Ukraine: UN Racism Committee Hears Testimony on Oppression of Roma
11 August 2006
ERRC Provides Documentation on Roma Rights in Ukraine to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Geneva, Budapest, 11 August 2006. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has alerted the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to the serious human rights situation of Roma in Ukraine. The UN body today reviews Ukraine's compliance with international law banning racial discrimination.
The ERRC submitted detailed documentation concerning the human rights situation of Roma in Ukraine, to assist the Committee in its review. The ERRC submission notes a number of problematic areas of law, policy and practice. It also provides a number of recommendations to the Committee.
Ukraine last went before the Committee in 2001. Concerns raised by the CERD about the situation of Roma in Ukraine either been ignored or addressed to no tangible effect in the five years since then.
According to the official report provided to the CERD Committee by the government of Ukraine, "racial discrimination in all its forms has been eliminated in Ukraine and the equality of every person before the law has been secured, without distinction based on race, skin colour or national or ethnic origin." The government blames the Roma themselves for the sub-standard living conditions in which many live, as well as for the lack of opportunities for economic or social advancement faced by many in Ukraine. "In many cases," the Government report states, "we face outrageous facts of non-observation by the Roma of the basic rules of conduct, violations of community life's laws… People do not know their rights, and, what is more surprising, even do not try to know them." The Government further told the CERD Committee that Romani parents "do not aspire to provide their children with education, even with an elementary one." The Ukrainian government contends that "accusations that Roma are deprived of their civil rights, practically, do not have any grounds".
The ERRC written submission provided to the UN Committee in advance of today's hearing aims to counter the distorted view of matters presented by the Ukrainian government. The material presented by the ERRC includes evidence of racially discriminatory practices against Roma in a number of sectors of society in Ukraine. Of particular concern is the violence many have suffered at the hands of authorities and/or their non-Romani neighbours; a systemic lack of access to social services, employment and education; and widespread hate speech in the media.
The absence of any comprehensive anti-discrimination law in Ukraine makes it virtually impossible for victims of discrimination in Ukraine to use the law to secure justice.
The ERRC submission provides detailed description of particular abuses including:
- The repeated racially-motivated detention for fingerprinting and databasing en masse, often carried out in the middle of the night, of large groups of Romani men in certain areas, absent any particular allegations of crimes;
- The arson deaths of family members of Jurij Fedorchenko in 2002, apparently by police officers, for failing to pay a bribe, as well as the continuing failure by Ukrainian authorities to provide justice in that case and a number of other extreme cases of violent abuse;
- The enforced long-term homelessness of Ms. Yevgenia Kutsenko in the town of Kremenchug, as well as of many other Romani Ukrainians.
- The racial segregation of Romani children at the high school in the village of Nyerubayskoye, Odesa oblast, and their schooling in a separate building under worse conditions and with worse instructors than their non-Romani peers.
- The systemic lack of personal documents among Roma in Ukraine, precluding them from access to a range of fundamental human rights, including such basic rights as the right to vote.
The ERRC has urged the CERD Committee to undertake any and all measures available to it to begin to bring about change for Roma in Ukraine.
The ERRC has been documenting the human rights situation of Roma in Ukraine since 1996, and has maintained a continuous presence in Ukraine since 2004. ERRC activities in Ukraine are currently supported by the European Commission.
The full text of the ERRC written submission to the UN CERD, is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/ERRC.doc
The Ukrainian government’s report to the UN CERD is available at:
For further information, please contact Ms. Zemfira Kondur at: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; tel. +380973395974, +380672497119