Legal Action on Behalf of Roma in Hungary
07 November 2002
On July 18, 2002, the ERRC received information from the Budapest-based Roma Press Center (RSK) that the Mayor of Gyüre, and the Gyüre notary, were accused of abuse of authority for reportedly having convinced families in the town not to sell their homes to Romani victims of the June 2001 floods in Jánd on the Tisza River. On September 30, 2001, the RSK reported that following the devastating March 2001 flood of the Tisza River in north-eastern Hungary, most victims were living in tents, barns, with neighbours or in rental units, despite the Hungarian government's promise to ensure that all the flood victims would be rehoused. Governmental officials cited incidental reasons such as bad weather for the delays in implementing the 30 billion Hungarian forint (approximately 110 million Euro) reconstruction project. The delay has resulted in the failure to rehouse many Roma. Many Roma were not allowed to rebuild on their original locations, so were forced to purchase homes in neighbouring villages. Some of the Roma affected were still living in makeshift shelter.
In other news, on July 2, 2002, the Supreme Court of Hungary upheld the February 17, 2000 decision of the Balassagyarmat Court that Ms Erika T., the owner of a bar in the village of Patvarc, in northern Hungary, pay a fine of 100,000 Hungarian forints (approximately 400 euros) for frequently refusing to serve local Roma. Mr Imre Furmann, head of the Budapest-based non-profit law organisation Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) which, together with the ERRC, provided legal representation to the Roma in the case, stated that this was the first ruling of its kind in Hungary (for further information on the case, see Hungarian court finds pub owner guilty of discrimination ).
Finally, on June 25, 2002, RSK reported that two police officers were sentenced to three and a half years and two and a half years imprisonment respectively by the Salgótarján City Court, for mistreating a Romani family and threatening them with firearms. The first officer was found guilty in accordance with the Hungarian Criminal Code under Article 170 for attempted mayhem, Article 225 for abuse of office and official authority, Article 242 for instigation of a false report and Article 274, for forgery of an official document. The second officer was found guilty in accordance with Articles 170 and 225. The court ruling followed an incident in January 2001 which, according to RSK, followed the detention of a 17-year-old Romani boy by police. According to RSK, the police detained the boy without notifying his parents. Two of the boy's family members reportedly visited the home of one of the police officers and spoke to his wife regarding the whereabouts of the boy. Reportedly angered by this action, the on-duty police officers visited the home of the Romani family and when they did not find the two persons who had visited the officer's home, they sprayed other family members with mace, threatened them with guns and brutally beat a Romani youth. RSK reported that the youth sustained extensive injuries. On October 30, 2002, RSK reported to the ERRC that following an appeal by the officers, their sentences were suspended. RSK also reported that a representative of the Salgótarján Police Station had stated that it would be individually considering whether or not to dismiss the officers, one of whom was reportedly Romani. Further information on human rights abuses perpetrated against Roma in Hungary is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://lists.errc.org/publications/indices/hungary.shtml
(ERRC, NEKI, RSK)