For Immediate Release: March 18, 2011
New York, NY – Today, Human Rights First joined the European Roma Rights Centre and Amnesty International in urging Hungarian authorities to protect Romani residents in Gyöngyöspata from ongoing intimidation and harassment.
The Civil Guard Association for a Better Future (Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület) has been patrolling the town of Gyöngyöspata on the pretext of providing security to citizens of Hungarian origin. Unimpeded by local police, the Civil Guard members have reportedly threatened Romani residents with weapons and dogs and have followed Roma residents from their homes. The Roma residents have expressed fear of going to school, to work or even out to buy food.
“The Hungarian Government has a responsibility to intervene to protect Roma individuals from intimidation and harassment. It must act immediately to ensure security for all Hungarian citizens,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. ”The government should send a clear message that it is prepared to respond to any unlawful actions or violence against Roma.”
Today’s letter, addressed to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and other senior-level officials, stressed that international and domestic legal norms outline Hungary’s obligations to protect the life, personal integrity, and private life all of its citizens. In addition, the Hungarian Constitution guarantees the right to liberty and personal security. As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Hungary is bound to ensure that all citizens can exercise their rights to liberty, security of the person and private and family life.
The letter’s signatories called for Hungarian authorities to fulfill their domestic and international human rights obligations in Gyöngyöspata, to intervene immediately to ensure the situation does not escalate into physical violence and to protect the Roma from intimidation and harassment.
Last year, in the wake of a surge of racist violence against Roma in HunHugary, Human Rights First released a Blueprint for Combating Violence Against Roma in Hungary, which outlined a series of recommendations for the Hungarian government, including 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.