Holes in Putnok

A Roma family in Putnok lives in fear since they informed the police that they heard noises similar to gunshots, and then found two holes on the gate of their home. Investigators only arrived after public pressure. The mayor says it is all a rumor.

“The children were playing in the yard, I went outside to check on them“-  József begins his story of the events of the previous Wednesday. It started out as an average summer night; it was around 7 p.m. All of a sudden, he heard a loud bang that he could not explain. So he looked out onto the street, and that’s when he heard the second one. The pedestrians heard the noises as well, which were reminiscent of gunshots. “It was as if I felt something whiz past me. I was frightened. I don’t know what it was, but by now I am too afraid to say anything.”

As he looked around, he saw two holes on his wooden gate. József and his brother ran to the Putnok police station right away, where they reported the case. Ten minutes later they called the 112 emergency number as well. The call was directed to the Ózd police department, where the policeman on duty said that he would send out investigators if the casings were found. The policeman on duty justified this by explaining that they receive many similar reports, and 90 percent of them are unfounded.
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The two Putnok policemen who arrived on the scene around 7:30 p.m. tried to find the casings for an hour and a half, and they even went around asking all the neighbors whether they had been responsible for the noises.  They found that that was not the case.  At around 9 p.m. the two policemen left the scene, and the casings were not found.  During this time, the head of the Putnok TASZPOINT (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union legal service station) arrived. With the help of the HCLU, they turned to the public to question why, during a suspected gunshot investigation, the police does not automatically send investigators to secure the crime scene, and instead relies on civilians and local police to look for casings.

It happens in Hungary that in cases where Romas are victimized, the police do not follow protocol when dealing with the case.  For example, during the serial killings of multiple Roma victims, the crime scene in Tatárszentgyörgy, where two Roma were murdered, the national police department conceded that in February of 2009, the police infringed upon constitutional rights by not securing the crime scene, and did not treat the territory in question according to protocol.

After 9 p.m. a journalist from Index called the Roma family from Putnok, and an account of the events was published by 10 p.m.  The investigators only arrived afterwards, and then proceeded to spend hours investigating the crime scene, collecting evidence, taking photographs, making videos, using metal detectors to scan the area.  They took their findings to the police station in Miskolc by 5 a.m.  During this time, from 1 to 2:15 a.m. József was questioned by the police in Putnok.  A police car was parked in front of the house until morning. The family stayed awake the entire night.

By morning, there were many journalists in front of the house, and at 8:30 József and his wife were called back to the police station for further questioning.  They arrived home at noon, by that point their gate was gone, and the number of journalists was growing.  This was when the police fenced off the house.  József did not receive any documentation from the proceedings or his questioning.  He was only notified through the media that the police had determined that the holes in the gate were not created by bullets.  They also only read about the fact that the police had started an investigation regarding the disturbance of the peace.

On Tuesday, the press reported that Barnabás Tamás, the Fidesz mayor of Putnok, a member of the parliamentary police committee, gave a press conference in which he questioned whether the whole incident had been merely a nasty rumor, and he said he would investigate the issue.

“All I need is for the police to take me in because they believe I had made the whole thing up.”  Days after the events, the family is contemplating leaving Putnok regardless of the fact that this is where they were born, and where they had lived their lives.  Just because they reported to the police what they had observed, they are being humiliated and shamed, and are afraid that they will be punished without reason.

József explains that calling the police was the most natural reaction to hearing sounds similar to gunshots, because otherwise he might be accused of trying to hide something.  “What we’ve learned from this is that we can never turn to the police.  We have to solve all our problems by ourselves.  They will not help us.”

Megosztás

Kapcsolódó hírek

Discriminatory fines for motoring offences

In Borsod county in Hungary, Romas (who live in poverty and segregation) on bicycles are fined daily for motoring offences. They are regularly penalized for offences that they haven’t committed, alongside fines for petty offences, such as lack of lamps in broad daylight. The imposed fines are disproportionately high, and extremely difficult to repay. Due to the lack of information, the capacity for legal redress is very low in these peripheral communities. The word of a Roma man against a policeman’s is generally not taken seriously in these courts; penalized people are not able to defend themselves against such infringements on their rights. Does it make sense for the police force to spend tax-payers’ money and allocate its own resources for an undue and unnecessary penalization activity? Is it beneficial for our society to unduly penalize and criminalize the already underprivileged?

 

Now I ask the questions, and they answer

The aim of the Make your voice heard! project of the HCLU is to facilitate advocacy skills of Roma communities. Therefore, the HCLU trains Romani activists in freedom of information and in participatory rights. This obtained knowledge will help them gain insight into local decision-making processes. By having access to data of public interest and exercising participatory rights, their situation will improve so they can reach the social level of the less underprivileged majority.

 

'Gypsy or Hungarian, it’s the same to me'

Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary; on May 18, 2010. We visited the temporary quarters of those who had been evacuated due to the flood. Many of them have complained that the ’Hungarians’ did not help the Gypsies during the defense against the flood.