Hungarian courts finally acknowledge a racist anti-Romani crime, but punish it inadequately

The Roma Press Center reported on September 14, 2001, that the Szolnok Town Court had found five juvenile skinheads guilty in connection with a racially motivated assault on two young Roma in 1999. The skinhead group entered the disco at Martfu, around 100 kilometres east of Budapest, on the evening in question and approached a Romani family, including a 12-year-old girl, who had been enjoying themselves. The skinheads attacked two members of the Romani family without provocation, hitting one and kicking the other. Following the assault, the Romani family fled the disco to avoid further danger and the skinheads followed them to a bus stop, yelling "Gypsies get out." The skinheads again attacked the Roma, this time also kicking the 12-year-old girl, according to information provided on September 12, 2001, by the daily Uj Neplap. The attack was reportedly stopped by the police, who happened to be in the area. The Roma Press Center reported that the Roma suffered light injuries from the assault. The September 14, 2001, ruling is the first time a racial motive for an offence has been officially recognised by a Hungarian court in an attack on Roma. Prior to 1996, the judiciary was unable to punish racially motivated crimes as such, due to a lack of appropriate legal instruments. To rectify this, in 1996, the Criminal Code was supplemented with Article 174/B on "Violence Against a Member of a National, Ethnic, Racial or Religious Group." Article 174/B states, "A person who assaults somebody because he belongs or is believed to belong to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or coerces him with violence or menace into doing or not doing or into enduring something, commits a felony and shall be punishable with imprisonment up to five years" [unofficial translation by the Roma Press Center]. Two to eight years imprisonment is envisioned where such a crime is committed in one or more of a number of listed aggravating circumstances. Courts have reportedly never before applied Article 174/B in a case in which Roma were victims. In the Szolnok case however, the attackers were only sentenced to suspended prison terms ranging from 20 to 24 months, as well as two years each in a correctional educational facility.

(Roma Press Center, Uj Neplap)

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