Racial profiling still a problem in Ukraine
When two police officers asked Steven Okurut on July 18 to accompany them to a secluded room in a Kharkiv supermarket, Okurut had nothing to fear. His residency permit was valid and Ukrainian police still aren’t equipped with mini-computers to make on-the-spot document checks.
He never thought that he’d leave the grocery store with severely bruised ribs, fractured finger joints, a bloody mouth and head injuries, and virtually cashless.
But when they entered the second-floor room, Okurut said the two officers started accusing the Ugandan national of harboring and trafficking drugs. They proceeded to search him, including his private parts, and even asked him the size of his penis and the origin of his golden wedding band after it slipped off his finger with ease.
Okurut denied the drug accusations and refused to dignify the penis-related question with a response. At one point during the 40-minute ordeal, they started beating and kicking him, sometimes with a rubber baton, he said.
“Do you know where you have come?” one of them asked, adding, “We must punish you, you nigger.”
In between multiple blows to the head, shoulders, ribs and thighs, one of the officers walked out of the room to check if Okurut’s wails can be heard outside the room.
In the end Okurut said the officers took $315 and Hr 200, leaving him with just enough money for a taxi.
“This is an age-old method [by the police] of extorting money from Africans and Asians,” said Charles Asante-Yeboa, president of the African Center, a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of Africans in Ukraine and in other international communities. “They first accuse you of drug dealing, of possession, and then they search you and take whatever they like.”
According, Asante-Yeboa, many Africans comply with police requests to accompany them for document checks since they believe in the genuineness of their documents. “And the police normally don’t fear the consequences of their actions when freely targeting Africans because Africans in Ukraine are a group that lack adequate social support,” he said.
The local Kharkiv police would not comment on Okurut’s case and a local prosecutor’s office said that it will not provide comment until a preliminary, 10-day fact-finding investigation launched on July 20 ends.
More than just a problem with police
The full article can be read at: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/75582/#ixzz0v3lzAo8d