ERRC Submits Written Comments Concerning Hungary's Roma Rights Record to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
15 August 2002
Today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews Hungary's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). In the run-up to today's meeting, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) submitted written comments to the Committee for considerations during its review. Today in Geneva, representatives of the ERRC, as well as the Budapest-based non-governmental organisations Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Roma Press Center are holding a joint briefing on Hungary's record on discrimination before Committee members in Geneva.
The ERRC submission documents patterns of systematic racial discrimination against Roma in Hungary, as well as the failure of national and local authorities to protect Roma from violence and discrimination and to offer Romani victims of human rights abuse access to effective remedies. Discrimination pervades all aspects of life for Roma in Hungary, most egregiously in the fields of education, housing, and access to public services.
On the occasion of the review, ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said, "The UN CERD review could not be more timely. The international organ charged with assessing race discrimination issues will have the unique opportunity to set the agenda on Roma rights for Hungary's new government."
ERRC concerns as they relate to specific articles of the ICERD and as described in its written submission to the CERD, follow in summary:
As to Article 2, according to documentation by the ERRC and that of other non-governmental organisations, Roma suffer widespread discrimination in virtually all spheres of public life. Legal prohibitions and other legal and administrative measures against racial discrimination and racially-motivated violence have to date been ineffective in prohibiting and bringing to an end racial discrimination.
As to Article 3, the Government has failed "to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of [racial segregation and apartheid]." A system of racially-segregated education in Hungary effectively denies equal education to Roma. Romani children are over-represented in schools or classes for the mentally disabled. Where Romani children are educated in the mainstream school system, they are frequently placed in so-called "catch-up classes" -- separate classes originally designed as a temporary measure but which in effect function as a permanent form of racially segregated education -- or in so-called "private student" arrangements, through which Romani children are effectively forced out of school altogether. Racial segregation of Roma is also widely reported in other areas, such as housing.
As to Article 4, public officials in Hungary have engaged in racist speech against Roma, promoting racial hatred and/or inciting to discrimination, hostility or violence. These acts as a rule remain unpunished and frequently pass entirely without comment by authorities.
As to Article 5, Roma are frequently victims of racially motivated violence committed by law-enforcement officials as well as by non-state actors. In addition, Roma suffer racial discrimination with respect to the realisation of a broad range of rights to which all persons are entitled. Most egregiously and systematically, Roma suffer
discrimination in the exercise inter alia of the right to equal treatment before the law, the right to adequate housing, the right to education, and the right to access to public accommodations and services.
As to Article 6, the Government does not ensure in practice that Roma in Hungary have access to effective protection and remedies against racial discrimination. The current remedies available to victims of racial discrimination are inadequate or ineffective and are not sufficient to act as a deterrent.
In its submission, the ERRC recommends that Government undertake the following measures:
- Investigate promptly and impartially incidents of violence against Roma and prosecute perpetrators of such crimes to the fullest extent of the law, whether the perpetrators are law enforcement officers or private parties; make public guidelines to law-enforcement and judicial authorities on identifying racially-motivated crime; publish detailed statistics, at minimum yearly and in a format readily understandable to a lay person, on the number of racially-motivated crimes occurring and prosecuted;
- Adopt a comprehensive body of legislation prohibiting discrimination in all fields of public life and providing civil, criminal and administrative remedies for breach thereof;
- Without delay, ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights;
- Establish an enforcement body empowered both legally and through the provision of adequate resources to secure full compliance with the country's international obligations and domestic legal provisions pertaining to racial discrimination;
- Adopt effective measures to prevent, identify and, where occurring, punish manifestations of racial bias in the judicial system;
- Abolish the practice of race-based segregation of Romani children in special schools, special classes, including remedial "catch-up" or "supporting" classes, and other forms of racial segregation in the school system;
- Conduct systematic monitoring of access of Roma and other minorities to education, housing, employment, health care and social services, and establish a mechanism for collecting and publishing data in these fields;
- At the highest levels, speak out against racial discrimination against Roma and others, and make clear that racism will not be tolerated.
The full text of the ERRC submission is available by contacting the offices of the ERRC.
Further information on the situation of Roma in Hungary is available on the Internet at: http://errc.org.