Roma Protest in Romania after Police Shooting

Roughly 50 protesters, most of them Roma, gathered in downtown Bucharest on December 10 to call attention to what they regard as institutionalized police discrimination against Roma. The demonstrations took place just a week after, and in response to, the fatal shootings of two Roma youths by police in Buhusi in northern Romania. The Romani CRISS association organized the protests, where they accused the police of targeting the victims because of their ethnicity.

The authorities maintain that the officers fired “in self-defense” in response to attacks by the victims. The incident is only the most recent in a long list of episodes involving excessive force or discrimination by police against Roma. In October 1999, Radu Marian, a 40 year-old Romani man, was shot in the head when running away from police seeking to question him about cigarette smuggling, according to witnesses interviewed by the European Roma Rights Center. An internal investigation determined that the death was not accidental, as the officer had stopped to aim the fatal shot - but no prosecutions or disciplinary action were taken.

In January 2001, Dan Parvu was returning from gathering iron ore near his village one day when he and his son and young cousin were accosted by private security guards, verbally abused and then beaten. Parvu attempted to stop one of the guards from shooting his cousin as he fled, and was shot point blank through the leg. Upon returning from his lengthy stay in the hospital, he found a summons to the local prosecutor's office, and rumors circulated that he would be arrested for 'stealing' iron ore. He did not file a complaint against his attacker for fear of further reprisals.

ERRC has documented a large number of cases involving excessive use of force by police officers against Roma, and the apparent racism that motivates it. In many cases, physical abuse was accompanied by verbal attacks, often insulting their victims' Romani ethnicity. Beatings of victims who have called them to scenes of incidents, and intimidation to keep their misconduct quiet, are not uncommon. In one shocking case detailed by ERRC, police officers even exhorted an angry mob of villagers to set fire to the homes of three of their Roma neighbors. The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights office singled out Romania's criminal justice system in 1999 for its “inhumane and degrading treatment” of Romani individuals, calling for reforms and greater accountability for abusers.

More information on the human rights situation in Romania can be found at: