ERTF Reaction for Suto Orizari's clashes

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Dear Mr. Prime Minister, 

I am writing to you as President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) to express my deepest concern at the conduct of the special police force during the clashes that arose from the inspection of the market in Shto Orizari by the State Inspectorate of the Commerce on 15th April 2010. 

I have been closely following the situation through the national media and first-hand reports sent to ERTF delegates in Macedonia and, by all acconts, the inspection began peacefully with vendors cooperating and providing documentation as requested. However, once the inspectors began confiscating properly imported goods from the vendors, tensions flared up and the situation soon ran out of control.

Abot 200 special police force officers in riot gear suddenly appeared, arriving in about 40 police transporters. The overwhelming police presence further heightened the tense situation, which resulted in clashes between the police and civilians. Rocks were thrown and the police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Some police were also filmed beating up vendors and other citizens present at the market. The Mayor of Suto Orizari, Elvis Bajram, indicated that, in total, about 40 Romani individuals were injured, including minors, although regrettably the media only reported the nmber of police injured.
I could go on but I am sure that you are aware of the documentary evidence filmed on that day which I believe speaks for itself.

ERTF thereby strongly condemns the inhuman treatment that the street vendors and other individuals present, including minors, received from the police, particularly the extortion and physical abse that took place. The blatant disregard of the fundamental human rights of these victims should be addressed by appropriate punitive action from the government. 

Shuto Orizari, being the only Roma municipality in Europe, has earned Macedonia the reputation of being a democratic country. Its market provides a contribution beyond economy, which must not remain unspoken. The market alone has brought together many people from different generations coming from various social, educational and political backgrounds. Many stereotypes and prejudices were questioned there, and cultures fused in the years that have passed and years to come.

While the market in Shuto Orizari has been referred to as informal economy, thus making it illegal, it was politically approved by all Macedonian Governments in the past decade in the name of basic existence of the Roma. Similar merchandise is widely available in many markets in Macedonia, including the largest market, Bit Pazar, but no state action against this or any other location has been reported, and certainly not any heavy-handed police action on this scale.

Dear Prime Minister, the ERTF calls on your office to ensure a full investigation into the violent clashes which took place between police officers and Romani street vendors, including minors, on 15 April 2010 and to bring to justice all officers found to have acted disproportionately with violence in contravention of the law.

The ERTF will continue to closely follow developments on this issue and we look forward to hearing from you.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), which has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe and a special status with this institution, is Europe’s largest and most inclusive Roma and Traveller organisation. It brings together Europe’s main international Roma-NGOs and more than 1,500 national Roma  and Traveller organisations from most Council of Europe Member States.

Rudko Kawczynski