Thursday, December 31, 2009



Assemblyman: Use Ethnic Profiling To Catch Terrorists

In the wake of a Nigerian man's failed attempt to blow up an airplane as it landed in Detroit on Christmas, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind is calling on authorities to instate a policy of ethnic profiling to stop would-be terrorists. According to CBS, the Borough Park Democrat — who was last spotted protesting against the inclusion of gays, gypsies, and the disabled at a Holocaust memorial — argues that politicians must "[l]et law enforcement do what it feels is necessary without tying their hands."

"This is the time we need to do the kind of things that we would not do under ordinary circumstances," said Hikind, who plans to introduce the profiling bill when legislation reconvenes in January. "It is to use ethnicity as one, and it's very clear, as one of the many different things that law enforcement can use." If history is any record, this bill won't go far. In 2005, Hikind proposed similar legislation that never even reached the Assembly floor. Though his first attempt at enacting ethnic profiling didn't get far, supporters defend the controversial measure and say it has worked successfully in Israel on El-Al Airlines.

But security experts and other lawmakers say a more effective strategy for combating terrorism is for the public "to become better at spotting suspicious behaviors and then be more willing to come forward and report what they see," according to the CBS.

By Ben Muessig in News on December 29, 2009 3:38 PM

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


On December 29, 1890 an estimated 300 Sioux Indians were killed by U.S. troops in what has become known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota

This is a good opportunity to bring to mind the continuous injustices being perpetuated against Native American Peoples to this day, including the continued imprisonment of Leonard Peltier and the travesties at Big Mountain.

Happy New Year eh?

Monday, December 28, 2009




By Brigid Grauman — Special to GlobalPost
Published: December 27, 2009 07:48
ETLENDAVA, Slovenia —
The word "gypsy" is often used pejoratively. But the Council of Europe is trying to change that with a new tourism route focusing on Roma culture and history.

“People see gypsies by a squalid dump at the side of the road,” said Jake Bowers, a militant British gypsy and journalist, “but they don’t really know us. I’d like a situation where we are recognized as a transnational European nation with representation at the United Nations.”

Bowers was speaking at the inauguration of the Roma Cultural Route last month, sponsored by the Strasbourg-based Council, which is not related to the European Union and works on European integration through culture and human rights. The route will link dispersed gypsy, or Roma, communities across Europe to strengthen existing networks and encourage Roma and non-Roma people to meet. Nine countries are already taking part with museums, shows and documentation centers. The inauguration took place in Slovenia at the Roma Kamenci settlement near the spa town Lendeva.

With his crewcut reddish hair and ruddy complexion, Bowers doesn’t look like a typical Roma, who usually have darker features, and that’s partly the point. After much historical research, including DNA testing, it seems incontrovertible that the original Roma came from India through Greece more than 1,000 years ago, dividing into groups according to trade and sometimes intermingling with outsiders. Today’s Roma are made up of many clans and tribes, and for practical purposes include Britain’s travelers and Ireland’s tinkers, who are native to the islands but share the same problems of social exclusion.

“Yeah, we’ve got problems, big problems in some places,” said Bowers, “but we belong to European society.” He believes that it’s time to replace negative stereotypes with more positive images that have a strong resonance in a globalized world. “We transcend notions of national borders,” he said, “and offer a permanent challenge to Europeans to live with diversity.”

The Kamenci settlement is a pilot project along the cultural route. Here, a Roma village has opened its doors to visitors with a museum and creative activities and workshops for Roma and others. In the field behind the settlement of rudimentary wooden and brick houses, little girls wearing long, colorful frocks gyrate their hips to taped music before an audience made up of Roma, Slovene and European NGO officials. Guest singers, musicians and dancers have come from other countries to celebrate the official launch.

Among the striking personalities is Miranda Volasranta, a Finnish Roma who runs a Roma civil rights forum in Helsinki. She dresses in traditional clothing that includes a 22-pound black velvet skirt.

Volasranta points to contributions the Roma have made to European culture, starting with Miguel de Cervantes’ short story, "The Little Gypsy Girl," through Alexander Pushkin’s poem collection, "The Gypsies," to Victor Hugo, who invented the lovely martyr La Esmeralda in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." There was Prosper Merimee and his free and forceful Carmen, not to mention the many composers who have used Roma musical themes in their work, including Sergei Rachmaninov, Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Haydn, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Maurice Ravel and Bela Bartok.

“Our cultural richness has mostly been transferred by non-Roma people,” said Volasranta, “in a highly romantic version. At the same time, we remain invisible to our neighbors. I hope this route will lead to many more cultural centers and museums to support Roma artists and craftspeople.”

There are some 12 million Roma in Europe, the continent's largest ethnic minority. Their situations vary greatly, from comfortable integration in Scandinavian countries to virtual apartheid in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. They are mostly settled nowadays rather than leading nomadic lifestyles, although the Roma of Britain, Ireland and France generally still travel from place to place. Too often, though, Roma children are sent to substandard schools, and many can’t read or write. Their families' permanent living situations can be grim.

Most of the Roma at the Slovenia meeting argued that education is the only way out of poverty and social exclusion. But at the same time, they want to hold on to such Roma cultural values as collective living and respect for children and the elderly. “There is nothing so sad as a Roma who has lost his sense of cultural identity because he is literally left with nothing,” said Romanian writer Luminita Cioaba, who fought with her family and community to finish school and attend university, and who writes books about Roma history.

The European Parliament also has focused on Roma rights. The year-old "Platform for Roma Inclusion" has issued a list of 10 basic principles, including fair access to schooling. But Polish-born Roma activist Rudko Kawczynski has accused the movers and shakers of creating NGOs with little understanding of the problems. As Bowers glumly put it, “our Romani story is a litany of false dawns.”

But while he is not exactly optimistic, Bowers believes the Roma route could combat prejudice. “The only way you can overcome racism is by direct contact between people. If anyone who thinks all gypsies are thieves and degenerates were to walk into this place,” he said, referring to Kamenci, “they would realize that it is a community like any other, albeit with a different culture.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009



2ND International meeting of Roma women organized by the Council of Europe, the Greek Ministry of Interior, Decentralization and E-Government, the Greek Inter-Municipal Rom Network (ROM Network) and the International Roma Women’s Network (IRWN)

Athens, 11-12 January 2010

Give voice to the voiceless was the aim of the Roma women’s gatherings organised under the auspices of the Council of Europe for the last five years. During these meetings Roma women voiced the plight of their communities for social justice and for the protection of their human rights. They pointed out their vulnerable condition within and outside their communities, established networks and became valuable interlocutors for governments and international organisations.

International organisations such as the European Union (FRA), OSCE/ ODIHR and Governments ( Sweden ) have joined the Council of Europe and in making so these meetings have become the reference for the Romani women movement. In 2007, in their Stockholm meeting the Roma women expressed the wish that their future meetings would take the form of an annual meeting hosted by a government.

Supporting the idea of the emancipation and involvement of Roma women, Greece now takes over the organisation of the 2nd annual meeting of the Roma women. The Athens meeting will focus on how Roma women will contribute to take up various challenges such as changing negative perceptions of Roma women in the media, eliminating harmful practices such as the early marriages and forced sterilization or promoting entrepreneurship and economic empowerment of Roma women.

The Greek authorities, the Swedish Minister for Integration and Gender Equality, Mrs Nyamko Sabuni and the Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Mrs Maud de Boer-Buquicchio will address the meeting.

Contact info for international participants


Roma and Travellers Division
DG III Social Cohesion
Council of Europe

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


From METRONEWS.CA toronto
Torstar News Service

Coroner investigating death of Roma refugee at detention centre

22 December 2009 05:09

A Toronto woman is seeking answers after her husband, a Roma refugee, died in the Toronto West Detention Centre on Dec. 8, two days after he was supposed to have been deported.

The Ontario coroner is investigating the death of Jan Samko, 31, who was scheduled to be sent back to the Czech Republic.

On Dec. 9, a Toronto police officer told Samko’s widow Nadezda Peterova and the couple’s daughter Sabina, 9, the factory worker had been found dead in his cell.

