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