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Theft Victims in Italy Asked to Tick ‘Gypsy’ box – NGOs Win Change

8 August 2013

Rome, Budapest, 8 August 2013: The head of the Italian Carabinieri (one of two national law enforcement agencies) has agreed to remove a box marked "Gypsies" from the complaint templates to report thefts. The General Commander of the Carabinieri Leonardo Gallitelli intervened following reports made by Associazione 21 Luglio and the ERRC. The two organisations welcome the positive results of these reports as a fundamental step towards the dismantling of anti-Gypsyism and institutional discrimination.

Associazione 21 Luglio and the ERRC discovered, through media reports, that police in Liguria gave out preprinted complaint templates for theft, which included a tickbox labelled ‘gypsies’ i.e. offering theft victims the chance to report Roma as the culprits. No other ethnicity was included on the form. This automatically linked the theft with Roma ethnicity, further encouraging negative, stigmatising stereotypes that all Roma are thieves. Associazione 21 Luglio sent a report to Senators Palermo and Manconi of the Senate’s Extraordinary Commission for Human Rights, while the ERRC sent a complaint to OSCAD, the law enforcement unit that investigates discriminatory crimes.

It emerged the same complaint forms are being used in every Carabinieri station throughout Italy. This discriminatory feature was “explicitly requested by the Joint database of the Ministry of Interior,” according to the response given to the Senate’s Human Rights Commission by the Carabinieri’s General Commander, The requests to intervene addressing the General Commander, made by the two members of the Human Rights Commission, resulted in the definitive removal of “any referral to the field ‘gypsies’.”

Associazione 21 Luglio and the ERRC welcome the outcome of the reports.

“The removal of this simple stigmatising feature may seem like a tiny detail, but it constitutes a fundamental step in the struggle against anti-Gypsyism and towards an effective inclusion in which there is no room for discrimination regarding the Roma and Sinti minorities,” said Carlo Stasolla, Associazione 21 Luglio’s president.

Dezideriu Gergely, the ERRC’s executive director, said, “This situation reflects the deep-rooted and institutionalised anti-Romani racism in Italian society. Public institutions have a responsibility to combat racism and discrimination, not to reproduce and contribute to negative stereotypes.  Italy has concrete commitments in its National Strategy to improve the situation of Roma. The Carabinieri’s practice violates not only international human rights standards but also Italy’s own commitments”.

You can find documents related to the case, and read this statement in Italian.  

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

Enrico Guida
Osservatorio 21 Luglio
+39 06.644.912.42

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