Slovak Govt Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community: Žilina is a textbook example of hate crime
The recent attack on Romani people in Žilina, Slovakia, one of whom is hospitlaized with a brain hemorrhage, is a textbook example of hate crime according to the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community, Ábel Ravasz (a member of the Most-Híd party), and should be prosecuted as one. The chair of the Romani Union civic association in Slovakia (ÚRS), František Tanko, says Romani people abroad and in Slovakia are outraged by the racist crime and have announced a protest march in Žilina.
The brutal assault on several Romani people by a group of 10 - 15 racists happened during the early morning hours of Saturday 21 July in Žilina. Police have arrested three attackers.
"What happened in Žilina is a textbook example of hate crime and should be prosecuted as such. The specific motive, in my opinion, is undeniable. The degree of empathy for Romani people in Slovakia is low, public officials and local administrations cannot afford to maintain this status quo and they definitely cannot afford to actually promote the status quo. Such crimes have no business taking place in a decent Slovakia and deserve to be condemned by society as broadly as possible," Ravasz said.
"It is unbelievable how they are beginning to attack us Roma, but unfortunately it is a consequence of the fact that no Government has ever resolved this problem, for more than 20 years now," Tanko said yesterday at a briefing in front of the Office of the Government. He called on Prosecutor General Jaromír Čižnár, Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini and Slovak Interior Minister Denisa Saková to personally do all they can to make sure the problem will not be swept under the carpet.
Tanko also announced there will be a protest march in front of City Hall in Žilina. The Romani Union is planning to convene a peaceful protest very soon.
"We've had enough of people beating others up for no reason other than that they are Romani. We are also citizens of this country, we were born here, and we do not want to be fourth or fifth-category citizens. Before the elections all the politicians will be brandishing the Romani issue, playing the Romani card, but they just want publicity, not to aid Romani people," said Tanko.
The director of the eduRoma association, Vlado Rafael, wants the case to be resolved as quickly as possible. "After the very odd decisions by domestic courts with respect to Romani people in Slovakia I want to still believe that in this case of the 10 'experts' who so brutally beat those three innocent Romani boys into unconsciousness, the perpetrators of this odious crime will be convicted in a super-fast proceedings," Rafael told news server Romea.cz.
"I am convinced that sentencing these perpetrators for the longest possible amount of time allowed by law, which in this case would be 10 years without parole, is the only way we can expect some resocialization effect. I hope all the victims, including the passer-by who bravely stood up for these boys, will get well soon and will not suffer permanent consequences to their health," Rafael said.
According to Irena Biháriová from the Progressive Slovakia movement, attacks on Romani people do not evoke solidarity with the victims in Slovakia and do not force society to reflect on itself. "We live in a country were attacks, exclusion of Romani people from access to public services, or defamation of Romani people have long been perceived as acceptable behaviors," she told news server Romea.cz.
"Nobody here is outraged by such violence, it does not evoke solidarity, it does not force society to undertake any deeper reflection about itself; on the contrary, the discussion gets pulled in the direction of whether the Romani victims deserved to be attacked or even whether such attacks are a justified revenge against them from the side of the majority," Biháriová said. She believes such an atmosphere turns Romani people into prey and makes possible brutal, violent crimes like the one to which the young Romani man from Žilina was subjected.
"If, after this shocking crime, the more decent part of Slovakia does not mobilize, Romani people will definitively lose hope of their ever being equal in Slovakia someday, of being accepted as full-fledged citizens. They will lose any reason to believe in the norms we love to preach at them when we are ourselves are blind to what we must uphold when it comes to Romani people," she told Romea.cz.
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