Amnesty International Urges Hungary to Thoroughly Investigate Attacks on Roma

(Washington, D.C.) -- The Hungarian government should thoroughly investigate racially motivated violent attacks against Roma and provide the victims with access to justice, Amnesty International has said in the report: Violent attacks against Roma in Hungary , published today.

“The Hungarian authorities have a duty to prevent discrimination and to ensure justice for victims of hate crimes," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia program director. "This includes the obligation to investigate whether or not racial and ethnic hatred or prejudice played a role in these and any similar attacks."

The report shows how racially motivated crimes impact individual victims, communities and society as a whole. It also shows how shortcomings in the Hungarian justice system hinder the prevention of and response to such attacks.

Between January 2008 and August 2009 Roma in Hungary were subjected to a series of Molotov cocktail attacks and shootings in which six people died. Among the victims was a couple in their forties, an elderly man, a father and his four-year-old boy, and a single mother with a 13-year-old daughter.

“By combating racism and racial violence,” Duckworth said, “the authorities will send an important message that diversity should not be perceived as a threat. They must send a clear message that racism will not be tolerated.”

Hungarian law criminalizes incitement of hatred and racist crimes. However, the number of indictments and convictions on charges of racially motivated attacks appears low when compared to the number of reports of such attacks collated by NGOs.

Hungarian police said that there were 12 racially motivated attacks on Roma communities in 2008 and six in 2009. However NGOs recorded 25 racially motivated attacks in 2009 and 17 attacks in 2008.

This gap is attributed to the underreporting of hate crimes by victims often because of fear or by the failure of the police and prosecutors to take into account the racist motive of offences.

Many of the Roma victims interviewed by Amnesty International were traumatized and not aware of the support services or how to access them.

“The failure to record, investigate, prosecute, punish racially motivated crimes and provide remedies for the victims is letting down the Romani community in Hungary,” Duckworth said. “The government is obliged under international law to combat discrimination and a key part of that is collating information on the existence and extent of hate crimes.”  

Amnesty International also calls on the Hungarian authorities to:

  • Ensure that members of the Romani community, as well as members of other vulnerable groups are protected from violence;
  • Ensure that police officers and prosecutors receive training on the nature of hate crimes and the role of police in combating them;
  • Work with Roma self-governments, NGOs and human rights organizations to encourage Roma to report hate crimes and ensure that the victims have access to redress, including access to justice, rehabilitation and compensation.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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