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Joint Statement on Violence Against Roma in Ukraine

30 April 2014

Budapest, Kyiv, 30 April 2014:  We, the European Roma Rights Centre, the International Charitable Organisation “Chiricli’ and International Renaissance Foundation express our gravest concern regarding incidents of violence and intimidation directed against Romani individuals and communities in Ukraine in recent weeks and days. It is clear from the media report and the information coming from partner organisations that there has been an escalation in anti-Romani sentiment, which has already led to several acts of violence against Roma and could even lead to further deterioration.

In Slaviansk one Romani man was shot and seriously injured while trying to defend his house from an attack on April 29th. The man remains in a serious condition. This follows an incident earlier in April in which a group of over 20 men in Slavyansk targeted seven Romani households. The men entered houses, and beat Roma living there, including children. They then demanded money, and searched and looted the houses for anything of value. Following the attack, and reports locally of similar attacks in the region, Romani residents of Slaviansk and of neighbouring towns in Donetsk region fear for their safety, and some have already moved away from their homes to other parts of Donetsk.

In Cherkassy on April 29th one Romani family’s house was set on fire. Although the house was destroyed nobody was injured in the attack. This followed weeks of escalating tension between Roma and some non-Roma residents in the town. A group of non-Roma residents had approached Romani families, told them to leave their homes, and threatened them with physical attacks if they refused to do so. Police did not intervene to protect the families sufficiently, and only did so under pressure from local NGOs and activists. Despite these efforts it appears that the threats have been carried out.

On February 27th 2014 one Romani man was attacked in Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, Kyiv region, by a group of people who stated that Roma were not participating in the political life of the country and were apolitical. In a separate incident one day later, a group of about 15 people attacked four Romani households in Korsten, Kyiv region, and stated that they also planned to attack other Romani households. Several of the families left their homes, fearing further attacks. 

Other incidents of violence and intimidation have been reported directly to NGOs in Ukraine, but are not made public due to security concerns – Romani individuals have asked for these incidents not to be reported for fear of reprisals.

It is evident in the current ongoing political instability in Ukraine that some elements are attempting to target Roma, or to mark Roma as scapegoats. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsák recently visited Ukraine and stated that “Minority rights protections should be strengthened as part of a process of confidence building and to achieve stronger unity in Ukraine’s diversity”.

It is essential that the most vulnerable minorities, such as the Roma in Ukraine, are protected during this period of instability. All relevant and responsible authorities should condemn any violence or intimidation of Roma and ensure that any such violence is fully and speedily investigated in line with national and international legal requirements, pertaining to the investigation of alleged racist motives behind attacks.

The signing organisations urge all of the responsible parties in Ukraine, as well as international organisations, to take all possible and necessary actions to preserve and protect the rights of the Roma minority and guarantee their safety and security irrespective of the political situation in the country.

For more information, contact:

Darya Alekseeva (in Ukrainian, Russian and English)
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel. +36.30.500.2183
Lawyer
darya.alekseeva@errc.org

Kieran O'Reilly (in Russian and English)
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel. +36.30.500.2227
Research and Advocacy Officer
kieran.oreilly@errc.org

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