Death in Police Cell. How did Rooble Warsame Die?
On the night of the 26th of February 2019 police officers took 22 year old refugee Robble Warsame from an AnkER facility in Schweinfurt to a local police station. A few hours later, Robbie Warsame is dead. Shortly after, police declare that the victim took his own life in his cell: an unconvincing explanation in the light of the known circumstances surrounding his death.
Entrainment to the Police Station: Two Hours Later Dead
Robble Warsame, who fled from Somalia, was living in a collective accommodation centre in Schweinfurt, at the time of his death in February 2019. He shared his room with four to five other people. Living conditions in collective refugee housing are miserable.
On the night of Thursday the 25th of February Robble Warsame fought in said accommodation centre with another man. They had both consumed alcohol and were loud but remained non-violent. However private security of the accommodation still felt they could not get the situation under control themselves and called police.
When police officers arrived at the accommodation they told the men they were not allowed to drink alcohol. Robble Warsame disagreed and pointed out that he had bought the alcohol at the camp’s kiosk. Accounts of what happened next differ. What we know for certain is that the two men were taken to the police station.The police officers stated, that Robble Warsame was arguing more than he should. He did not resist his arrest.
A few hours later, police returned to the camp and declared Rooble Warsame had committed suicide in his cell.
No Possibility to Commit Suicide
News of Robble Warsame’s death spread through Facebook and eventually reached his family. After a phone conference, four of his relatives from Sweden, Norway, Austria and England travelled to Schweinfurt. Upon arrival they met with friends of Robble Warsame from his housing and mosque community.
The family went to the police station in Schweinfurt, where police informed them that Robble Warsame had taken his life two hours after being taken into police custody. He was said to have used a sheet and blanket. Further inquiry on how Robble Warsame had managed to strangulate himself could not be explained by police. Police referred to a team from Munich responsible for further investigation and to obtain information about the findings they were told they had to provide legal assistance.
Police did not initially grant the family permission to visit the cell in which Robble Warsame died. Only through persistent efforts and multiple calls to police administration they were allowed to enter the cell. It was forbidden to take pictures of the cell.
Warsame’s cousin Mohammad Yassin recalls: “The cell was two to four square metres long. We searched everything. It is not possible to commit suicide in this space. Unless one continuously bangs ones head against the wall, or strangles themselves with their own hands. There were no [things] in the room,…no hook, no rope, no opening to attach anything to.”
A present police officer claimed, Robble Warsame could have attached something to the bars of the cell. The bars in the enclosure, however, could not have withstood the weight of a person. Besides that, detainees do not receive sheets or a blanket. The mattress in the cell is made of solid material.
Family members demand a post mortem. They can not believe that Robble Warsame would take his life, so suddenly. He did not have any psychological problems and maintained close contact to his family. Why should he commit suicide after two hours in police custody?
There has been little cooperation on the part of the police Mohammad Yassin related: “They were unwilling to offer up any information, until we had legal assistance. They did not expect us to know our rights. Police seemed that no one would file a complaint against them. They wanted to cremate him as soon as possible. With the help of the mosque community we were able to prevent this from happening and were able to bury him.”
Injuries on His Body
For almost one week the body of Robble Warsame lay in the cold store of the police. His family and friends did not want to leave him there. They wanted to wash him according to Islamic custom and bury him appropriately. It was the 4. of March, a cold and rainy Monday morning. In the presence of the Imam the washing of the body began. All those present were shocked with what they see: fresh wounds on the body, nail scratches on his neck, an injury on his knee and haematomas on his legs and neck. Someone suggests that he was thrown on the ground and dragged across the floor. They do not see any marks indicating strangulation. The injuries on Robble Warsame’s body indicate a struggle rather than a suicide.
After the washing (ceremony) Robble Warsame is taken to a small part of the Schweinfurt cemetery, which is reserved for Islamic burials.
It is thanks to the mosque community that Robble Warsame’s faith and religious beliefs were respected. They fought hard with the police for an adequate burial of the young man. Approximately 4o people paid Robble Warsame their last respects: friends, roommates, community members. Common prayers take place at the grave. Many people cry. Police are on-site with several uniformed and non-uniformed officers. The reasoning behind their attendance is unclear.
No Faith in the Invesigative Work
During their visit to Schweinfurt Robble Warsame’s family speak to several people who knew him; his friends, the mosque community and the community in Schweinfurt. Those who had lived with him in the camp, show the family around the city and his room. The home’s management behaved amenable. The family gather all of Warsame’s personal documents and hand them over to their lawyer, together with their personal written accounts and numerous photographs.
The most important thing now: preventing the case against police officers involved being closed and protecting eye-witnesses from the camp from being deported.
The Campaign for Victims of Racially Motivated Police Brutality (KOP) was notified of the death of Robble Warsame by the mosque community. The belonging members as well as the family and everyone who knew Warsame personally want answers They want the public to know of the circumstances surrounding the death and to never let it be forgotten.
Mohammed Yassin a member of the city council in Malmö. The claims of Robble Warsame having committed suicide is hard for him to bear: “It is impossible. The police cell is designed to prevent self-harm and suicide. The detainees have to hand over all of their personal belongings, before being locked inside the cells. It was a cell used for sobering up. There was nothing there.”
Oury Jalloh was killed in such a cell in Dessau in 2005