During a panel discussion last week at the PILnet European pro bono forum, the question was put to us whether there was a risk that those litigating Roma rights might lose touch with the wishes of Roma litigants. The concern was that complex and lengthy legal battles might become unrecognisable to those supposedly waging them.
The town of Miskolc in north-eastern Hungary is at the segregation game again. The town, once the centre of coal, iron and steel industries, and once a major employer for thousands Roma is not new to controversies regarding segregation. This is the town that was forced by the High Court to shut down segregating schools.
In 2008, the declaration of a State of Emergency to combat the so-called ‘Roma menace’, prompted global media coverage and international criticism. The demonisation of Romani people in this overtly racist and populist get-tough approach served only to exacerbate communal tensions, legitimise human rights abuses, and seriously damage prospects for social inclusion. A quick perusal of ERRC’s archives between 1997 and 2000 reveals that all of this was foreseeable, preventable, and utterly unnecessary.