Some days you hear stories about things in the world, and you’re filled with hope for humanity. Maybe we’re finally getting it. Learning to get along and accept one another.
This isn’t one of those days.
I asked my brother in law yesterday about what would happen if a Roma teen in Slovakia were accused of a crime. How people would treat him. (You can read into the question what you will, as long as it isn’t “book deal for Vodnik sequel.” Because it’s definitely not that, or anything like unto it.) He got back to me fairly quickly after he asked around with some of his connections. (I was wondering specifically if the kid would get arrested right away, or go to trial, etc.)
He sent me a link to this story. Judging by my web analytics, hardly any of you will click through to read that. Let me sum it up for you.
Around five years ago, an elderly woman in Eastern Slovakia was mugged and injured. Police picked up a group of 6 Roma teens (age 10-16) and were convinced they were the perpetrators. In Slovak law, children younger than 14 can’t be prosecuted for a crime. (Note–I’m not a Slovak lawyer. I could be wrong on this, but it’s my understanding at the moment.) So the police knew at least three of these teens weren’t going to be punished, even if they could prove they did the mugging.
So the police decided to get creative and inventive, all on their own. They also decided it would be fun to film their creativity. I don’t believe many stories that start out with this premise end well, and it didn’t end well here, either.
They brought the teens to the police station, sent a police dog at them, intimidated them into beating each other up, forced them to strip naked, and then beat some of them up personally for good measure. Among other things. 9 Slovak police officers (8 men, 1 woman) participated in this. All of them lost their jobs. (That’s something.) This week, all of them were also acquitted of any legal wrongdoing. Why? Because the video the police had shot of the act was the main piece of evidence, and it was thrown out. Deemed inadmissible because of how it had been obtained.
(Another note: comments in Slovak are just as bad–if not worse–than comments in English.)
I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me–not when in America, you still have cases like Ferguson or Eric Garner’s choking going on. But here’s an example where there’s extensive video coverage of the crimes. Faces are visible. The acts are despicable–and still nothing happens. I’d really hoped Vodnik could make more a ripple in Slovakia itself. Every now and then a Slovak blogger will come across it, and it’s been well received when that happens. (Here’s a review that was published a month ago online. It’s a good one, though Google translate doesn’t work too well for it.) But good luck getting a Slovak or Czech publisher to commit to it.
I know people sometimes roll their eyes at me a bit when I start speaking up for Roma rights, but the vast majority of Americans don’t realize Roma even exist. Would the problem be solved if Americans did? I’m not sure what the immediate impact would be, but I know bringing attention to it could help, and America could certainly do that.
Then again, when we can’t even figure out our own problems, what hope do we have of helping to solve other nations’ difficulties?
Sorry. Just a bit down and depressed about this today . . .