Ethnically motivated hate crimes against Roma women

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Conducted by the Human Rights Project Sofia ­ Roma Association, and collected in the fellowship program of the Open Society Institute / Network Women’s Program.


A. Physical Abuse of Roma Women by Citizens

  1. The Murder of Nadezhda Dimitrova from Sofia
  2. The information on this case is based on the testimonies, given prior the investigation by the four school boys, who attacked Nadezhda Dimitrova, the testimonies of the Head of School # 30 in Sofia, as well as the information provided by the relatives of Nadezhda.

    On June 15th, 1999, at about 8 p.m. in the center of Sofia (Zona B-5 neighborhood), four school boys at the age of 15-16, beat to death the 33-year old Roma beggar Nadezhda Roumenova Dimitrova. Nadezhda was disabled by birth; she had malformation of the legs and arms, and was mentally retarded. She lived with her sister's family in Sofia.

    The four boys had met several hours before the murder in the local High School #30, on the occasion of the end of the school year 1998/1999. From their testimonies, it became clear that they had gathered to a drinking party before they committed the attack. After 8 p.m. the four of them headed for the skate-board square, which was close to the private store. There they took notice of Nadezhda, who was hanging around. The 15-year old D. cried out : "Hey, you gypsy, what are you doing here?" and started kicking and hitting her. According to the testimony they gave, all four of them were drunk. D. had been the active one; two of the other boys had tried to stop him, and the forth one had only observed. When the woman stopped moving, the group went away. They continued drinking alcohol. Later they returned to the spot of the incident, where D. started kicking Nadezhda again. None of them could see that she was already dead.

    Legal status: An investigation on the murder had been initiated by the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office. The major suspect of the murder is D. According to Ms. Atanaska Ivanova - Headmaster of the school, none of the four schoolboys has been affiliated with any skinhead groups. The criminal investigation has not been concluded as of May 2000.

  3. The Case of Nedka Atanassova from Sliven
  4. On July 20, 1997 a group of schoolboys attacked Nedka Tsoneva and her 11-year old son at one of the central streets of Sliven. The boys beat Nedka Tsoneva to death. One of them alleged that he attacked the woman, because she was Gypsy. Two of the attackers had been indicted for causing death of the victim.

    Legal status: The Supreme Court, where the case was heard upon appeal, sentenced one of the attackers to 1 year and 6 months term of imprisonment under probation of three years.

  5. The Case of Daniela Borrisova Pesheva from Sofia
  6. On Septeber 30, 1998, at around 11:30 p.m. Bisser Mitov, Daniela Pesheva and Ani Pesheva, Roma from Sofia, were on a tram on their way home. Three unfamiliar young men started harassing the two girls. The men were saying that "Gypsies do not have the right to live". The three Roma got off at their stop and the three men followed them. The latter started pulling the two girls by the clothes. According to Bisser Mitov, he felt unable to defend the girls, and ran to call for some relatives, living in the house near the tram stop. Upon his alarm several people from the house rushed to the tram stop, where the three men had already knocked Daniela down and were beating her. As the attackers saw a group of Roma approaching, they ran away, leaving Daniela unconscious.

    Daniela Pesheva had filed a complaint with the Vth Regional Police Department of Sofia on 2.10.1998, accompanied by a forensic certificate stating light bodily injuries as a result of the beating. No action had been undertaken upon her complaint.

  7. The Case of Bonka and Others from Dulgo Pole, Plovdiv Region
  8. On July 21, 1997, at around 2 a.m. nine Roma - six men and three women from the village of Dulgo Pole went to a potato field with the intention to steal potatoes for the purpose of their family's survival.

    While picking and gathering the potatoes they were approached by the guard who started shooting at them. Six of them managed to escape. The three women who were not able to escape - Maria, her daughter Anka and Bonka, were severely beaten by the guard. Early in the morning on the next day the guard tied Bonka and Anka to a pillar in the center of the village, where the two women were humiliated and threatened with physical abuse by a crowd of local people. Bonka, who was previously injured as a result of the shooting, was driven to a hospital in Plovdiv for emergency medical care.

  9. The Case of Sultana Samuilova Dimitrova from Petrich
  10. On December 4, 1998 in the area close to the Roma neighborhood in the town of Petrich was murdered Sultana Samuilova Dimitrova, 20, mother of tree children, from the same town.

    At about 2 p.m. Sultana Dimitrova, her husband, her mother and two children, went in the outskirts of the town to gather wood for heating. While gathering the wood, they met Nikola Kitipov, 46, a man from the same town. He accused the Roma of having stolen his cattle. After a short quarrel between Nikola Kitipov and the Roma family, which denied the theft, the latter went on their way back to the town. Then Nikola Kitipov produced a shot with his hunter's gun and knocked down Sultana. She died on the way to the hospital. Nikola Kitipov was arrested 24 hours after the murder .

    An investigation of the case is underway at the Regional Prosecutor's Office of Blagoevgrad.


B. Physical Abuse of Roma Women by the Police

  1. The Case of Anelia Ivanova and others from Elhovo
  2. On July 10, 1997 at about 8 p.m. three Roma girls, Anelia Ivanova, 14, Silvia Ivanova, 11, and Nadezhda Ivanova, 10, were ill-treated by police officers from the Regional Police Department of Elhovo. The girls, who were suspected of theft, were taken to the RPD without their parents, where the policemen continued to harass them until about 10 p.m., epileptic, had had two faints, while the policemen were hitting her and her sisters. The other two girls had undergone serious psychic disturbances.

