Monday, March 16, 2009


Press release: Roma victims at the altar of the rule of law

Strasbourg, 16.03.2009 – Following several serious and violent incidents during 2008 the Roma in Hungary feel insecure in their everyday life and fear becoming the next target of attacks This was the assessment made by Mr Rudko Kawczynski, president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum in a press-conference on Thursday, 12 March 2009 in Budapest following a visit to assess the human rights situation of the Roma community in Hungary.

“I came to Hungary in order to better understand what happened in Tatarsezentgyorgy and in other parts of the country and to see what can be done to avoid repetition of such unfortunate developments’ said Mr. Kawczynski at the press conference. Irrespective of the background and history of the tensions, it is unacceptable that Roma become the target of various attacks of para-military groups.

From the way the attacks were committed, and the fact that to this day the perpetrators have not been identified, the Forum believes that these criminal groups are somehow being protected. The rule of law is failing to protect the Roma community.

The ERTF urges the authorities to set up a specialised task-force at the highest level to examine criminal attacks against Roma and proposes that the chief prosecutor should be fully involved in this process.

The ERTF believes that the lack of confidence building measures/programmes is the main reason for an increase of anti-gypsy feelings in Hungarian society. Moreover, hate speech by various public figures and the way the media reported on various problems have facilitated the whole process. Therefore, the Forum urges the government to introduce a draft law on hate speech amending the existing criminal code in order to prevent and sanction offenders.

The Forum is also concerned that Government programmes are not successfully implemented at local level due to a huge communication gap between the two levels. The lack of political will at local level prevents the Roma from benefiting from various governmental programmes.

Mr. Kawczynski said that a detailed report of the visit will be addressed to the Hungarian Government, the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights, political parties and various bodies within the Council of Europe.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), which has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe and a special status with this institution, is Europe’s largest and most inclusive Roma organisation. It brings together Europe’s main international Roma-NGOs and more than 1,500 national Roma organisations from most of the Council of Europe’s member states.

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