Ukraine: Violence against Romani people is escalating
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) reports that more attacks have been perpetrated in Ukraine against Romani people. According to eyewitnesses, more than 30 masked men attacked several Romani families in the early morning hours of 10 May who were occupying temporary dwellings near the community of Rudne in the Lviv area in Western Ukraine, forcing them to leave their homes.
This is not the first such brutal attack on Romani people in Ukraine this year. A previous one took place on 21 April, when members of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi group C14 set a Romani encampment in the center of Kiev on fire.
In this most recent attack the assailants, according to eyewitnesses, are said to have forcibly dragged the Romani people from their dwellings before setting them alight. Police officers and emergency medical technicians responded to the scene, but reportedly did not arrive until the aggressors had fled.
After the Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Lyudmila Denisova, ordered the attack be investigated, the national police in the Lviv Region began a criminal investigation on suspicion of rioting. According to the investigators the persons involved in the pogrom have already been identified and the investigation has been initiated.
"There is nobody at the campsite now. Some people fled after the pogrom, which happened in the middle of the night, others were taken away by ambulance," said Michael Kenio, a representative of the local human rights organization "Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group" (KHRPG).
The assault was preceded by threats being made to the Romani families, and the testimonies from some local residents of Rudne reportedly indicate the possible involvement of police officers in the attack. This was the second incident involving arson to be conducted recently against Romani people in Ukraine.
In the late night hours of 21 April and the early morning hours of 22 April, members of the neo-Nazi organization C14 along with staffers of the state administration set the homes of Romani people in the Lysa Hora neighborhood of Kiev on fire. Before doing so they threw rocks and tear gas at them.
Ukrainian Police are currently criminally investigating the radicals responsible for that incident. However, the authorities only took action after human rights organizations pressured them to do so.
Managing director of the ERRC Adam Weiss commented on both attacks as follows: "The only chance at justice for these Romani people is for them to sue the national police. We are collaborating with activists in the field and with victims of both these attacks on how to do just that."
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