Andrei Balog, Samko’s brother-in-law, said a consulate official initially told them “there was some kind of incident. Mr. Samko got upset and he had to be subdued at the airport,” but the office later suggested the man had a “heart problem.”

Other than a limp from an injury he suffered in an attack by neo-Nazis as a youngster, Balog said Samko was healthy.

Stuart McGetrick, spokesperson for the provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said if the death is ruled “not of natural cause,” an inquest will be held.

torstar news

Sunday, December 20, 2009


UN Human Rights Commissioner Calls For Halt Of Forced Returns To Kosovo

Posted By admin On December 20, 2009 @ 2:39 pm In Europe, Governance, Public Administration, Security, Society & Democratic Renewal

“The forced return to Kosovo of people who have found shelter in European states should be halted”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights publishing today a letter to the Chancellor of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel.

He notes that Kosovo lacks infrastructures allowing refugees’ sustainable reintegration.

The Commissioner is particularly worried by the fact that Roma expelled from European states had to return to the lead-contaminated camps of Česmin Lug and Osterode in northern Mitrovica, where the exposure to lead has already caused serious illnesses to members of Roma families living there, including children. “These camps must be urgently closed, adequate housing provided to the families and complete lead-decontamination treatments ensured to all those affected.”

The Commissioner further stresses that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [1] confirmed in November that those who fled Kosovo and are still at particular risk of persecution include Serbs and Albanians in minority situations as well as Roma, persons in ethnically mixed-marriages or of mixed ethnicity, persons perceived to have been associated with the Serbian authorities after 1990, victims of trafficking or of domestic violence and persons whose asylum claims were based on sexual orientation.

“Return is not purely a technical administrative act”, added the Commissioner. “It means to receive and re-integrate returning people, including families, in dignity and security. I urge the German authorities to prevent any further forced returns to Kosovo, particularly of Roma people, as long as the situation there does not guarantee a safe and sustainable life for returnees.”


Article printed from Gov Monitor:

URL to article:

Friday, December 18, 2009


"Sunt Rom si am obosit sa fiu calcat in picioare in fiecare zi.



"I am Roma and I am tired of being trampled on every day.


My friend and brilliant musician, Costi Parvulescu, photographed the above words this past October in Bucuresti, Romania.
They are painted in intersections throughout the city.
The street paintings are part of the Roma Awareness Anti Racism Campaign in Bucuresti.

Sorry I couldn't get the picture onto the blog. It's an effective and inspiring shot.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Rome. Casilino 900 camp.

EveryOne Group:

“Imminent camp clearance of 700 Roma citizens who live in the camp, including seriously ill members and 300 children. It is an ethnic cleansing operation. An appeal to the European Commission, the council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner”.

“News has just reached us that the Italian authorities have decided to clear the Casilino 900 Roma settlement in Rome within the next three weeks”, say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau the co-presidents of the human rights organization EveryOne Group. “The Casilino 900 camp is the oldest Roma settlement in the capital.

The families (a total of about 700 people) have lived in the city for the last 40 years, after fleeing from the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The Roma live in disastrous health and sanitary conditions without any kind of assistance programme”, say the activists. “In recent years the institutions have spread terrible ideologies inspired by sentiments of racial hatred towards the Roma people of the Casilino 900 camp, accusing them of antisocial behaviour and being genetically inclined to commit crime”.

Recently, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, described the living conditions and the marginalization in which 300 children, pregnant women and many sick people were forced to live in as “intolerable”. “In spite of the marginalization, the prejudice and the numerous episodes of racism they are subjected to,” continue Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau, “the inhabitants who are able to are constantly in search of work and possibilities of integration.

The imminent camp clearance represents all that is irresponsible and inhuman, because the Comune di Roma has prepared no alternative lodgings or assistance for these soon-to-be-homeless people; no schooling programmes for the children; no support for the most dramatic social and medical cases; and no plans to keep families together - seeing family unity is fundamental in the Roma tradition. What is more, this clearance operation could put the health of Down Syndrome children at serious risk, as well as those suffering from heart problems, people receiving treatment with drugs and dialysis patients.

Several cancer patients live in the camp (who are undergoing cycles of chemotherapy) and both mentally and physically handicapped people. “The conditions they are forced to live in”, say the representatives of EveryOne, “make it difficult for the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to provide support, According to Dr. Maurizio Di Marzio, (who is in charge of the camper van that has supplied health and social support to the Roma people in the Asl RmB area since 1999) inside the camp are many cases of TB, hepatitis, infectious skin diseases, gastro-intestinal problems and burns, particularly in children.

A camp clearance now, (especially in these freezing winter temperatures) would be a death sentence for the sick and the more vulnerable members of the camp, and a humanitarian crisis of incalculable proportions for all the others. In 2008, some delegations from the European Parliament and the EU Commission visited the camp. At the time the delegations reported the disastrous conditions of marginalization, the poverty and humanitarian crisis the camp’s inhabitants were forced to live in.

Despite this, the Rome authorities and the Italian authorities in general, did nothing at all to improve the situation and, in fact have allowed the Casilino camp to appear more and more like a Polish ghetto in the years of the Holocaust.

In any other civilized country”, concludes the human rights group, “the situation and problem of the Casilino 900 camp would have been tackled from the humanitarian point of view, not from a political or “public safety” point of view.

Instead, it is necessary to build a modern village, with full facilities on the present site, or on another suitable site. As an alternative, the institutions could supply lodgings and initiate an efficient schooling-employment programme, while offering social support to the sick, handicapped and the most vulnerable members of the community.

Unfortunately, the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, seems to be much more worried about banning demonstrations and protest sit-ins (to be organized by the humanitarian organizations in the event of ethnic cleansing operation in the camp) than in saving human lives.

We hope that the European Commission and Council will intervene rapidly, and if necessary take action and proceedings against the Italian authorities’ decision to clear the Casilino 900 camp without offering its inhabitants a dignified alternative.

It is also important that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights takes a determined stance against this proposed ethnic purge. EveryOne Group, the Them Romano Association, the European antiracist organization United, and the network of human rights associations will adopt every kind of civilized and non-violent action to prevent this humanitarian disaster and safeguard the fundamental rights of over 700 human beings already weakened by a long and terrible period of apartheid and persecution”.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009



Collective Action: No to the readmission agreement between France and Kosovo

On 2 December, the French Minister of Immigration, Eric Besson, and the Interior Minister of Kosovo, Zenun Pajaziti, announced the signature of a bilateral readmission agreement between the two countries. By signing this agreement, France expands the list of countries which make use of the Kosovo authorities’ need for support in deterring persons from Kosovo from seeking asylum.

This perspective is particularly worrisome. According to many observers, Kosovo has indeed yet to prove its ability to respect democratic principles and human rights. In its last country report, the European Commission, for instance, states that the living conditions of most vulnerable communities in Kosovo have not improved, and that the Roma and related groups continue to be highly marginalized.

The US State Department has pointed out the persistence of ethnic tensions, as well as of official and societal discrimination which affects in particular Kosovo Serbs, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians from Kosovo [1].

During his visit in March, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, noted that Kosovo is “still struggling to come to terms with the consequences of the armed conflict” and that ethnic minorities, in particular Roma, are subject to severe discrimination in all spheres of society. On December 2, the Commissioner warned the European states: “The time simply is not right for returns in general, let alone forced returns” [2].

The Council of Europe expert group on Roma and Travellers MG-S-Rom has warned that with the forced repatriation of Roma “new returns to this region would jeopardize the current authorities’ efforts to integrate the domestic Roma population and Kosovo Roma asylum seekers and refugees already present on their territory” and induce secondary displacement.

The UNHCR’s new “guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of individuals from Kosovo” of November 9, 2009 [3] are very explicit. The UNHC notes that the situation of ethnic minorities has not improved over the previous period, and that certain groups, including Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in a minority situation as well as Roma should be granted international protection or, at least, subsidiary protection.

This situation is well-known to French authorities: On its website, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs notes: “Even as we notice that the situation has calmed down, several inter-ethnic incidents have been reported, over the last weeks, around Mitrovica, where the tension between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians remains the strongest. In addition, the Serbian weekly demonstrations against the independence keep a certain momentum and remain the preferred playground of radicals. The situation could thus deteriorate very rapidly.” [4].

