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Helsinki Committee protests brutality

THE SLOVAK Helsinki Committee and the International Helsinki Federation said that the Slovak government had failed to respect human rights in the police actions ordered to stop looting by Roma in eastern and central Slovakia, the news wire SITA reported.

The organisations warn that the Slovak Roma continue to face discrimination and social segregation. They are urging the government to thoroughly examine the possible abuse of power by the police during their deployment in the area of Roma unrest.

SHV chairman Lajos Grendel thinks that the government has chosen an unfortunate form for its social reform, which has hit not just the Roma community but all people in material need. He suggested that the reform has fully revealed the urgency of the Roma problem in Slovakia.

Grendel said anarchy and looting had no place in a country respecting the rule of law, but he also condemned the brutality that police officers and soldiers reportedly showed against the Roma.

SHV executive director Ingrid Baumannová added that it was unacceptable to keep people and their children standing for hours in freezing temperatures while police search their homes.

SHV insists that the new law on social assistance and the government's inability to appropriately respond to racism in other spheres of social life are discriminatory towards the Roma.

More socially vulnerable than most Slovaks and far less likely to find jobs, Roma demonstrated in February against the cuts in their welfare benefits.

In some cases the protests became riots in which people clashed with the police and looted supermarkets.

To return order, the government deployed an additional 1,600 police officers and 650 soldiers to reinforce police patrols in the Prešov, Košice, and Banská Bystrica regions.

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