FXB Center, Harvard University: Violence and Attacks Against Roma Should Sound Alarms in the International Community
Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights released a report documenting “Accelerating Patterns of Anti-Roma Violence in Hungary”. The report is intended to alert the United Nations and the international community to the persistent patterns of violent attacks and actions against the Roma (pejoratively called Gypsies). The report calls upon the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the Hungarian Government, and the European Union (EU) to take responsibility and act to avoid the dangers that the Roma and other minority groups in Hungary have been exposed to in recent years.
The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Hungary and encounter discrimination and exclusion on a regular basis across several sectors, including education, health, employment, housing, and access to other services. About 60% of the Roma live in secluded rural areas, segregated neighborhoods, settlements, or ghettos.
In the report, the FXB Center makes the case that Hungary’s mounting incidence of hate crimes, racist propaganda, discrimination, and exclusionary ideologies indicates a need for measures to ensure the physical and psychological safety of the Roma and other minority groups. It suggests that warning signs exist that should sound alarms in the international community.
The report documents that in the last five years in Hungary the establishment of vigilante groups and hate crimes against Roma and other minority groups has characterized a climate of increasing social and economic exclusion. Despite the adoption of EU anti-discrimination regulations and laws, extremist organizations, private individuals, and state officials in Hungary continue to widely and openly discriminate against Roma at an alarming rate and through a variety of methods:
- State officials and members of mainstream parties often use racist public statements that incite hate against the Roma and other minority groups.
- Recently established paramilitary extremist groups and organizations are increasingly using anti-Roma rhetoric and have organized anti-Roma rallies.
- Extremist organizations hold weapon trainings for members on a regular basis.
- Extreme right parties are consolidating their power. The most visible party is the Jobbik Party, whose 47 seats have made it the third-largest group in the Hungarian Parliament. The Jobbik Party’s anti-Roma and anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions have become increasingly virulent in recent years.
- Several instances of racially motivated crimes and violence by both extremist groups and civilians have been recorded by civil society organizations and the media, including the killing or injuring of Roma victims, the use of firearms, firebombs, grenades, and Molotov cocktails against Roma.
The report underlines the need for increased monitoring and actions by the Hungarian Government and intergovernmental bodies to combat extremism, discrimination, and violence against the Roma community, and makes the following recommendations:
- The EU should design and implement actions to curb the rise of extremism, not just in Hungary, but across Europe.
- Hungarian institutions should immediately investigate the legality of extremist organizations and consider their prohibition. The European Court of Human Rights recognizes that the state has the “obligation to criminalize the dissemination of racism, xenophobia or ethnic intolerance, to prohibit every assembly and dissolve every group, organization, association or party that promotes them.”
- The Hungarian Government should ensure security for its citizens by investigating groups and individuals involved in secret combat preparation.
According to Margareta Matache, a Fellow with the FXB Center and a contributing author to the report, “Roma in Hungary face blatant discrimination on a daily basis. The wave of anti-Roma violence, organized killings and protests exposes not only the victims of these acts to great insecurity, but their neighbors, relatives and the Roma population in Hungary as a whole. State and intergovernmental bodies should increase their efforts to combat these phenomena and the international community should push Hungary to take responsibility to prevent such incidences from occurring.”
About the FXB Center
The François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University is the first academic center to focus exclusively on the practical dynamic between the issues of health and human rights. Founded in 1993 through a gift from the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud, the FXB Center is a world leader in building a conceptual basis of the right to health and driving advocacy initiatives to incorporate human rights norms into international health policy.
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