This is why we strongly condemn the conclusion of a readmission agreement between France and Kosovo. If the right to return is guaranteed by international law, the forced return of persons to a country/territory where they risk being exposed to degrading treatment or acts of violence is a potential violation of human rights. Roma are particularly affected by this threat. We urge the French Government to ensure that they are protected as part of a tradition of asylum, which is rooted in the Geneva Convention and in an alleged “supermarket logic,” in the very inopportune wording of the French Minister of Immigration.

We therefore call on the parliamentarians to oppose the ratification of this bilateral agreement as long as the international organizations present in Kosovo do not witness a radical improvement of the political, economic and social situation.

December 10, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009




Staff Reporter
Last Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg ruled that Spain had discriminated against a Gypsy woman, by denying her a widow’s pension because she was married in a Gypsy ritual, and the fact that her union was not inscribed in the Civil Registry.

The court voted six to one in favour of María Luisa Muñoz Díaz, 52, ruling that Spanish authorities had infringed her rights under articles 14 and one of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 14 prohibits discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, and the European Convention deals with protection of property. The court awarded Muñoz Díaz, alias La Nena, between 70,000 and 50,000 euros, corresponding to back payments and 20,000euros for moral damages. Muñoz Díaz’s husband, a construction worker, died in 2000 having paid into the social security system for 19 years. The couple was married in 1971 and had six children.

“I am very happy because the court have acknowledged that we are normal people,” said Muñoz Díaz, whose declarations in court regarding the Gypsy wedding ritual and her marriage convinced the judges, according to one of her lawyers, Sebastián Sánchez. The court said that to demand Muñoz Díaz marry under Canon Law was a “deterioration of her religious liberty.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The following are two press releases from Romani rights groups.

ERRC statement on the occasion of Human Rights Day

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

10 December 2009, Budapest: Today marks the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the General Assembly of the United Nations. This year, Human Rights Day is devoted to non discrimination and the right to equality; it is celebrated around the world with the motto “Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination”.

On this occasion the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) notes that racial discrimination against Roma is still a common and persistent problem all around Europe. Roma face discrimination in all areas of life, which contributes to exclusion and poverty. As a result of historic and persistent discrimination against Roma, many Roma remain uneducated and unemployed, living in segregated, substandard housing, and facing much lower life expectancy than that of non-Roma.

The plight of Romani children remains especially acute. A large number of Romani children from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria and other European countries are attending segregated special schools or segregated classes where they study according to an inferior curriculum. They leave these schools unprepared for life in a democratic society and participation in the labour market. They are denied the right to education on equal terms and emerge stigmatised as "stupid" and "disabled".

Children are subject to violence at the hands of police and private individuals. In 2009, YouTube viewers could watch a home-made video of Slovak police officers insulting and abusing six Romani boys in their custody. This year, Romani children were the target of racially motivated murder or attempted murder in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

In the spirit of the Article 1 of the UDHR, the ERRC urges European governments to take decisive action in order to eliminate discrimination against Roma, and in particular against Romani children. Specifically, governments should:

•Affirmatively prohibit segregation in education and take immediate steps to ensure that Romani children are provided with a quality education in an integrated setting;
•Conduct prompt, thorough and unbiased investigation into each case of violence against Roma, with adequate consideration of possible racist motive, and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice;
•Develop pro-active and comprehensive national strategy to combat and prevent racist or hate crimes and hate speech, including clear and consistent condemnations of all attacks against Roma; and
•Implement adequately funded positive action programmes in the fields of education, employment, housing and health care in order to promote equality of Roma and their inclusion in mainstream society.


In memory of József Nagy, Tiborné Nagy, Róbert Csorba, Róbert Csorba jr, Jenő Kóka and Mária Balogh

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, the founding States reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of all men and women. The world of 2009 is a very different place to that of 1948. Nonetheless, we still face huge challenges in upholding the words and spirit of the Universal Declaration, which is considered to be “a common aspiration to lift men everywhere to a higher standard of life and to a greater enjoyment of freedom,” as Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, said.

So, where do we stand now, 61 years later?

2009 has been a dire year for the Roma which has been punctuated by series of murders, increasing anti-Tziganism and the resurfacing of centuries-old prejudices and violence against them while remaining tr apped by segregation and multiple poverty. The situation has been so tr agic that thousands of Roma have decided to flee Community coun tr ies and seek asylum overseas.

On the anniversary of the adoption of our common and very basic human rights document, the European Roma and Travellers Forum should like to remind everyone that Governments have the primary responsibility and obligation to provide higher standard of life and full enjoyment of freedoms within the rule of law for their Romani citizens. We believe that the threat of rising anti-Tziganism calls for increased coordination by member states’ law enforcement authorities within and across borders. There is however a glimmer of light in this dark landscape: the recent series of dramatic events might have shaken the lethargy of governments and international organisations and hopefully brought home to them the gravity and urgency of the situation of the Roma.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


We are very happy to receive the following statement from Elie Wiesel, who rarely supports the struggles of Romani people.


Elie Wiesel tells Hungary to ban Holocaust denial
Wed Dec 09 18:17:22 UTC 2009

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary should consider banning Holocaust denial to improve its image abroad and contain lurking hostility towards its minorities, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel said on Wednesday.

Hungary is grappling with its worst economic downturn in almost two decades and rising aversion towards ethnic groups, mainly the country's large Roma population, lifted the far-right Jobbik party into the European Parliament earlier this year.

Based on poll readings Jobbik is also likely to win enough votes in next year's elections to get into parliament.

"Wherever in the world I come and the word Hungary is mentioned, the next word is anti-Semitism," said Wiesel, 81, who was deported along with hundreds of thousands of other Jews to Nazi death camps during World War Two.

"I urge you to do even more to denounce anti-Semitic elements and racist expressions in your political environment and in certain publications," Wiesel said.

"I believe that they bring shame to your nation and they bring fear to its Jewish community and other minorities, such as the Roma," Wiesel, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 told a meeting of Jewish and Hungarian leaders in parliament.

In July a court ruling dissolved the far-right Hungarian Guard, a radical nationalist organisation, which staged intimidating marches against Roma nationwide, in black uniforms and insignia, which critics say are reminiscent of the Nazi era.

"I ask you, why don't you follow the example of France and Germany and declare Holocaust denial not only indecent, but illegal? In those countries Holocaust deniers go to jail," Wiesel said.

Wiesel warned against what he called the perils of indifference and said Hungarians were responsible for how they handle memories of the past.

Hungary at present has no law protecting communities against imflammatory remarks. Attempts to outlaw such language have failed to pass in parliament or win the approval of President Laszlo Solyom.

Anti-Roma tensions have heightened in the country where 6-7 percent of the 10 million population are Gypsies.

"Hungary does not meet European Union standards in this respect as there is no efficient protection for communities against hate speech," Gyorgy Kollath, constitutional law expert told Reuters.

After Hungary's occupation by Nazi Germany in 1944 the Hungarian government actively collaborated in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews to death camps.

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Monday, December 7, 2009



Racial prejudice in the sentences of Naples Juvenile Court against Angelica, the scapegoat for the hatred towards the Roma people

by Alfred Breitman

Saturday, December 5, 2009 Naples

News has just reached us of the measure taken by the Juvenile Court of Naples which has denied the concession of any alternative to prison for Angelica V, a young Roma teenager. Angelica was sentenced without proof, merely on prejudice, both in the judgment of first instance, and at the appeal, for the attempted kidnapping of a baby in Ponticelli, a charge brought by the mother in the summer of 2008.

According to the judges, Angelica must remain in jail, and may not be granted house arrest because she is “fully integrated into the typical pattern of behaviour of the Roma culture”. A motivation based solely on racial prejudice, as seen in the rest of the proceedings against the young Roma girl. In the space of just a few days this “decision” has aroused a great deal of concern and has become the subject of two parliamentary questions: that of Rita Bernardini MP and the Senator Annamaria Carloni.

In the summer of 2007 at Montalto di Castro (Viterbo) a young girl of 15 (the same age as Angelica when she was rescued from the lynch mob in Ponticelli) was kidnapped and raped for hours by eight “respectable Italian boys”, all of whom confessed to the crime, and all of them “fully integrated into that typical pattern of behaviour that is slowly becoming our own culture”.

This October, the Rome Juvenile Court, agreed to the proposal put forward by the social workers to suspend the trail and allow the eight rapists to undergo “a test period” for 24 months - their case to be reviewed on March 27th 2012. Over the next two years the members of this gang will be entrusted to the Court social services, which, in collaboration with the services of Montalto di Castro, will include them in a programme of observation, support and control. If the “test period” achieves its aim, the Juvenile Court may then consider the crime extinguished.

It is essential that a great number of people in authority speak out against the motivations given by the Naples Juvenile Court in the Angelica case. Motivations which come on top of a sentence which was just as shocking seeing it was based on testimony full of contradictions and no evidence - if not the medieval prejudice (which over the last few years has raised its ugly head again in Italy) according to which, “gypsies steal children”.

Saturday, December 5, 2009



CLIC to receive new color

By: Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento
Posted: 12/3/09
The World Languages and Literature Departments are looking to add even more culture and color to the newly opened language center on campus, in the form of an approximately $3,470 painting.

The painting is the creation of Ceija Stojka (pronounced Chaya Stoika), an Austrian Romani artist and holocaust survivor whose work was displayed in the Kathrin Cawein Gallery last spring. The gallery display was the first time Stojka's work was displayed in the United States.

The title of the painting is "Die Mama", which is German for "The Mama." Pacific Unversity's Campus Art Committee has a policy of only posting original artwork on and around campus in public spaces, including the U.C., the library and, now, the CLIC (Center for Languages and International Collaboration).

Extra costs including shipping and framing would up the total price of the painting for the university to $3,700. The language department is looking to raise the entire cost through donations.

As a fundraiser, the department has mounted photographs of "Die Mama" onto greeting cards and selling them for $5 each.

"Each card comes with a letter that talks about the story of the painting, and an envelope for donations," said German Professor Lorely French. "Some departments, like world languages, have committed some money. I'm hoping some clubs and private donors might want to help too."

At the moment, the painting is in a gallery in Vermont. It will return to Vienna on Jan. 3 unless the university raises the funds needed to purchase it.

"We're hoping to have at least $3,000 for it by then," said French, due to customs, taxes and costs that would make it very difficult to bring the painting back to the states once it leaves. The remaining $700 would be paid off by April 30.

"Die Mama," a large, brightly colored oil painting, depicts Roma life as Stojka new it.

Each wall in the CLIC is dedicated to artwork from a different continent. Stojka's painting would grace Europe's "wall."

"It's been a while in the making," said French of Pacific's connection with Stojka. "Originally it started with [my] interest in Roma [culture] in general, because in my own family there was talk of my own grandmother being part gypsy."

While she was in Austria on a Fulbright scholarship in 2003, someone told her that she should visit Stojka.

"I was already interested in her literature - she had written three books," said French. "I visited her apartment in Vienna, and it was loaded with artwork."

In January of 2009, French visited Stojka again, this time with Pacific students joining her.

"[The] painting will serve not only as a reminder of the CLIC's mission, but also to commemorate all the hard work our students did on art catalogues and event planning to bring this amazing woman to campus," said Humanities Administrative Assistant Windy Stein, who is spearheading the fundraising effort.

The painting is a tribute to Stojka's own mother, who saved the lives of five of her six children in concentration camp during the holocaust.


Recently Barack Obama spoke at a town hall meeting in Allentown PA.
Addressing health care, Obama said, "All we're trying to do is make sure that if you're buying health insurance on the private marketplace that you're not getting gouged, and gypped, by the insurance companies."

What was that? Almost everyone who knows anything about the reality of Roma/Sinti knows that the term 'gypped' comes directly from the stereotype of Gypsy as thief

The persecution against Roma/Sinti is escalating worldwide. In the United States the media rarely reports anything about Gypsies unless it is negative (or about music. Funny how people despise us yet LOVE our music). Obama's remarks directly and emphatically reinforced the negative stereotype of the Romani people.

Barack Obama has my head spinning.

Hilary Clinton mentioned the plight of Roma/Sinti in a major speech and a few weeks later the president uses a hurtful stereotype against us.

He's escalating the "war" in Afghanistan.

He's done nothing to improve immigration policies.

He's done nothing about civil rights of Gays and Lesbians.

Rendition, and torture continue.

The "health care" debate is a sham. Obama is willing to compromise on the right of a woman to control her own body.

Corporations are bailed out and the poor people continue to suffer.

Obama has been giving lip service to the whole lot of us. In the case of Roma/Sinti, his words are venomous.

And the beat goes on.......

Friday, December 4, 2009



Dear Roma,
Dear non-Roma,
Dear Persons belonging to the Human Race,
Despite the colour of your skin, national belonging, heritage, religion or sexual preference

I urge You to dedicate your attention to read the following message regarding a minor and her case and to intervene.

Her name is Angelika, she was born in Romania and although she just turned seventeen a few days ago she was only fifteen when the events happened. The little girl is, at the moment, under the custody of the Italian authorities. According to a recent decision issued by the Court for Minors of Naples because she is a ROMNI “totally inserted in schemes belonging to Romani culture”, fully “integrated within that” and moreover unable to concretely analyse her past living experiences, she faces a “concrete danger of “recidivism”.

The request to be confined at home submitted by her lawyer was, therefore, rejected by the Court on the basis of these assumptions.

Angelika will have to stay in a penitentiary for 3 years and 8 months to serve her sentence; she cannot leave the prison.

At the moment she is deprived of her freedom and locked in the Neapolitan infamous “juvenile” by the sea “Istituto Penitenziario Minorile di Nisida”[1] until she will turn 18 when she will be probably relocated to a penitentiary for adult females.
Angelika is victim of an exemplary punishment, issued and reconfirmed during an extremely hard time for Roma in Italy, when decrees ad hoc have been promulgated, fingerprinting and biometric data have been collected, evictions and expulsions have been carried out disregarding a number of recommendations, international E.U. laws and treaties[2].

Besides all of the terrible events that affected Angelika, she strongly declared her innocence firmly believing that she could not affirm to be guilty of crimes she did not commit.

She never meant to kidnap a child because she is also a mother of a daughter Alessandra Emiliana who she left behind in Romania . This is what she probably tried to say, in her very poor Italian, when she was arrested. She did not have any translation in her own language therefore what was reported is whatever was understood by the officer. Without confessing and showing to be repentant she had no facilitation at all, she is detained.
Her lawyer lost every appeal but very soon, probably in December (source to be confirmed) he will have to handle this very complicated case in front of the Italian Court of Cassazione (Cassation).

This is the last chance not only for the teenager, but also for the Italian judges to address the antecedent unfair judgments. Most importantly, this is last opportunity to intervene against this latest racist decision [3], openly referring to all Roma people and directly targeting “Romanipè” (Romani identity) as an illicit attitude.

Accountability is ad personam and institutional persons should refrain from enacting preventive or punitive measures exclusively connected with their personal opinion on what they believe a “population” is or should be. Roma should not fear to be forcedly assimilated or to be kept in captivity because they are “Roma”. Defendants should not be considered guilty until there is sufficient, objective proof against them.

But what is the history behind Angelika’s case and trial? Why it is commonly believed that she did not have a fair trial? Let’s read some more…
The story behind the story:

Ponticelli, Naples , a mob attacked the camp-settlements inhabited by Romanian Roma families. Fire burned their belongings and miraculously no one was reported dead or injured. Romanian Roma, escorted by police forces, literally “escaped” a mass- lynching. A strong and uncontrolled wind of intolerance blew throughout Italy manoeuvred both politically and mediatically.

Roma and Sinti all over the Peninsula feared retaliation and attacks. They were terrified to leave their settlement, to send their kids to school, to go out for any activity undertaken normally and quite regularly in the past. Media and politicians were continuously fomenting racial hatred sentiments through their stereotyped remarks and were publicly promising to the Italians to promptly address the “gypsy” issue with zero tolerance policies.

