead to the conclusion that violent assaults do take place in the village. As a consequence, the Association asks the Romanian General Police Inspectorate to launch an investigation into these accusations concerning police members as soon as possible.

Also, the Association asks the Prosecutors Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice to take the necessary steps to reopen all criminal cases dismissed over the last three years regarding complaints made by Racoș locals against police abuse.

 

Report by

Dollores Benezic

Georgiana Gheorghe

See a video on Racos situation: