ERRC Urges Prosecutor to Act on Hate Speech in Russia
12 August 2005
On August 5, 2005, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) sent a letter of concern to Krasnokamsk City Prosecutor Mr Aleksei Rasseikin, copied to the Prosecutor of Perm Oblast and the Russian Prosecutor General, expressing concern about an article appearing in Russian media linking Roma as a group to the drug trade. In its letter, the ERRC urged Prosecutor Rasseikin to open an investigation on the grounds of incitement to racial hatred and ensure that the responsible parties be brought to justice. The full text of the letter follows:
Honourable Prosecutor Rasseikin,
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), an international human rights organisation, has been provided with information that the newspaper Krasnokamskaya Zvezda (Krasnokamsk Star) in its issue No 97-98 from June 25, 2005 published an article entitled "Narcobusiness the Gypsy Way" ("Narkobiznes po-ciganski"). We would like to draw your attention to the following passage:
"Why is it the Gypsy people who are actively involved in drug dealing? The answer has to be searched for in the historical traditions of this people. On any territory they do not live according to the law but according to their own law. Everyone is aware of their negative attitude to children's education, constant work and legal income. Even theft is not regarded as law infringement but as a code of conduct. […] At all times the Gypsies have been building their business on the basis of fraud and the vices of others. That is why drug trade ideally fits into their pattern of relationship with the outside world".
Honourable Prosecutor Rasseikin, we write to urge you to investigate whether said publication constitutes an offence of incitement to racial hatred provided in Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which establishes criminal liability for "actions aimed at the incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as abasement of dignity of a person or a group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, as well as affiliation to any social group, if these acts have been committed in public or with the use of mass media." Article 29(2) of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, establishing "the propaganda or agitation instigating social, racial, national or religious hatred and strife shall not be allowed" may also have been violated in the instant case.
The ERRC is concerned that the article contributes to a climate of hostility against Roma in the Perm region. Racism is an issue of such serious international concern that it has merited its own international convention, the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Russia is a party.
Honourable Prosecutor Rasseikin, the ERRC calls on your office to ensure that thorough and expeditious investigation be conducted and that any and all responsible parties be brought to justice. We respectfully request to be informed of all the steps taken by your office in the enforcement of the law of the Russian Federation.
To: Aleksei Rasseikin
Prosecutor of the city of Krasnokamsk
Kalinina str. 5, Krasnokamsk, Perm oblast 617060, Russia
Fax: + 7 (34273) 32344
CC: Aleksander Kandalov
Prosecutor of Perm Oblast
Lunacharskogo str. 60, Perm 614990, Russia
Fax: + 7 (3422) 124032
Cc: Vladimir Ustinov
Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation
Bolshaya Dmitrovka str. 15A, Moscow, 125993, Russia
Fax: +7 (095) 9214186