In Naples , all the attention was oriented to the “rubbish emergency”, the city was in fact filled with piles of trash, and the new Prime Minister had a number of meetings scheduled to make all the dirt disappear with his magic stick. The residents were on the edge of losing their patience but it was not the whole citizenry who attacked the camps, only some groups of folks that oddly inhabited the same neighbourhoods where Angelika got herself into trouble.

During those days Angelika was in Naples . She had just arrived with her husband Emiliano aged 21, and his brother, his wife and his eight year old son. Soon she got herself in trouble, accused of having robbed some earrings, the fifteen year old girl was and aggressed by people was rescued by the police who placed her in a custody of a care home. Very soon she ran away.

On the 10th of May 2008 , in a bitter twist of fate, the police officers saved her again from the uncontrolled wrath of a crowd, but no perpetrator one was ever identified and charged for the assault against her person. The minor, instead, got arrested under an extremely defamatory charge: “She attempted to kidnap a baby” in Ponticelli, one of the roughest quarters of Naples , the baby of Mrs. Flora Martinelli.

According to EveryOne Group the version of the facts provided by authorities and media was false. It was given to trigger off a “gypsy hunt”. And the dynamics appeared totally unconvincing because those who are familiar with Naples know that it is practically impossible to enter an apartment in one of those hoods and totally avoiding the inaccessible surveillance of the nosy tenants, especially when person walking around is Roma.

After the events took place, different versions were offered by a number of persons involved and some statements were also broadcasted by the daily news. Discrepancies between the descriptions given by Flora Martinelli, her father, and the neighbours emerged several times.

Different sources reported that Mrs. Martinelli first declared that the door to her apartment had been forced, later she affirmed that it was left open. After realising that the door was open, she went to check the baby’s crib and when she returned “she caught –the young Roma girl with the baby in her arms […] not only that: she had time to catch up with her and snatch the baby away from her. Therefore the gypsy girl must have moved in slow motion, enabling the baby’s grandfather, Ciro, to catch up with her on the floor below, grab her and slap her”[4]. Angelika was alone there and it would have been impossible for her to kidnap a girl and walk away for over two kilometres without being seen or caught.

“Angelica actually knew one of the families that live in Via Principe di Napoli, where the episode took place […] She pressed the entry phone button and was spotted by some tenants. A few seconds later the trap was sprung and the fury of the tenants was unleashed on her – they caught up with her in the street, grabbed her, slapped her and handed her over to the police”[5].

During the trials, the magistrates set their decisions mostly on what Mrs. Martinelli, the mother of the infant affirmed. The judges underlined that there was no reason not believed her.

Two journalists carried out their own investigations, Marco Imarisio writing for “Corriere della Sera” and Miguel Mora for “El Pais”, both of them discovered that Mrs. Flora Marinelli had a previous criminal record for “falso ideologico” (lie) [6] while her father Ciro- also known as “O’ Cardinale” (The Cardinal) - was charged before with a nine months sentence for “criminal organization” and affiliated with the Clan Sarno, a Camorra family ruling Ponticelli and characterized for its ability in obtaining public tenders[7].
During those days numerous attacks against Roma and Romanians were reported around that area. Was the fury of the Sarno’s awakened by the Cardinal? He is considered a “respected man” (uomo d’onore)[8], who would dare to disrespect a “man of honour” and attempt to take something from his house? Men of honour leave their door open and so their gates because no one will ever disrespect them.
But Ponticelli was also undergoing a plan of renovation, a massive, super expensive enormous investment, right on the place where Roma settled. Some sources affirmed that Roma had to go away because the works had to begin, too much money was already involved and so were the Commune of Naples, politicians and the Ponticelli’s Committee, companies based in Luxemburg whose members’ names can not be disclosed.[9]

Conclusion of the story: Angelika is still imprisoned and waiting for the last appeal at the Cassation’s Court in December while all the other people are living in the free world. Roma got evicted and terrorized, their properties left behind, the politicians are still where they were and the projects keep running.

A decision was issued against Angelika and all the Roma.

Too many people, Roma and not Roma, watch immovable without taking concrete action.

This letter is to solicit your conscience to take a step forward and offer some help.

Silence is complicity and I cannot do much more then send out my remarks.
Maybe some people will feel a moral duty to intervene.

I am here, together with other activists, at your disposal to receive your comment and proposition.

The time is running out…

Elisabetta Vivaldi

We are asking people to send a letter of protest to Elisabetta at
and a cc. to

Monday, November 30, 2009



Bernard Rorke, Director of OSI Roma Initiatives, reflects upon a month of anniversaries and Europe's failure to ensure the well-being of Roma children.

"The commemorations, reflections, and ruminations around the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet revolutions overshadowed another November 20th anniversary of profound historical significance: the United Nations' adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We would do well to pause and remember the fates of three Roma children this year.

In February five-year-old Robika Csorba and his father were shot dead as they fled their firebombed house in Tatarszentgyorgy in Hungary. In April, in the Czech town of Vitkov, two-year-old Natalka Sivkov sustained 80% burns when her home was attacked with Molotov cocktails. In the Hungarian town of Kisleta in August, 13-year-old Ketrin Balogh suffered multiple gunshot wounds in an attack on her home that killed her mother Maria.

The Convention which proclaims that 'the child shall enjoy special protection… to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity' rings tragically hollow for these three victims of racially motivated violence."

Thursday, November 26, 2009


The Obama Administration announced that they would not sign an international convention banning land mines. More than 150 cuntries have agreed to the treaty's provisions to end the production, stockpiling and trade in mines. Beside the U.S. other countries refusing to sign include Myammar, China, Russia, Pakistan and India.

Stephen Goose, director of Human Rights Watch's arm division said he was surprised by and disappointed in the decision.
A report this month by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said that mines remain planted in more that 70 countries and killed at least 1,266 people and wounded another 3,891 last year.
An administration spokesman, Ian Kelly, said that the administration conducted a review and decided not change the Bush era policy.

That's starting to sound like the Obama policy----not changing the Bush policy.

Obama is expected to announce the deployment of 30,000 additional troops in Afganistan.

And on the domestic front, the health care industry report continued high profits.
It seems that proposed "health care reform legislation" will do nothing to effect rising profits to the health care/pharmecutical/insurance industry, but will make it illegal for any of us NOT to buy health insurance.

Punish the poor. Now that's a new idea.
And the beat goes on......

Monday, November 23, 2009



Prague - Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer "expressed regret" over the forced sterilization of Roma women but failed to apologize to the victims or offer them financial compensation, officials said Monday. During the Communist era, authorities in the former Czechoslovakia had been actively pushing sterilization of Roma women as part of the country's population policy, human rights activists said.

Some Czech doctors continued the practice after the Communist regime fell in 1989. Most claimed they acted out of health reasons, but failed to properly explain the consequences of the surgical procedure to their patients.

"The government expresses regret for known individual misconduct while carrying out sterilization," Human Rights Minister Michael Kocab said after the Monday's cabinet session.

It is not known how many Roma women were sterilized during and after the Communist era.

The office of the country's ombudsman reviewed some 80 cases in recent years. Several affected Roma women sued Czech hospitals in courts with varying degrees of success.

Infertility is painful for the Roma, also known as gypsies, as they prefer to have large families.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE || November 23, 2009
Contact: Neil Simon
(202) 225-1901

WASHINGTON--U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) today welcomed the statement by Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer in which the Czech government acknowledged and expressed regret that some Romani women had been sterilized without informed consent.

“I commend Czech officials for the leadership they have shown today in confirming past practices of involuntary sterilization of Romani women,” Chairman Cardin said. “Work remains in the Czech Republic and certainly in neighboring Slovakia to have justice upheld for women who were forever deprived of the chance to have children.”

“The Czech government’s expression of regret for the irreversible crimes committed against these women is an important step,” Co-Chairman Hastings said. “Now, Slovakia must address the issue as the Helsinki Commission urged for the better part of this decade. I regret that after all this time Slovakia has not clearly and unequivocally acknowledged that some Romani women there were sterilized without their informed consent.”

