U.S. Pays Much-Needed Attention to Violence Against Roma
Other violence stuck Hungary’s Roma in 2009. There were dozens of hate crimes, many involving guns, Molotov cocktails, and severe beatings.
Four men are on trial in Budapest, accused of carrying out nine attacks between July 2008 and August 2009 that killed six Roma, including Robert Csorba and his son. In 2009 Hungarian President László Sólyom said these murders “threaten[ed] the stability of Hungary.” The authorities need to move more expeditiously to bring this trial to a close.
Meanwhile, prejudice continues.
“Gypsy criminality” (cigánybűnözés) is one of the most prevalent anti-Roma stereotypes. It permeates all parts of Hungarian life—and can be found as commonly in the media as the local pub. Extremist groups, particularly the xenophobic Jobbik, nurture these prejudices. Also, Ill-treatment and discrimination by the police fuel mistrust among Roma, who for this reason are reluctant to report hate crimes.
The Decade brings together governments and civil society to increase the socioeconomic inclusion of Roma. As an observer, the United States can play a positive role in shaping the discussions. The U.S. should develop a strategy to maximize its influence.
And on February 15, the U.S. Helsinki Commission hosted “The Escalation of Violence against Roma in Europe,” chaired by Congressman Chris Smith. Human Rights First submitted a testimony, focusing on what more the U.S. government should be doing. These discussions are important: they ensure that policymakers in Washington stay focused on this serious human rights problem.
Hungary and other European nations have the primary responsibility to address violence against Roma. But the U.S. government is correct to play a role.