Lithuanian capital razes 3 houses in Roma village


Vilnius, 13/02/2012 - Part of a Roma village on the outskirts of Lithuanian capital of Vilnius was demolished Monday as city authorities launched a campaign to crack down on illegal construction and alleged drug trade.
Using an excavator, workers dismantled three houses in the village of Kirtimai, which is largely populated by minority Roma, or Gypsies.
City officials say Kirtimai has 100 homes, but only one of them is legal. The rest are also likely to be razed as Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas steps up his vow to combat the narcotics trade in the area.
Six families, or 25 people, lived in the three houses, but neither they nor their neighbours offered any resistance to demolition workers.
A Roma leader, however, slammed Vilnius officials for the community's isolation and poverty.
"You say we all are illegal here, but what have you done to help us, to help our people? Nothing, you just sip tea, build palaces and now send excavators to our village," said Stemonas Vysockis.
Vysockis tore up demolition notification papers and threw the scraps into the snow.
Rights organizations have criticized the campaign as a gross violation of human rights.
The Roma community sued the Vilnius municipality several year ago, demanding 5.5 million litas (C1.6 million) in compensation for homes demolished in previous such campaigns. A court ruled that only 100,000 litas (C29,000) in nonmaterial damage be paid to the community.