On Nov. 19, 2009, the U.N. Committee Against Torture recommended that Slovakia should "take urgent measures to investigate promptly, impartially, thoroughly and effectively all allegations of involuntary sterilizations of Roma women, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and provide victims with fair and adequate compensation."

The Czechoslovak communist state targeted Romani women for sterilization based on now discredited theories of eugenics and was first reported in the 1970s. Although the sterilization policy ended with the fall of communism in 1990, the practice continued sporadically in both the Czech and Slovak Republics.

Last year, Sen. Cardin and Rep. Hastings led a Helsinki Commission delegation to Prague and met with former Minister of Justice and civil rights Ombudsman Otakar Motejl. In 2006, the Ombudsman issued a breakthrough report confirming that some Romani women had been sterilized without informed consent. To date victims of those past practices have been unable to get redress before the courts even in cases where courts confirmed the allegations.

In April 2009, eight Slovak Romani women, who were denied access to their own medical records for more than a decade, won a case against Slovakia before the European Court on Human Rights. Nevertheless, the Slovak Government has not taken steps to re-open its investigation into the sterilization of Romani women. Slovakia’s highest court ruled in December 2006 that the investigation into allegations of three Romani women had been so faulty that it violated the Slovak Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.


The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

Friday, November 20, 2009



November 21, 2009

Roma families experience the dark side of the Velvet Revolution

Adam LeBor in Pardubice, Czech Republic
In the grimy corridors and cramped rooms of the municipal hostel on Ceskova Street, communist-era methods of social control are thriving. There has been no revolution here, velvet or otherwise, in the 20 years since the Czech Republic gained its freedom.

Uniformed security guards control the entrance and the building is continually monitored by CCTV. All visitors must present identification and may only visit a specified family. The families here pay 6,000 crowns (£200) a month for a cramped single room for five or six people without a bath, shower or kitchen. They must ask permission for the key to use washing facilities, which costs an extra 15 crowns (50p). Children may not play in the corridor. After three warnings, the family may be evicted.

This is life for the Roma in the Czech Republic and places such as this are the country’s secret shame. The story in Pardubice, a picturesque city on the Elbe, 65 miles east of Prague, is not an isolated one. Some tenants have been evicted for unpaid rent; others, say activists, have got in the way of property developers or vindictive municipal bureaucrats. Nobody at the Pardubice municipality would comment on conditions in the hostel.

This week the Czech Republic celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, although the situation of the country’s Roma belies its carefully nurtured image as a beacon of human rights. After the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993, one of the first acts of the new Czech Government was to pass a law depriving most Roma of their citizenship since they came from Slovakia.

The legal wrangles still continue. The Czech Republic was the last EU member state to adopt anti-discrimination legislation; it did so in June, narrowly escaping legal proceedings from the European Commission. President Klaus had vetoed the Bill, arguing that existing legislation should be improved rather than a new framework introduced.

The squalid hostels embody the institutionalised racism against the Roma and their powerlessness. The 200,000 to 300,000 Roma in the Czech Republic have a higher infant mortality rate, are more likely to be unemployed, live in extreme poverty and have a shorter life expectancy. Racist violence is on the increase. Last November hundreds of activists from the extreme-right Workers Party attacked Romas in Litvínov with stones and petrol bombs.

Racism is openly expressed, even among the educated. In May, the Czech National Party called for a “final solution” to the Gypsy issue in a television campaign for the European Union elections. The previous month a two-year-old, Natalka Sivakova, suffered 80 per cent burns after an arson attack on the family home in Vitkov, near the Polish border.

About 30 per cent of Roma children are segregated and placed into special schools for the mentally handicapped, compared with 2 per cent of non- Roma children, even after a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights declared the practice illegal.

A psychologist recommended that Edita Stejskalova should be sent to a special school at the age of 7. Her mother resisted, and now Ms Stejskalova is a university graduate aged 29 who runs a non-governmental organisation campaigning for equal legal rights for Roma.

“Czech society is very racist,” she says. “If a Roma family lives in a block of flats the other families will often organise a petition to remove them. Non-Roma parents demand that Roma children at school are segregated, in different classes, even in different buildings. The school agrees because it wants the parents to enrol their children there.”

Czech officials say that the political will exists to tackle Roma issues and that the Government is committed to equal rights. A new Agency for Social Inclusion aims to co-ordinate national policy across different ministries. However, decisions taken in Prague and Brussels often have little impact. “The Government passes good legislation but it is not implemented,” says Michael Kocáb, the Human Rights Minister.

For Josef Lakatos and his family, the Velvet Revolution ushered in a new era of poverty and racism. Although under communism the Roma were subjected to forced assimilation and resettlement and women were frequently sterilised, they were part of wider society and, like all citizens, guaranteed work, housing and income.

Mr Lakatos, 48, lives with his wife, seven children, mother and another relative in a one-room flat of 33sq m (355sq ft) in a tenement on the edge of Pardubice. “It was better under communism because we had work, there was much less racism and there were no skinheads,” Mr Lakatos said. “I want to work, but when they see a Roma they say there is nothing.”

Arguably, Roma traditions have magnified the difficulties of the transition to capitalism. Roma society is deeply traditional, conservative and patriarchal. Many Roma women are still pressured to marry young, have numerous children and stay at home, while some are forced into arranged marriages.

In Ostravany, in neighbouring Slovakia, locals have built a wall, 150m long, to keep out their Roma neighbours after residents complained that Roma children were raiding their gardens and stealing fruit. “These new walls against Roma will be harder to tear down than the Berlin Wall,” warns Rob Kushen, the director of the European Roma Rights Centre.

History of persecution

The Roma appeared in Europe between the 13th and 15th centuries and were commonly referred to as Egyptians or Gypsies. In the 18th century scholars discovered that the Romany language was a Sanskrit dialect that originated in the Indus Valley in northern India in the 9th century

Europe’s Romany population is an estimated 4-14 million, but its members frequently remain unregistered

The Roma have frequently been persecuted in Europe; during the Holocaust, about 500,000 were killed. In recent years, the International Organisation for Migration has won compensation for survivors of about €7,000 (£6,300) each

In Britain, Roma people have a life expectancy about ten years lower than the rest of the population

Source: European Roma Rights Centre, Institute for Public Policy Research, Times database

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



Čeněk Růžička: Czech schools must teach more about the harm of Nazi ideology
Prague, 17.11.2009, 13:01, (ROMEA)

Last week a public hearing was held in the upper chamber of the Czech Parliament on the topic “Protecting Society from Neo-Nazism”. One of those who participated in the discussion was the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, Čeněk Růžička, one of the country’s leading Roma personalities. We spoke with him about neo-Nazism and racism, the position of Roma in society, the approach of the majority society toward the Roma, and what the Roma themselves need to improve. Růžička is most bothered by two things: The large number of Romani children in “special” education and the lack of instruction at elementary schools about the harmfulness of Nazi ideology and the methods used by the Nazis to put that ideology into practice. He is also bothered by the continually deteriorating social situation of the Roma.

What should society as a whole be doing against neo-Nazism and racism? What can be done better, what is missing?

I spoke about this during the Senate hearing. I am an indigenous Czech Rom, I have my roots here, my ancestors lived here for centuries before me, so I am mainly bothered by the shortcomings of Czech education and the poor awareness of history in this country. Nothing is taught at schools about the harmfulness of the Nazi ideology and the ways the Nazis put it into practice. Children, including Romani children, and youth know almost nothing about the Roma victims of the Holocaust, because they are not taught about them in school. What is missing here is at least some sort of learning from one’s own history, primarily from what happened on Czech territory.

The campaigns against racism need to be better done. Very recently, comparatively more effort and resources have been put into the fight against neo-Nazism and racism, but the question is whether these resources are sufficient given the rising number of those sympathizing with the neo-Nazi scene, and whether the instruments selected are always effective. In my view, the way to fight the neo-Nazis that might bring about immediate results in the short term, the way that would be simplest and most effective, is to ridicule them, mock them, caricature them. This whole time there has only been one such campaign, and it did not last long – even though such campaigns are not expensive and PR agencies are good at creating them. There should be television ads, print ads, spots on the radio. The result would be that the neo-Nazis would be scorned for their efforts. Of course, I’m not talking about a brief campaign. It should last much longer than the previous ones, so that it becomes “in” not to sympathize with racists and neo-Nazis. Today, unfortunately, the opposite is very much the case.

