22 July, 2013

Anti-Roma violence still shockingly high in today’s Europe

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Category: European Action Day
Ruxandra Pandea
6 pm

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma through strategic litigation, research and policy development, advocacy and human rights education.  ERRC monitors hate crimes against Roma and also supports with legal action the victims.

Roma are the biggest ethnic minority group in Europe and continue to experience shocking levels of discrimination and social exclusion. (read European Union Agency for Fundamental Rigths latest report)

In the past years, Anti-Roma violence has gained significant prominence in the media in Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Bulgaria. The attacks involve firebombing, shooting, stabbing, beating and other acts of violence, have already taken the lives of eight people and have left dozens of others with serious injuries. Many of the attacks have targeted families and children.

The attacks in these countries since have occurred in an increasingly racist climate. These countries have seen a strengthening of extremist and openly racist groups, which spread hate speech and organising anti-Romani marches through the very same villages where people are being attacked or killed. Below you can read some representative cases.

Police harassment against Romani community

In Tura, Pest count, Hungary, from mid- September 2012, Romani people were subjected to disproportionate police action and harassment, according to reports by the Roma Press Center. According to this report, the harassment
started after a policeman was attacked on 5 September 2012 as he apparently interrupted a burglary. The incident was widely reported in the media as an attack by a Romani man against the policeman, although the details of what happened are unclear. After the incident 240 police were sent to the town of Tura. Approximately 8000 people live there, including approximately 2000 Roma. According to the reports made by local Roma to the Roma Press Center, a number of incidents took place. According to a non-Romani eye witness, in one case the police slapped and punched a Romani man in the stomach, saying “why are you smoking during an identity check, you dirty gypsy?”

You can read more about attacks in Hungary here.

200 people participate in anti-Roma demonstration

On 15 January 2012, according to Romea.cz, 200 people amassed in Varnsdorf’s Benešov Square to demonstrate against the presence of Roma in the town. The demonstration was convened under the name of “law and order” to protest alleged Roma criminality and aggression, triggered by a New Year’s attack allegedly perpetrated by a group of Roma against a non-Romani family as well as by a recent speech by the Vice-Mayor which addressed the criminality of some of the anti-Roma demonstrators themselves. At the demonstration, which remained without violent incident, the government was criticized by the demonstrators for not resolving the security situation of the region. The flag of the ultra-right Workers’ Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti or DSSS) was carried by demonstrators.
Another prominent anti-Roma demonstrator, who had tried to reserve the square for his demonstration at the same time and had been refused by the town, tried to incite the Roma of the town by posting on Facebook, under an alias, calls to demonstrate against “white racism”. The DSSS also made reference to this during the demonstration.
The Czech Press Agency later reported that a 22-year-old woman and two young men (one 19-year-old and one under 18 years of age, according to the police spokesperson) verbally assaulted three Roma following the demonstration in Varnsdorf’s Benešov Square. All three were arrested and one of the men has been jailed. According to the police spokesperson, one of the men had patches resembling Nazi symbols on his clothes. The incident is being investigated, but felony charges of defamation of individuals due to their membership in an ethnic, national, racial or other group, as well as charges of rioting were considered. If the suspects are convicted for such charges, they could face a sentence of up to two years in prison.

You can read more about attacks in Czech Republic here.

Off-duty police officer killed three Roma and wounded two

On 16 June 2012, an off-duty municipal police officer shot dead three Romani men and wounded another two, all from the same family, in the town of Hurbanovo, Slovakia. The attack took the lives of a 45-year-old man, Gabriel, his 19-year-old son and his 24-year-old son-in law, while Gabriel’s other son and his wife were wounded. After the killing spree, the 51-year-old attacker attempted to commit suicide but police managed to detain him.
The incident took place at around 10.00 AM on the day in question. The shooter walked into the yard of the family’s home with an unlicensed gun and opened fire.
According to media reports, a few days after the incident the perpetrator told a judge that “I woke up in the morning with the thought that I have to restore order around them.” The Office of the Special Prosecutor reportedly charged the shooter with premeditated murder, violation of the sanctity of a home and carrying a concealed weapon.

You can read more about attacks in Slovakia here.

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