November 13, 2015

Attacks against Roma children have to be investigated and appropriately sanctioned

The Network for Protection against Discrimination expresses its concerns regarding the attack against a child, member of the Roma ethnic minority, which took place on 11 November 2015, close to the SILBO bakery in the center of Skopje. Namely, according to eyewitnesses, the child was harassed and beaten, allegedly because it had been asking money from the bakery shoppers. An eyewitness reported the incident to the Police, which arrived at the scene very quickly and took statements from the individuals who allegedly perpetrated the act, as well as from the eyewitness who reported the incident.

We hold that with those actions, the implicated individuals committed criminal offense, because they jointly harassed, physically harmed and endangered the child’s safety. Taking in consideration that the act was perpetrated in a public space – outside a catering facility in the center of Skopje and in front of larger number of other persons, guest of the facility, it may be concluded that the perpetrators with their actions caused feeling of insecurity, endangerment and fear to the rest of the bystanders as well.

Considering that the victim of this criminal offense is person belonging to marginalized community, i.e. a child of Roma ethnicity, while the actions of the perpetrators violating the victims’ rights were directed toward entire group of children of Roma ethnicity as a whole, the perpetrators with their actions exercised discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and belonging to marginalized community.

Especially worrisome is the fact that this is not the first reported case of harassment and attack against Roma children by employees or owners of catering facilities. Therefore, we believe that the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution Office should work urgently on solving these cases and on undertaking appropriate measures for initiating criminal procedures against the suspects, with the aim to deliver appropriate penalties to the perpetrators, as well as to prevent future attacks against Roma children.

As far as  the proceedings instigated by the competent institutions are concerned, we ask for due attention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is stipulated there that the institutional bodies are obliged to undertake all appropriate measures in order to facilitate protection of the child from all sorts of physical and mental violence, as well as from injuries and harassment. The institutions should also take in consideration the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, especially the case Bekos and Koutropulus v. Greece, where it was determined that the inability or the incompetence of the institutional bodies to investigate whether in a particular case racial motives, i.e., racial discrimination was involved, should also be considered as violation of the ban on discrimination.