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Roma Rights at UN Minorities Group

14 August 2006

NGOs Testify at the United Nations Working Group on Minorities

14 August 2006, Budapest.
The Bulgarian Centre for Interethnic Dialog and Tolerance Amalipe (CIDTA), the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Macedonian HCAR Mesecina and Roma Democratic Development Association (RDDA) have testified before the United Nations Working Group on Minorities (WGM), which held its Twelfth Session between 8-11 August 2006, in Geneva. The groups presented material on human rights violations of Roma and formulated recommendations for the respective governments.

The representative of CIDTA expressed concerns about the following issues: the existence of hate speech and anti-Romani propaganda in the Bulgarian media; the widespread discrimination against and marginalization of Roma in Bulgaria; the lack of employment, quality education and proper living conditions for Roma; the lack of respect towards Romani culture; under-representation of Roma at various levels of government; and the lack of adequate and effective policies for the integration of Roma. The CIDTA emphasized that Roma issues can only be effectively addressed if the specific needs and interests of various Roma groups are taken into consideration and the right of participation in political life is ensured for all Romani sub-groups.

In a response, the representative of the Bulgarian government stated that hate speech and racist propaganda are prohibited by the law and the government is monitoring the realization of freedom of speech in media. He said that Bulgarian Roma do not suffer discrimination, but rather privilege, due to opportunities to enjoy special care and advantages only available for them. He said that multicultural education is a priority for the Bulgarian government, and that the government has a clear policy for the integration of Roma. The representative presented various efforts undertaken by the Bulgarian government in the fields of unemployment, education, housing conditions, health care and culture for the integration of Roma.

The representative of the ERRC expressed concerns about the lack of adequate implementation of laws ensuring the human rights of Roma in Hungary, and recommended the following: 

  • The Hungarian Government should improve the quality and extent of statistical data on the situation of Roma in sectoral fields key for social inclusion;
  • Entities with more than 50 employees should adopt an Equal Chances Plan for Roma. Such plans are obligatory by law in Hungary, but there is widespread non-observance of this obligation by these institutions;
  • A monitoring system of the budgets and expenditures of municipalities should be introduced in order to ensure that the money sought for integration and other educational purposes is spent on the education of children and is not spent on unrelated matters;
  • Compulsory primary and secondary school education should include the promotion of human rights, tolerance, pluralism, non-discrimination, effective participation and the culture and history of Roma;
  • Adequate programmes should be adopted by the Hungarian government in order to eliminate extreme poverty among Roma and to ensure access to basic services by Romani households.

In response, the representative of the Hungarian government admitted that there is still a lot to do in the field of Roma rights, but added that there have been many improvements that prove the real commitment of the Hungarian Government to assist the social integration of Roma. The representative of the Government welcomed the fact that 300 new Roma Self-Governments will be elected in this year's local election. Roma Self-Governments are advisory bodies to the local administration in Hungary. She mentioned the efforts being undertaken to improve the education of Roma, and noted the system of available financial support by the Hungarian Ministry of Economy and Transportation for small- and medium-size Roma enterprises. She also emphasised that Hungary has sent two Roma to the European Parliament.

Since 2003, the Macedonian RDDA has appeared three times before the UN Working Group on Minorities, presenting in particular matters concerning the ill-treatment of Roma in Macedonia by public officials. This year, RDDA and HCAR reported on the case of the seventeen-year-old Trajan Bekirov, who was last seen alive after Macedonian police "ALFI" units chased him and his friend, Orhan Isemi, on 11 May 2006. His body was discovered on 28 May 2006 in the river Vardar near the village of Tubarevo. Based on an autopsy carried out by the Institute of Juridical Medicine and Criminal Autopsy and on the basis of the investigation by the Ministry of Interior's Sector on Internal Control and Professional Standards, government representatives announced that police actions were appropriate. However, Trajan's parents hired an independent forensic expert for a second autopsy which was carried out five days after the first one. As a result, unlike the first examination, the doctor raised several issues according to which the police could be found responsible for inappropriate action resulting in the death of Trajan Bekirov. Based on this report, the ombudsperson initiated further investigation. However, the public prosecutor announced last week that the investigation will not be pursued further in the matter. (for further details of the case, see the letter of ERRC and the National Roma Centrum sent to Dr. Vlado Buckovski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2604).

RDDA and HCAR recommend measures including: 

  • An independent and objective investigation and fair court procedure, and imposition of sanctions on the perpetrators;
  • Revision of legislation regarding police forces;
  • Imposition of sanctions on all public servants responsible for the ill-treatment of citizens;
  • Adoption of an effective and independent control system on police, judiciary and other public services.

In its response, the Macedonian Government emphasized that the case of Mr. Bekirov is an individual case and probably it is therefore not appropriate as a subject of interest for the UN Working Group on Minorities. He expressed that the government completely rejects statements by the members of the Macedonian NGOs suggesting that the special police unit might be influenced by any racist attitudes toward the members of the Romani ethnic community. The government representative rejected allegations that Roma in Macedonia suffer discrimination in the fields of education or employment. He went on to explain efforts undertaken by the Macedonian Government for the integration of Roma.

The statements of the three NGOs as well as the response of the Hungarian and Macedonian Government are available at http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/minorities/group/main.htm.

For more information, please contact dr. Rita Izsák, ERRC Mandate and Communication Officer at +36-1-413-2200 or rita.izsak@errc.org.


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