Or take the so-called “specialized schools” (“specialní školy”) – these used to be called “special schools” (“zvláštní školy”) and before that they were called “remedial” (“pomocné školy”). This spring research was published saying that 72 % of Romani children study at regular schools and 28 % in special education. I hope whoever did the research did not reverse those numbers without realizing it. In my opinion, the number of Romani children in compulsory education being taught in “special” education is a higher percentage than that research presents. It would be good to know how the research was performed, how many Romani pupils there are as a whole, who determined, and how, that this or that pupil has Romani parents. It is also a shame that the research did not involve a serious investigation of how many Romani pupils in “special education” have been transferred back into normal elementary school and in which years. Healthy children do not belong in special education, even if they are Roma. If they are being given such education, the state should correct that – even if it goes against the parents’ wishes. Moving a child from special education back to mainstream education should just be a technical matter. Before Romani children can get to the same starting point as the others, teachers must do more work with them, and sometimes with their parents too. Even though that costs money, the state should know it will pay off in the end.

Should statistics be gathered that include data on ethnicity?

Yes, with a certain measure of caution. The creation and use of statistics must take place under strict supervision. The state needs to know how many Roma there are in the regions, in terms of numbers and in terms of social status. However, I would hope the results of such statistics would not just lead to an increase in the number of police stations inside Roma ghettos.

In the eyes of at least some of the public, the neo-Nazis have succeeded in drawing a link between the Roma and their extremism. The fact that the Roma are socially excluded is spoken of by only a few people from NGOs. Shouldn’t we try to change the majority perception?

The social exclusion of the Roma is first and foremost the result of centuries of feeding the phenomenon called prejudice. We would like to get rid of this once and for all, but the society in which we live must give us a chance to get rid of it. Our organization is succeeding in wrestling with this prejudice through our traveling exhibition, entitled “A Vanished World” (“Zaniklý svět”), and we are noticing an unexpectedly friendly reaction from those who visit it - all you have to do is look at what people write in the visitors’ book. Unless these neo-Nazi groups, these individuals, these politicians are held responsible for their hateful, public, racist statements about the Roma, the perception of the Roma will deteriorate even further and the hatred felt by some in the majority society will increase. The traditional Czech Roma and Sinti know very well how such a scenario might develop. Recently I have also been disturbed by the activities of President Klaus, who negotiated an exception at EU level for our country with respect to its obligation to follow the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is part of the Lisbon Treaty. That charter is mainly intended to guarantee the poor a decent life. The life now being lived by retirees and families forced to live on welfare is not decent at all.

The Senate hearing was on the topic of protecting society from neo-Nazism, but the moderator prevented discussion of the victims of neo-Nazism. One person touched on the fact that discussion of the results of neo-Nazism was being avoided and suggested that a hearing needs to be held on protecting minorities from the rest of society. Do you share that view?

Here is my considered response: The essential blame for the fact that the Roma are where they are lies with society per se, with the majority – we are only partially responsible for these problems. These anti-Roma marches have their roots in Czech history. The Roma have been living in Europe for 600 years and their life has not been a walk through a rose garden in any of them. The worst was what the Nazis and their minions did to my people during the Second World War, for example, in the Protectorate. The police of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia organized an unimaginable round-up of the Roma and Sinti and imprisoned them in concentration camps in Hodonín and Lety, where they died in the hundreds under the supervision of Czech guards. Go take a look at those sites today. These places, which should commemorate the monstrosity of racial hatred, are desecrated by a pig farm and a recreation center. What does that tell you?

It is true that from time to time something comes to light to confirm that part of this society still takes this approach. Most recently we learned that two Czech military commanders serving in Logar, Afghanistan have been wearing SS symbols on their helmets. Of course, the Defense Minister immediately discharged them from the Army and has suspended their superiors from service.

I am surprised that this society is surprised by such events. Quite a few people join the military who think they are “Rambo”, who have the need to be in command. It could be expected that the minister would handle it this way. It will be much more serious should it be eventually proven that the superior officers of those commanders knew about this phenomenon in the Army and covered it up. I am partially reassured by the fact that ordinary soldiers serving under those commanders brought this case to light. That is definitely positive. I think experts should develop better psychological tests and the Army should make more thorough use of them when enlisting new recruits, but they should also follow the maturity and psychological resilience of the soldiers and their commanders over time. I have also encountered people who worship this cult of power who work for the police – and I am not the only one. The same applies to them.

Are the Roma themselves doing something wrong? What should they do to improve co-existence with the majority society?

The Roma would like to have a more dignified position in the eyes of the Czech public. We should just be ourselves, defend our pride, we should not be ashamed of the fact that we are Roma. That is the basis for progress. I’m not going to say how we should behave, what we should do. We must establish order ourselves within our own community.

The author Janko Horváth has a similar opinion and says there should be joint, united action.

Exactly - until the 1989 revolution the Roma had a kind of reputation in Czechoslovakia, we created things of value, we worked. Today the situation is that the vast majority of Roma, through no fault of their own, often contribute nothing to society. Estimates are that 80 – 90 % of the Roma live on welfare, which irritates Czech society greatly. They are mostly irritated because these people are Roma, and they are also irritated because it’s expensive. The majority is not bothered by the fact that Czechs also live on welfare. Here I must repeat a generally known fact, which is that it is comparatively much more difficult for the Roma to find work.

There is a lot of discussion about how the Roma themselves can improve their position in society, but we don’t hear this discussed in detail. Do you have some ideas about this?

Raising the Roma community up to an acceptable level can only be done through natural approaches that respect the Roma mindset and their cultural values. Here is one option: Every larger community in the Roma ghettos includes a certain number of men who enjoy a sort of natural authority among the Roma. Usually these are older Roma – they are less educated from the point of view of the majority society, but they are rich in life experience. Almost every day we see television reports about the disorder around Roma residences, and this significantly damages our reputation. I am certain we can get rid of such disruption with the help of such natural authorities. They could keep an eye on people who make noise at night, on school attendance, on the exploitation of poor Roma by loan sharks, etc. Municipalities or local Roma organizations – ideally working together – could provide these natural authorities with the backup they need and remunerate them financially.

The Senate hearing was attended by a wide variety of people: Politicians, police officers, state attorneys, bureaucrats, people from civic associations, Roma, Jewish people. Do such meetings make you hopeful?

Every such meeting has its purpose - I just ask how much it really means. Imagine if everyone at the hearing had gone into the streets to protest the neo-Nazis and their sympathizers. A joint, well-prepared, public demonstration against extremist groups, making fun of them – and then, naturally, proper instruction at schools – all of this together, I believe, could help.

Of course, the politicians would first have to want to support the Roma. For the time being they are more likely to be a vehicle for anti-Roma, populist slogans.

Such slogans have been repeated in the past, are being repeated now, and will be repeated in the future because in the first place they are political gold, and in the second place we allow them to be repeated. We must pay careful attention to the political party affiliation of these “stars” and remember who is who when it’s time to vote. Only a few people in this country – and our numbers are not growing – are taking action against this discord in society. Among most Roma I observe apathy, and it does not surprise me. The Roma have been pushed into the very worst poverty that they have ever experienced during the postwar period. We can achieve some partial successes on our own, but not fundamental ones. We need the support of everyone to implement essential change, and for that we still have a long way to go here.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Berlin Wall: 223 dead. Wall that separates the USA from Mexico: 5.6 thousand dead

16.11.2009 Source:


On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world lives with a number of barriers that serve to restrain the free movement of people. The wall that divides the West Bank from Israel and preventing the passage of Mexican immigrants to the United States are the best known, but there are others.

The latest example comes from Slovakia. In October, a wall 150 meters long and two meters high was erected in the city of Ostrovany, a rural community in the northeast of the country, in order to isolate a gypsy camp.

