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Sinti group accuses police of handcuffing boy

Kai Dambach
February 11, 2021

An 11-year-old said he had asthma and was having trouble breathing during the incident, a regional Sinti and Roma group has said. It also accused police of threatening a group of children.

German police cars
The local Sinti-Roma group had harsh criticism for their treatment of the minorImage: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Plunert

A regional association of Sinti and Roma in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg on Wednesday accused local police of handcuffing and threatening an 11-year-old boy.

The group accused two Singen police officers of saying, "one of the gypsies, we know him," and "death is coming for you," around a group of Sinti children playing in front of the boy's grandmother's house on Saturday.

Study on racism in the police

What accusations were made against police?

According to the association's statement, the police officers questioned the boy, demanding he identify himself and found a small folding knife the boy said was for work in the garden and around the house. Officers reportedly told the boy to "shut his mouth," placed him in handcuffs and, the statement said, used "physical force to get the child into the back seat of the squad car." The minor tried to tell the officers that he had three broken ribs and asthma, causing breathing problems. 

The group said the boy was denied contact with his family while detained at the police station for an hour before he was released. The handcuffs were removed after 30 minutes at the police station, according to the Sinti and Roma association. 

The family has filed a legal complaint against the police force.

"Police used excessive force against a child — a 11-year-old Sinto!" the family said in the statement released by the association. "My son had marks from the handcuffs on his hands. We are going to stand up and rais our voices."

'We really have to tackle this problem'

The family was represented by Dr. Mehmet Daimagüler, who represented some victims in neo-Nazi NSU trials.

Children under the age of 14 have a right to have parents or guardians present during questioning and are not old enough to be held criminally responsible. Possession of a folding knife is not illegal in Germany.

The police headquarters said they were not aware of the incident and had not received the complaint. Once they received it, a spokesperson told the epd news agency, they would carefully examine the allegations. A spokesperson also said the police take all accusations of police misconduct seriously.

German police accused of racial bias

German police have been recently accused of being racially biased while on duty. That includes the state police against Sinti and Roma. In April 2020, members of a Roma family were injured in an incident with police in Freiburg over what the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as "trivial matters." Sources told the paper that the incident caused regular meetings and a better relationship between police and Roma in the area.

Indications of racism in German police

A three-year study looking into racism within German police departments got underway last year.

Following the death of George Floyd in police custody last year, Germans took to the streets demanding police reform and better treatment of minorities in Germany.