A “lone wolf, strange type” of a man murdered six neighbors, all from one Romani family, in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava on Monday, August 30th. The unemployed killer, armed with a submachine gun, shot another person, wounded fifteen more, and then killed himself during the ensuing police pursuit.
The New York Times reports that the gunman’s identity and motives are still unclear and remain under investigation. Other neighbors informed the investigators that the killer’s anti-Roma sentiment may have been an important motivating factor. In a video interview, a victim’s brother called the shooter “an idiot,” and another relative remembered the murderer as an intolerant, racist man who often used anti-Roma slurs.
The incident comes amidst growing intolerance and continuous discrimination of and violence against Roma in Europe. This month, the French authorities have deported 700 members of the Roma minority to Bulgaria and Romania, in a move heavily criticized by institutional and nongovernmental human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg. HRF’s colleagues from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) are organizing E.U.-wide protests against France’s policies. A schedule of national activities is available online.
Roma communities in Hungary, Slovakia’s southern neighbor, have also been subject to racist attacks that intensified last year when a neo-Nazi gang went from one settlement to another, murdering at least six Roma, including a five-year-old boy. The attacks were resonant in the Hungarian society—up to five thousand people attended the funeral of the boy and his father, murdered in the same attack. In August 2010, the official investigation was finally finished, and the trial should begin very soon.
A Hungarian rights activist and former E.U. parliamentarian, Viktoria Mohácsi, has been a leading advocate for Roma rights in her home country and throughout Europe. In October, she will receive Human Rights First’s 2010 Human Rights First Award for her longtime efforts to raise awareness and improve government responses to hate crimes.