Karol Sendrei, 50, was found dead after spending 12 hours in police custody from July 5 to 6.
Sendrei was pronounced dead July 6 after having spent 12 hours chained to a steel bar and being beaten at an eastern Slovakia police station in the village of Revúca.
According to an investigation report released October 9, "the police beat their victims with batons and their fists. They also caused them wounds by kicking them. One of the police even jumped on the chest of Karol Sendrei Sr as he lay on the hallway floor."
The police charged face a sentence of 8 to 15 years in prison if convicted.
An autopsy carried out after the three Roma had spent the night of July 5-6 in police care stated that Sendrei had died from massive internal injuries including skull and jaw fractures, punctured lungs, broken ribs and a ruptured liver.
The murder caused immediate international outrage. Western diplomats who had warned Slovakia in the past to improve its minority rights record said cases like that of Sendrei Sr had to be investigated promptly if the country hoped to be accepted to the European Union in 2004.
Banská Bystrica regional investigator Ján Krankuš had initially maintained that the Roma sustained their injuries during an earlier fight with local citizens in the front yard of the mayor's house in the tiny village of Magnezitovce. However, after evidence from police witnesses and a reconstruction of the events, Krankuš changed his views.
Interior Minister Ivan Šimko had also promised to have the case investigated within a month. Krankuš said October 9 he could not guess when the investigation might be complete, and said that no racial motive for the beatings had so far been identified.
The torture charges stem from a 1975 UN Convention on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Humiliating Conduct to which Slovakia is signatory, and whose terms the country has absorbed into its criminal code. Under the convention torture is defined as "any action which causes a person serious pain or physical or mental suffering with the aim of gaining from him... information about a crime he is suspected of having committed." It is only possible to lay torture charges in cases where the perpetrator commits the crime in the discharge of his function as a state official.
The charges are the first laid under the torture paragraph in Slovakia's history.
"I welcome these charges," said Ladislav Ďurkovič, head of the People Against Racism NGO. "The attitude of the police to the Roma is often hostile. I'm convinced there are more of these cases out there just waiting to come to light."
15. Oct 2001 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson