Roma Victims of Racially Motivated Attack in Hungary
28 May 2004
According to a January 23, 2003 report by the Budapest-based Roma Press Center (RSK), on the evening of January 18, six non-Romani men, who were reportedly intoxicated and on their way home from a local disco, attacked a group of Romani families in their homes as they slept in the central Hungarian town of Ĺsi. During the attack, the arm of Mr Mátyás Kovács, an elderly Romani man, was broken and Ms Irén Kocsándi, a Romani woman, suffered injuries to her skull after being hit on the head with an iron bar. The attackers also reportedly broke windows in the Romani homes with sticks, axes and bricks and damaged vehicles owned by the Roma during the attack. The attack was reportedly an act of vengeance for the alleged theft of approximately 500,000 Hungarian forints worth of copper wire from one of the attackers, who believed the perpetrator to be Romani.
The RSK quoted the Chief of the Várpalota Police Department as having stated that police took the six suspects into police custody in Várpalota, from where they were transferred to the Székesfehérvár Police Station. On January 21, 2004, the six men, charged in accordance with Article 271 of the Hungarian Criminal Code (collective breach of the peace), were released from police custody by order of the Veszprém City Court.
The Budapest-based Romani organisation Foundation for Romani Civil Rights, which is providing legal representation for the victims, informed the ERRC that it reached an agreement with the Ősi local government whereby the local government has begun to repair the doors and windows of the Romani homes broken during the attack. In addition, a local civil guard group is to begin patrolling the area to ensure the safety of the residents.
On February 11, 2004, the ERRC and the Foundation for Romani Civil Rights sent a letter to General Prosecutor Dr Péter Polt of the Hungarian General Prosecutor's Office, expressing concern at the inadequacy of the charges brought against the six perpetrators given the severity of the attack and asking that the perpetrators be charged with crimes commensurate with their actions. On March 5, 2004, the ERRC and the Foundation for Romani Civil Rights received a response that the General Prosecutor's Office was following the investigation, which was ongoing. The investigation continued as of May 10, 2004. Information on the human rights situation of Roma in Hungary is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org/publications/indices/hungary.shtml. (ERRC, Foundation for Romani Civil Rights, RSK)