MINELRES: ERRC: Racial - Profiling of Roma by Russian Militia

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri May 28 17:11:24 2004

Original sender: European Roma Rights Center <errc@errc.org> 

ERRC Urges Governor of Saint Petersburg to Stop Police Abuse of Roma

On May 27, 2004, the ERRC sent a letter to Ms Valentina Matvienko,
Governor of Saint-Petersburg, Russia, to express concern about recent
police raids against Roma in Saint-Petersburg undertaken within the
framework of an action called "Operation Tabor". According to
information from local non-governmental organisations, militia chased
and shot at Roma in the Obukhovo district of Saint-Petersburg. Militia
also reportedly burnt two shanties where Roma, including pregnant women
and children, had been living. The ERRC noted the prima facie racist
character of the operation the title of which points explicitly to
Romani ethnicity (insofar as "tabors" are Romani settlements) and
indicated that racist actions by public officials violate international
law. Earlier, in 2002, following similar police raids, also carried out
as part of an "Operation Tabor", high-ranking Russian officials stated
that such operations would not be repeated in the future. The ERRC urged
the Saint Petersburg Governor to take immediate measures to end abusive
militia operations against Roma. The letter was copied to Mr Leonid
Bogdanov, Head of the Administrative Committee of St. Petersburg's
Governor's Office. The full text of the letter follows:

Honourable Governor Matvienko,

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe
and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. The ERRC has
submitted complaints to the European Court of Human Rights and has
secured redress for victims in a number of cases of police abuse of Roma
since the organisation was founded in 1996. The ERRC has also undertaken
research in more than half of the countries of Europe and has published
a number of reports and public statements concerning the situation of
Roma in a number of European countries. Since 2000, the ERRC has been
monitoring the situation of Roma rights in the Russian Federation
through site visits, as well as with the assistance of a number of local
monitors, based with partner organisations.

The ERRC is writing to express concern about recent police raids in St.
Petersburg, undertaken within the framework of an action called
"Operation Tabor", a name which points directly to Romani ethnicity (so
far as "tabors" are Romani settlements) and is therefore apparently a
prima facie racist action. According to the broadcast during the evening
news on the channel "NTV Saint-Petersburg" on May 20, 2004, the militia
of St. Petersburg started "Operation Tabor" allegedly in order to ensure
the security of foreign tourists and protect them from possible
robberies by "marginal elements". According to information by the
Northern-Eastern Centre of Social and Law Assistance for Roma (Gypsies)
which operates jointly with the non-governmental organisation Memorial,
on May 21, Roma from the town of Beregovo (Transcarpathian region of
Ukraine), who as of that date lived in the self-made huts in the
Obukhovo District in St. Petersburg, were attacked by individuals in
uniforms who were shooting firearms into the air. Officers reportedly
demanded that the Roma concerned leave the site immediately. Militia
also chased and reportedly shot at persons as they were trying to run
away. Officers also reportedly burnt two small shanties where Roma,
including pregnant women and children, had been living. Officers
allegedly warned the inhabitants that on the following day militia would
return, and all people would be expelled. In the morning hours of May
26, the same militia officers (from Militia Department No.29, according
to the victims) detained Romani women and their children in the vicinity
of Obukhovo and once again threatened them with expulsion and burning of
their houses.

Explicit targeting of Roma by law enforcement officials violates a
number of provisions of international law to which Russia is a party,
including Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which states: "States
Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all
appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial
discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all
races, and, to this end: (a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no
act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of
persons or institutions and to en sure that all public authorities and
public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with
this obligation; [...]", as well as Article 5 of the ICERD which states:
"In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2
of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to
eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the
right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national
or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment
of the following rights: [...] (b) The right to security of person and
protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether
inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or
institution; [...]". The United Nations Committee on Elimination of
Racial Discrimination at its 62nd Session on March 3-21, 2003 urged the
Government of the Russian Federation to take immediate measures such
that law enforcement officials respect and defend the human rights of
all individuals irrespective of their race, colour, or national or
ethnical origin.

The ERRC is aware that in previous years, Russian authorities have
undertaken similar actions, also entitled "Operation Tabor". The
explicit use of a term widely associated with Roma indicates that not
only were Russian authorities undertaking racial profiling and official
actions resulting in human rights abuses, but also apparently there has
been no intention whatsoever to mask the explicitly anti-Romani
character of these actions.

In the wake of 2002 "Operation Tabor", the ERRC and partner
organisations have repeatedly raised concerns related to "Operation
Tabor". Following the 2002 operation, representatives of the
organisation "Romano Kher", based in Moscow, met with Mr. V.A.Vasiliev,
then-Deputy Minister of Interior (at present Deputy chair of the Duma)
and Mr. E.N. Sidorenko, Deputy Minister of Justice, who promised that
such operations would not be repeated in the future. In autumn 2003, the
St. Petersburg-based organisations Memorial, Grazsdanski Kontrol,
Committee of Human Rights Lawyers, the "African Unity", Minority Rights
Group at the St. Petersburg Scientific Society, and the Harold and Selma
Light Centre for Legal Assistance sent a letter to the Governor's Office
of St. Petersburg expressing concerns related to the increase of the
extremist and nationalistic sentiment in the city, directed in
particular against Roma. In his response, Mr. L.P. Bogdanov, Head of the
Administrative Committee of St. Petersburg's Governors Office assured
the leaders of the non-governmental organisations that "...the issue of
protecting rights and freedoms and the human dignity of citizens,
irrespective of their status as St. Petersburgers or as guests of our
city, or individuals without citizenship, will be under the constant
control of the executive organs of St. Petersburg state authorities."

Honourable Governor Matvienko, the ERRC urges you to take immediate
measures in order to end the abusive militia operations targeting Roma
in St. Petersburg. We kindly request to be informed of any actions taken
by your office in this regard.

Sincerely yours,
Dimitrina Petrova,
Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:

Ms. Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko,
Governor of Saint-Petersburg
Fax: (812) 276 1827

Mr. Leonid Pavlovich Bogdanov,
Head of the Administrative Committee
of St. Petersburg's Governor's Office
Fax: (812) 276 1567


The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law 
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European 
Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201



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