On International Roma Day, OSCE/ODIHR Director calls for greater efforts to improve co-operation between police and Roma communities
Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called today for greater efforts to improve relations and co-operation between police forces and Roma communities. On the occasion of International Roma Day, he further called on law-enforcement authorities to ensure effective police responses to violence against Roma and Sinti people in the OSCE area.
“The police have a responsibility to safeguard the security of all individuals and communities where they serve, including in the protection and promotion of their human rights,” Lenarčič said. “Strong, positive relations and co-operation between police forces and Roma communities are needed if this type of protection is to be effective.”
He underlined the obligation of relevant authorities in countries to prevent police misconduct and to ensure that crimes, including hate crimes, against Roma and Sinti are properly investigated and, where sufficient evidence exists, prosecuted.
“Greater efforts are needed to train police officers to properly identify and investigate hate crimes, including against Roma, as well as to sensitize them to the threats and difficulties faced by Roma communities,” Lenarčič said. “Strict action also has to be taken in instances where police officers themselves are the source of these problems.”
The second Status Report on Implementation of the OSCE Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area, published by ODIHR in 2013, identified problems specifically related to policing, including excessive use of force against or ill-treatment of Roma, racial profiling and failure to respond effectively to assist Roma victims of crime. It also highlighted mutual distrust and a lack of constructive contacts between police and Roma communities as an impediment to guaranteeing their security and human rights.
Twenty experts from law enforcement agencies and Roma civil society also met in Warsaw on International Roma Day to share good practices in policing at the local level. In particular, participants at the expert meeting, organized by ODIHR, the OSCE Strategic Police Matters Unit (SPMU) and the Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) focused on practical applications of the resource Police and Roma and Sinti: Good Practices in Building Trust and Understanding, which was published by ODIHR and the SPMU in 2010.
In the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area, adopted in 2003, ODIHR, the SPMU and the HCNM are mandated to assist OSCE participating States in developing programmes and confidence-building measures to improve relations and co-operation between Roma and Sinti communities and the police.
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