ERRC statement on the occasion of Human Rights Day -
Budapest: Today marks the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the General Assembly of the United Nations. This year, Human Rights Day is devoted to non discrimination and the right to equality; it is celebrated around the world with the motto "Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination". On this occasion the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) notes that racial discrimination against Roma is still a common and persistent problem all around Europe. Roma face discrimination in all areas of life, which contributes to exclusion and poverty. As a result of historic and persistent discrimination against Roma, many Roma remain uneducated and unemployed, living in segregated, substandard housing, and facing much lower life expectancy than that of non-Roma. The plight of Romani children remains especially acute. A large number of Romani children from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria and other European countries are attending segregated special schools or segregated classes where they study according to an inferior curriculum. They leave these schools unprepared for life in a democratic society and participation in the labour market. They are denied the right to education on equal terms and emerge stigmatised as "stupid" and "disabled". Children are subject to violence at the hands of police and private individuals. In 2009, YouTube viewers could watch a home-made video of Slovak police officers insulting and abusing six Romani boys in their custody. This year, Romani children were the target of racially motivated murder or attempted murder in Hungary and the Czech Republic. In the spirit of the Article 1 of the UDHR, the ERRC urges European governments to take decisive action in order to eliminate discrimination against Roma, and in particular against Romani children. Specifically, governments should:
- Affirmatively prohibit segregation in education and take immediate steps to ensure that Romani children are provided with a quality education in an integrated setting;
- Conduct prompt, thorough and unbiased investigation into each case of violence against Roma, with adequate consideration of possible racist motive, and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice;
- Develop pro-active and comprehensive national strategy to combat and prevent racist or hate crimes and hate speech, including clear and consistent condemnations of all attacks against Roma; and
- Implement adequately funded positive action programmes in the fields of education, employment, housing and health care in order to promote equality of Roma and their inclusion in mainstream society.