The Hungarian government has been asked thoroughly to investigate racially motivated violent attacks against Roma and provide the victims with access to justice.
The call has come from Amnesty International in a new report published this week, entitled 'Violent attacks against Roma in Hungary'.
The research behind the report shows how racially motivated crimes impact on individual victims, communities and society as a whole. It also illustrates how shortcomings in the Hungarian justice system hinder the prevention of, and response to, such attacks.
Between January 2008 and August 2009 Roma in Hungary were subjected to a series of Molotov cocktail attacks and shootings in which six people died. Among the victims were a couple in their forties, an elderly man, a father and his four-year-old boy, and a single mother with a 13-year-old daughter.
“The Hungarian authorities have a duty to prevent discrimination and to ensure justice for victims of hate crimes. This includes the obligation to investigate whether or not racial and ethnic hatred or prejudice played a role in these and any similar attacks,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.
“By combating racism and racial violence, the authorities will send an important message that diversity should not be perceived as a threat. They must send a clear message that racism will not be tolerated.”
Hungarian law criminalises incitement of hatred and racist crimes. However, the number of indictments and convictions on charges of racially motivated attacks appears low when compared to the number of reports of such attacks collated by NGOs.
Hungarian police said that there were 12 racially motivated attacks on Roma communities in 2008 and six in 2009. However NGOs recorded 25 racially motivated attacks in 2009 and 17 attacks in 2008.
This gap is attributed to the underreporting of hate crimes by victims, often because of fear or by the failure of the police and prosecutors to take into account the racist motive of offences.
Many of the Roma victims interviewed by Amnesty were traumatised and not aware of the support services or how to access them.
“The failure to record, investigate, prosecute, punish racially motivated crimes and provide remedies for the victims is letting down the Romani community in Hungary,” Nicola Duckworth said.
“The government is obliged under international law to combat discrimination and a key part of that is collating information on the existence and extent of hate crimes.”
Amnesty International also calls on the Hungarian authorities to:
* Ensure that members of the Romani community, as well as members of other vulnerable groups are protected from violence;
* Ensure that police officers and prosecutors receive training on the nature of hate crimes and the role of police in combating them;
* Work with Roma self-governments, NGOs and human rights organisations to encourage Roma to report hate crimes and ensure that the victims have access to redress, including access to justice, rehabilitation and compensation.
Roma in Hungary are severely affected by poverty - seven times more than non-Roma. They are marginalised and discriminated against in their access to education, housing and employment.
Romani children are frequently placed in special education designed for children with mental disabilities and are segregated in separate Roma-only classes and schools. Discriminatory rules and practices by local authorities towards Romani families impede their access to social housing.
The unemployment rate of Roma is estimated to be 70 per cent, more than 10 times the national average.
Read more: Hungary: Violent attacks against Roma in Hungary: Time to investigate racial motivation - http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR27/001/2010/en