The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention sent the government of Belarus questions about the mass arrests and inhuman treatment of members of the Roma community in Mogilev and other cities in May 2019.
The experts expressed serious concern about the mass arrests conducted in Roma communities in the suburbs of Mogilev and other cities of Belarus in May 2019, which were accompanied by acts of harassment and physical violence on the part of police officers. These arrests were made because of suspicions that members of the Roma community were involved in the kidnapping and murder of a traffic police officer. The Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus later found that this suspicion was unsubstantiated, and UN experts determined that the police officers’ actions were racially motivated.
In their letter, UN representatives emphasized separately that the threats and acts of intimidation made by the police were intended to prevent the arrestees from protecting their violated rights. UN bodies asked Belarus to submit detailed information on the arrests, including information about the investigation of these rights violations and the assistance provided to the victims.
In its response, Belarus stated that 52 of the 132 members of the Roma community questioned during investigative actions on May 16 and 17, 2019 were arrested, that no physical force or special weapons were used against them, and that the officers’ actions were not racially motivated. Belarus also stated that the Procurator General’s Office conducted a check after the arrests and found that police officers had committed violations during administrative procedures. As a result, eight officers from the Mogilev Department of Internal Affairs faced financial measures and 20 officers from district precincts in Mogilev were subjected to disciplinary action.
As a reminder, over 100 members of the Roma community, including women and children, were arrested in Mogilev and other cities of Belarus during the night of May 16 to 17. These arrests were made in connection with the investigation into the murder of a traffic police officer. During the arrests and interrogations, officers used disproportionate amounts of physical force and threatened and intimidated the Roma people. Three days later, on May 19, 67-year-old Romani woman Lidia Yurchenko, whose home was stormed by OMON officers, died of a heart attack. Her family is convinced that her death was a direct result of the threats and acts of intimidation of OMON officers.
ADC Memorial and the Viasna Human Rights Center call on the government of Belarus to conduct a proper criminal investigation into cases of torture and inhuman treatment during the mass arrests of members of the Roma community, which also resulted in the death of Lidia Yurchenko, and provide compensation for the victims of this inhuman treatment. We also call on government bodies of Belarus to direct their attention to racial profiling of members of the Roma community by law enforcement bodies and take measures to eradicate manifestations of discrimination against members of the Roma minority.
Application within early warning and urgent action procedure of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Mass arbitrary detention of Roma in Belarus in May 2019