April 12, 2010
Group Urges Newly Elected Hungarian Leaders to Prioritize Fight Against Anti-Roma Violence and Discrimination
New York City, 4/12/10 Human Rights First today called on Hungary's newly elected authorities to prioritize combating hate crime and racist violence, specifically growing xenophobia, antisemitism and targeted attacks against Hungarians of Roma origin. The group notes that there were dozens of such attacks and even murders against Roma from 2008 to 2009. The center-right Fidesz party emerged the solid winner in the first round of Hungary's parliamentary elections, winning 206 out of 386 seats already enough to form a government The election results come after a heated campaign that was at times shaped by antisemitic and anti-Roma rhetoric. Human Rights First condemns such actions and voices concern that candidates representing the far-right Jobbik party, many of whom engaged in this hate-driven campaigning, won 26 seats in the new parliament. The Jobbik party is expected to be the third largest party in parliament. Although a second round of voting to fill the remaining 121 seats is schedule for April 25, the results of the first round clearly indicate that a new majority will rule in Hungary. "As Fidesz's leaders begin the process of forming a new government, they should denounce the rhetoric of hate that shaped much of this year's elections," said Human Rights First's Paul LeGendre. "The Fidesz platform should instead be built on policies that respect human rights and emphasize non-discrimination. From day one, they should distance themselves from the xenophobic approach aggressively advocated by Jobbik." According to Human Rights First, over the last two years, there has been a sharp rise in the incidence of violent acts against Roma, crimes that in many cases appear to be motivated by bias. NGO monitors have documented a disturbing pattern of such cases, ranging from severe beatings in broad daylight to murders by arson or shootings. Human Rights First has long condemned this racist violence, noting that these hate crimes are part of a broader spectrum of discrimination toward Roma, including discrimination by law enforcement officers. In 2009, the previous Hungarian government undertook a number of efforts aimed at confronting the problem of violent hate crime against Roma. Among other actions, senior political leaders publicly spoke out against the most serious cases of violence, and the government committed significant law enforcement resources to investigations of some of these cases. They also sought expertise from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Building on this progress, Human Rights First is urging the Fidesz party to continue these efforts at the national level and to enforce these policies are enforced at the local level. Human Rights First respectfully calls on the new Hungarian leadership to incorporate the following recommendations into its efforts to address the next government's response to hate-motivated violent attacks in Hungary:
- Senior government officials, as well as local mayors, should speak out against violence against Roma or the members of any other group whenever such acts occur and ensure that there is a rapid response of the law enforcement and the criminal justice authorities.
- Law-enforcement agencies should publicly commit to investigate such crimes, as well as allegations of aggravated circumstances for specific violent crimes committed against any individual, including Roma, and to provide regular public updates into the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
- The Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement should ensure that law enforcement officials have clear guidelines to vigorously address crimes including those committed against Roma that are motivated in whole or in part by racism or other forms of bias.
- The Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement and other relevant ministries should commit to collecting and publishing data on the incidence and response to violence against Roma, including hate crimes, as well as to other violent hate crimes.
- The Hungarian authorities should ensure adequate training for police and prosecutors in identifying and recording bias motivations, and in bringing evidence of bias motivations before the courts. They should commit to take advantage of training opportunities offered by international organizations.
- Law enforcement officials should take steps including by reaching out to community and other nongovernmental groups to increase the confidence of crime victims from marginalized groups such as Roma to report crimes to the police. The authorities should ensure thorough investigations and prosecution of any reports of police harassment of victims of crime.