The action, approved in 2008 by local authorities and put into practice last week, is the last chapter of the growing tension between the inhabitants of the community and the Gypsies. The inhabitants of Ostrovany accuse them of stealing fruit from private gardens. Violent episodes were recorded, such as the death of a farmer by members of the gypsy community and far-right groups and events that qualify for what they call "terror gypsy".

The Mayor of Ostrovany, Cyril Revákl, told the Slovak daily SME that the measure is not racist. "I know there are many decent living among the Gypsies, but no one should go through the hell of daily clashes." The agency that represents the Roma announced that it will investigate the construction of the wall. The official, Ludovit Galbavý, described the construction as "discriminatory."

Israel and Palestine
One of the most current and controversial walls is that which separates Israel from Palestinian territory in the West Bank. A small portion (about 20%) coincides with the old Green Line border set in 1948, the remaining 80% are located on Palestinian land.
The wall began to be built in 2002, during the administration of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with the justification to prevent the entry of terrorists into Israel. The International Criminal Court declared it illegal in 2004, because it cuts off Palestinian land and isolates about 450 thousand people. According to data from April 2006 supplied by Israel, the total length of the barrier is 721 km, of which 58.04 % is built, 8.96% under construction and 33% to be built. See the current map.

On Friday, on the eve of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, young Palestinians knocked down (6) part of the construction in the Arab city of Naalin and were reprimanded by Israeli soldiers with tear gas. "No matter how high they are, all the walls will fall," proclaimed a banner on the structure placed by the young people.

For Israeli analyst, Michael Warschawski, director of the Center for Alternative Information, the wall has a double impact: "First, it condemns the Palestinians to live in a forced ghetto. Second, it reflects the distorted politics of the isolation of Israel, which prefers to solve their problems by separation."

According Warschawski, the ineffectiveness of the construction, which comes to divide entire cities, is proven. "The wall does not completely stop the movement of people. To cross the territories, there are alternatives."

USA and Mexico
In order to prevent the entry of illegal Mexican immigrants, the United States built a wall on the border 3,141 kilometers, which covers the states of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona.

Since 1994, when the wall was first built in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, more than 5.6 thousand people died trying to cross to the U.S. side, according to a report by the accounting office of the White House (GAO, is the acronym in English). Moreover, the causes of death have changed. Before they were mainly caused by traffic accidents, since the immigrants were running on highways in border areas. Now they happen from hypothermia in the desert or drowning in the Rio Grande.

The document also noted that costs are also high. Each time there is a hole, $1,300 are spent on repairs. The maintenance of the 1,058 km stretch with approximately two layers in the US-Mexico border is expected to cost 6.5 billion dollars over the next 20 years

"It's a waste of resources and creativity", said Jorge Mario Cabrera Valladares, of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles (CHIRLA is the acronym in English), to the EFE news agency. "Our money paid in taxes is being wasted on an old and inefficient strategy instead of working on serious reform, long-term and applicable to immigration."

On this site, you can track the small histories of immigration along the border. In this movie, the directors show the work of the Beta group in the city of Nogales (pictured below), which seeks to convince the Mexicans not to cross over to the U.S. side.

Rio de Janeiro also has its wall built with the argument to avoid poorly constructed homes in slums that destroy passages of the vegetation of the Atlantic forest. However, NGOs and social movements claim that it is actually a way to separate the richer parts of society from the most humble.
"There is no discrimination. On the contrary, we are building houses for them in all places and improving their lives," said Tania Lazzoli, spokesman for the Department of Public Works of the government.

In March, the Portuguese writer, Jose Saramago, criticized the action on his blog: "Here down in the Marvelous City, that of the samba and the carnival, the situation is not better. The idea now is to surround the slums with a wall of reinforced concrete three meters high. We had the Berlin Wall, we have the walls of Palestine, now the one of Rio. However, organized crime is rife everywhere, complicity vertical and horizontal, penetrate the state apparatus and society in general. "

In Santa Marta, already more than 600 meters of wall have been built, while in Rocinha the government agreed to limit it to areas with sliding risk. The remainder will be turned into ecological sites and nature reserves.

Source: Opera Mundi.
Translated from Portuguese by

Monday, November 16, 2009


EU Highlights Joint Conference On Roma Migration And Freedom Of Movement

Posted By admin On November 15, 2009 @ 5:24 pm In Europe, Governance, Health Care, Society & Democratic Renewal | No Comments

The serious human rights challenges faced by Roma when migrating or exercising their right to freedom of movement, as well as the security implications, will be the focus of a joint international conference in Vienna on 9-10 November 2009.

The Conference will be organised by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (CommHR), the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM).

Morten Kjaerum, Director, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: “In the European Union, many Roma EU citizens settling in another Member State in search of better conditions continue to experience racism, discrimination and exclusion. Of particular concern are reports of hate-motivated incidents against Roma, and racist rhetoric reported in a number of States. The EU and its Member States need to adopt targeted policies on integrated rights- and equality-based standards promoting social cohesion.”

Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe: “Roma migrants are faced with a double jeopardy – migration makes life even harder for those who face a plethora of serious, discrimination-related problems. The protection of human rights of Roma on the move in Europe should be placed high on the agenda. I believe that the joint conference in Vienna is an excellent contribution to these efforts.”

Janez Lenarčič, Director, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights: “The cross-border migration of Roma in Europe is a reality, and the challenges related to such movements must be handled by all authorities involved in full compliance with international human rights standards. At the same time, governments must do more to eradicate pervasive discrimination and other factors driving Roma away from their homes in the first place.”

Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities: “The recent migration of Roma entails a wide range of challenges, including considerable security implications for both the Roma and the receiving communities. Only by addressing the underlying reasons for migration and creating the appropriate conditions for cohesive societies, will we be able to tackle this security and human rights issue. This is the challenge for this conference.”

The international conference is devoted to discussing and identifying courses of action in order to address the situation of Roma, in the context of migration or exercise of the right to freedom of movement. The conference follows up on findings of the FRA Study on Roma and freedom of movement and the HCNM and CommHR’s Study on Recent Migration of Roma in Europe.


Article printed from Gov Monitor:

Sunday, November 15, 2009



by Caroline Prosser (staff)

Gypsies at Rome's Casilino 900 camp. (Mihai Romanciuc/Flickr, CC Lic.)

Amnesty International has condemned the forced eviction of a community of some 400 Roma people from a former factory in Rome’s Tiburtina district.

The former Heineken factory on Via Gordiani was home to the community, which included 80 children who frequented local schools. According to media and local NGOs, around 150 police officers evicted the families from the Via Centocelle camp, in the east of the city, on Wednesday morning.

All the community’s shelters were destroyed and around 20 Roma men were arrested. It is not known what charges they face.

The municipality offered short-term shelter to some of the Roma women and small children, in the city’s dormitories for homeless people.

The majority of those made homeless, numbering some 100 families, have occupied an abandoned, privately owned factory nearby. According to the latest media reports, these families are face another forced eviction.

If evicted, they look forward to harsh conditions at another makeshift camp.

The community includes around 140 children, 40 of whom attend schools nearby. The eviction threatens to interrupt their schooling and seriously disrupt their education.

Local NGOs say that the community was not notified or consulted about the eviction. Under domestic law, the authorities should notify each individual, or publish an order or notice. As the order was not formalized in this way, the community could not challenge it through the courts, and stop or postpone the eviction.

Most people living in the Via Centocelle camp have previously experienced at least one forced eviction. These involved the destruction of shelters, clothes, mattresses, medicines and documents.

All these evictions are believed to have been carried out without the procedural safeguards required under regional and international human rights standards.

Amnesty International has urged the Rome authorities to ensure that all the families who were forcibly evicted are provided with adequate alternative accommodation as a matter of urgency, and compensation for all possessions they lost when they were forcibly evicted.

The organization also reminded the authorities that forced evictions, carried out without legal and other protections, are prohibited under international law as a gross violation of a range of human rights; in particular, the right to adequate housing.

For at least the last 10 years, numerous forced evictions of Roma communities have been carried out in Italy.