    Legal status: The parents of the girls had submitted complaint to the District Prosecutor's Office of Yambol. No investigation will be carried on. With a decree from 16.12.1997 the Military Prosecutor of Sliven refused to open criminal investigation. According to this decree there had been no abuse of power on part of the police officers. The decree stated that Anelia had been beaten by her father. There were no witnesses or other evidences to the incident and therefore the statement of the prosecutor cannot be refuted.

  3. The Case of Tanya Borissova from Pazardzik
  4. On September 8, 1999 at about 11 a.m. in front of the Labor Bureau in Iztok neighborhood of Pazardzik a big number of Roma thronged in front of the Bureau, waiting to get information about the 70 job openings recently announced by the Bureau. According to the assertions of Tanya Borissova somebody at the end of the disordered mass of people shuffled and pushed several people in front. The police officer guarding the area in front of the Bureau was allegedly swung by the people in the line. He asked who pushed him and several people pointed backwards towards the direction where Tanya Borissova was standing. Then the police officer approached Tanya, grabbed her hair and started inflicting fist blows on her. Tanya explained that she was not responsible for the incident but the policeman continued to beat her. Two other police officers joined their colleague and also inflicted several blows on Tanya. Shortly afterwards she was taken to the Regional Police Department of Pazardzik and the same day the District Court of Pazardjik sentenced her for minor hooliganism to 5 days police custody. The sentence ruled out appeal.

  5. The Case of Fanka Hristova from Karnobat
  6. On February 18, 1999 at about 10:00 a.m. Fanka, together with two other women and a child, was going home with several pieces of wood that she had gathered from the forest near "Lyulitsa" neighbourhood, where she lives. On approaching the neighbourhood, the women were stopped by the police officer Svetoslav Marchev, leading a dog. Frightened by the dog, the women rushed down the hill in order to reach their homes as soon as possible. They heard the policeman setting the dog on them and were shortly afterwards overtaken by the dog, which started biting Fanka.

    One of the women begged the policeman to stop the dog because they were very frightened and they didn't understand how they provoked the violence on his part. The policeman answered that this was the only way to prevent Roma people from stealing wood. "Until one of you get hurt, you won't stop stealing fire wood from the forest. " - was his answer. In 5 min. according to Fanka the policeman called the dog, put the leash on his neck, and went away. The women brought Fanka to her home in "Lyulitsa" neighborhood where her nephew gave her first aid and then drove her to the hospital. The victim was examined by a doctor, who gave her a forensic certificate. On their way back Fanka and her nephew saw the policeman Marchev with a police car in front of her house. Together with him there were two other policemen. The three of them made Fanka get into the car and drove her to the Regional Police Department. In the Regional Police Department of Karnobat Fanka was interrogated in private by Marchev, who obliged her against her will to sign a report on the incident. Fanka explained to a representative of the Human Rights Project that she was forced to sign it because she was intimidated by the policeman.

    The next day Fanka went to see Velcho Baev, the police offier of the "Lyulitsa" neighbourhood. He made a report on the incident as it had been related by Fanka.

    Legal status: With the assistance of the HRP Fanka Hristova filed a complaint with the Military Prosecutor's Office in Sliven.


II. Abuse of Roma Women by State Officials and Medical Doctors

  1. The Case of Ivanka Yankova from Sliven
  2. On November 10, 1999 Ivanka Yankova went to the Social Aid Service (SAS) in Sliven to apply for a social benefit for heating. The reception of citizens was organized at the Pensioners' Club. Ivanka told the HRP that the employee of the SAS refused to give her a form to fill out. The SAS employee claimed that Ivanka works at a hairdressers' and therefore she is not eligible to that aid. Ivanka told the HRP that she was addressed in a rude and offending manner by the SAS woman, who told her: "I know your Gypsy tricks but I will prove that you work at a hairdressers'". Ivanka Yankova cliamed that she had all documents required by the SAS to certify her eligibility for social aid. Despite that the person in charge, while reviewing her documents, was threatening Ivanka that there is a way to prove she was working at the hairdressers'. Ivanka told the HRP that she eventually asked the employee of the SAS what was the reason she did not want to accept her application. She did not receive any motivated response and was pushed outside the room by the employee, who disputed her eligibility and a colleague of hers, a man, called Danail. Ivanka resisted and tried to stay inside the room, then she was hit twice in the head by the man. Ivanka's husband and three other people witnessed the incident. Ivanka was hospitalized and has a forensic certificate for her injuries.

  3. The case of Vesselina Yordanova from Elhovo
  4. On May 5, 1997 Vesselina Yordanova, 18 a Roma woman in her first advanced pregnancy felt acute pain in the abdomal area. The due date for giving birth of the baby was June 1, 1997. Accompanied by her sister, Yordanova went to the regional hospital of Elhovo. She was examined and the ginecologist concluded that the fitus was dead and she had to have an operation in the District hospital of Yambol.

    In the afternoon of the same day, accompanied by a doctor, a nurse and her mother Yordanova arrived in Yambol. The pregnant woman had to wait in the corridor of the hospital. Many of the patients started asking in a loud voice: "Why are you driving these Gypsies to Yambol?". There had been other unaddressed humiliating remarks agains the Roma people in general.

    Yordanova was examined again at 4:00p.m.and the medical team decided that she should not be operated and she should give birth to the dead fitus instead. Yordanova died at 10:30 p.m. as a result of loss of blood.

    Criminal investigation was initiated on May 15, 1997 with an accusation under Art. 123 para.1 of the Criminal Code (A person who causes the death of another through ignorance or negligent performance of vocation or other legally regulated activity, constituting a source of major danger, shall be punished by deprivation of liberty for up to five years). The investigation has not been concluded as of May 2000.


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