ERRC Press Statement: International Roma Day 2000


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Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 11:17:04 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: ERRC Press Statement: International Roma Day 2000

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Tatjana Peric <tatjana@errc.org>

ERRC Press Statement: International Roma Day 2000


April 8 is International Roma Day. On the occasion, the European Roma
Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and
provides legal defence in instances of human rights abuse, calls
attention to Roma rights abuses around Europe:
 
Kosovo
 
Human rights values were vindicated in Central and Eastern Europe on
April 3, 2000, when SFOR troops arrested former Bosnian Serb leader
Momcilo Krajisnik following his indictment for war crimes by the Hague
tribunal. The ERRC cheers the determination of international
authorities to see that the genocidal actions of Serb paramilitaries
during the Bosnian war do not go unpunished. As the first anniversary
of the ethnic cleansing of Roma from Kosovo by ethnic Albanians
approaches, however, no similar prosecutions of Kosovar Albanians are
foreseen. According to reports by NGO observers, the international
press, and even high-ranking United Nations officials charged with
administrating Kosovo, Kosovar courts dismiss - often on
technicalities - cases against ethnic Albanians charged with serious
hate crimes. At present, no international tribunal is planned to
ensure that persons responsible for violent crimes including murder,
torture, rape, arson and kidnapping are brought to justice. Possibly
over 100,000 Roma from Kosovo live in extremely precarious
circumstances outside the province, while the approximately 30,000
Roma inside - many of them displaced - face daily the threat of
ethnically motivated violence.
 
Anti-Romani Violence
 
Violence by state actors against Roma is widespread throughout Europe:
a number of Roma have been killed by police in recent years, many
while in police custody. Many more have suffered torture, physical
abuse and racist verbal abuse at the hands of law enforcement
officials. The public appears to support and even promote "hard
tactics" vis-a-vis Romani individuals and communities, and abusive
officers are rarely brought to justice. At the same time, racially
motivated violence against Roma by skinheads as well as by ordinary
citizens is endemic and severely under-prosecuted throughout the
region.
 
Migration
 
Western European governments and media regard recent migrations of
Roma from Eastern Europe to the West as "only economic migration" and
often as "abuse of the right to asylum". In doing so, they disregard
the steady stream of reports of unremedied police violence, skinhead
attacks and racially motivated pogroms, as well as pervasive
discrimination in all spheres of social life. In some cases, Western
European governments may have failed to provide Roma protection, in
violation of states' obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees to grant asylum to persons with a
well founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. Most
recently, according to the French news agency Agence France Presse,
German authorities sent at least one Romani family to Kosovo on March
29, 2000, raising the concern that they may have been "refouled", or
returned to face persecution.
 
Education
 
Publics throughout Europe adhere to the view that "Roma do not value
education" and cite as evidence low school attainment of Roma and high
rates of indicators such as illiteracy. In reality, Roma face intense
discrimination at all levels of the school system, and racism in the
classroom is rampant. Roma are often segregated within the school
system and educated in substandard classes. In some countries in
Central and Eastern Europe, disproportionately large numbers of Roma
receive their education in schools for the mentally disabled. In many
areas, de facto racial segregation exists. This situation should be
challenged in many ways, including anti-discrimination litigation,
advocacy to challenge the legal and institutional framework of
education systems, adoption of strong anti-discrimination legislation,
teacher training, development of anti-racism curricula, as well as
grassroots activism.
 
***
 
More than fifty years after the end of the Romani Holocaust - the most
recent but certainly not the only attempt by the people of Europe to
eradicate the entire Romani people - Roma live at the margins of
European societies, unable to live with dignity and often under
physical attack. Europe remains a debtor to the Romani people, owing
respect and real measures to include Roma in the European society of
the 21st century.
 
*****************
 
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://errc.org.
 
European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
 
Telephone: (36 1) 42 82 351
Fax: (36 1) 42 82 356
 
*****************
 
SUPPORT THE ERRC!
 
The European Roma Rights Center is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:
 
European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary

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