New Blueprint Provides Path to Protect Roma

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brenda Bowser Soder
bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460

New Blueprint Provides Path to Protect Roma

NEW YORK - Today, as Ministers from the Council of Europe convene in Strasbourg
to discuss the problems of discrimination that Roma face, Human Rights
First is calling on the Hungarian government to implement a set of
concrete and achievable measures to improve responses to hate crimes
against Roma. In its Blueprint for Combating Violence Against Roma in Hungary,
unveiled today during an event at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars, the organization urges the Hungarian government to
show political leadership on this issue, publicly commit to investigate
all hate crimes, update legislation and implement practices to address
hate crime more systematically.

"Though the plight of Europe's Roma has captured growing
international attention due to the expulsions in France, Hungary's Roma
have long experienced widespread discrimination and violence," said
Human Rights First's Paul LeGendre. "The Hungarian government has a
responsibility to address the rising tide of intolerance and hate crime
head on. This blueprint offers them a roadmap to achieve this much
needed reform."

LeGendre added: "This blueprint also contains a number of
recommendations for the United States as it strives to advance human
rights globally. As part of that outreach, the United States should
strengthen work with the Hungarian government to protect the rights of
Roma."

Violence is not a new manifestation of anti-Roma prejudice, yet there
has been a particularly sharp rise in serious—sometimes deadly—violent
attacks in Hungary since 2008. This has inflamed social tensions and
weakened the sense of protection from discrimination for minorities
across the country. The violence has included severe beatings in broad
daylight, murders by arson or shootings and the throwing of Molotov
cocktail explosives that has resulted in physical injuries and property
damage.

According to the Hungarian-based Desegregation Foundation, a group
led by former European Parliament Member Viktória Mohácsi, 68 anti-Roma
attacks – including 11 fatalities - occurred in Hungary between January
2008 and June 2009. Mohácsi, a leading domestic monitor of anti-Roma
attacks and hate crimes and Human Rights First's 2010 Human Rights Award
recipient, has documented the most thorough account of the violence,
has provided assistance to victims and has pressed for government
responses. The Blueprint documents a number of the most serious hate
crime cases, including several that are currently under investigation by
the government.

Human Rights First notes that the violence committed against
Hungary's Roma has occurred against a backdrop of underlying factors,
including persistent discrimination, negative societal attitudes, and
hateful rhetoric that have exacerbated stereotyping of Roma. The problem
has only been worsened by shortcoming in the Hungarian government's
response which has been hampered by the underreporting of hate crime,
mistrust rooted in policy misconduct, inadequate data collection
mechanisms and an insufficient legal framework for identifying and
addressing hate crimes.

In response to these findings, Human Rights First's blueprint
outlines a series of reforms for Hungarian politicians, law enforcement
officials, and government leaders. It also poses suggestions for U.S.
leaders.

Among its key recommendations to the Hungarian government are the following:

  • Senior Hungarian government officials should speak out against violence against Roma or the members of any other group.
  • The Hungarian authorities should ensure that law enforcement officials have clear guidelines to vigorously address crimes.
  • The Ministry of Interior and other relevant ministries should
    commit to collecting and publishing data on the incidence and response
    to all hate crimes.
  • Law enforcement officials should take steps towards increasing
    the confidence of hate crime victims to report crimes to the police. The
    authorities should ensure thorough investigations and prosecution of
    any reports of police misconduct or abuse.
  • Senior law enforcement officials should ensure that police
    receive adequate training on community policing, conflict resolution at
    local level and on identifying and recording bias motivations.
  • With regard to arrests already made in August 2009 in the
    murder of six Roma and other hate crime attacks, the Hungarian
    authorities should move quickly bring the suspects to account through a
    public and open trial.

Its recommendations to the United States include:

  • Consistently raise the problem of violent hate crime, with
    representatives of the Hungarian government at all level of bilateral
    exchanges and encourage legal and other policy responses.
  • Maintain strong and inclusive State Department monitoring and
    public reporting of racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, anti-Muslim,
    homophobic, anti-Roma, and other bias motivated violence.
  • Offer appropriate technical assistance and other forms or
    cooperation, including assistance from experts in the Federal Bureau of
    Investigation in the investigation of individual hate crimes cases, as
    well as the training of police and prosecutors in investigating,
    recording, reporting and prosecuting violent hate crimes, including
    against Roma.

For more information about this work, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/discrimination/pages.aspx?id=85.

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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.

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