Addressing Violence, Promoting Integration Field Assessment of Violent Incidents Against Roma in Hungary: Key Developments, Findings and Recommendations June-July 2009
In late 2008 and the first half of 2009, a series of violent incidents took place in Hungary that resulted in the deaths of several Roma and the injury of numerous others.1
Civil society actors in Hungary and international community representatives, including the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), began to draw attention to these violent incidents in late 2008 and called for vigilance in investigating these crimes and protecting Roma communities.
ODIHR initiated consultations with the Hungarian authorities in early 2009 for a field assessment visit, which ultimately took place in June-July 2009.
The ODIHR-led delegation included representatives from the OSCE Chairmanship, the office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the OSCE Secretariat’s Strategic Police Matters Unit, as well as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination (see Appendix 2 for a list of delegation members).
The objective of the visit was to assess the situation, with a focus on the factors that led to the escalation of violence and attacks against Roma, the measures taken by the authorities to prevent further attacks and ensure effective remedy for victims, and areas where ODIHR could support the government in effectively addressing the violence. The delegation met with government officials, elected members of self-governments, police representatives, members of the Roma community and of national and international NGOs (see Appendix 3 for full list of meetings).
The delegation visited 12 locations,2 including the villages where some of the fatal incidents took place.
The visit was undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area, adopted at the Maastricht Ministerial Council in 2003, which mandates ODIHR, among other things, to “assume a proactive role in analysing measures undertaken by participating States, as well as in particular situations and incidents relating to Roma and Sinti people”.3
As an OSCE participating State, Hungary is committed to implementing the provisions contained in the OSCE Action Plan, as well as a number of other OSCE commitments related to Roma and Sinti and combating hate crimes.4 Other international human rights instruments are also relevant, including legally binding treaty obligations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of racial, national or ethnic origins.5
The field assessment delegation carefully studied information provided by the Government of Hungary, including written material about responses to the violent attacks and about governmental measures regarding Roma inclusion, which the Government provided to ODIHR in advance of the visit.6
Note: This report is based principally on the field visit and findings the delegation gathered through discussions with relevant actors in Hungary, as well as on preparatory research conducted by ODIHR and continuing assessment of the situation through the end of 2009. While subsequent developments are not analyzed in the report, some developments in Hungary in early 2010 – in particular the results of the 2010 parliamentary elections – underscore the continuing relevance of the recommendations. The Jobbik party, cited below for its increasingly harsh anti-Roma rhetoric, gained a place in the new Hungarian parliament for the first time. Moreover, in the first quarter of this year, two new attacks against Roma were reported by civil society. On the positive side, a Holocaust-denial law was adopted by the National Assembly. The Police also recognized and agreed with the findings of the Independent Police Complaints Committee regarding the mishandling of the investigation in the prominent “Tatárszentgyörgy case”, which is described below.
- Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), 15.06.2010, Addressing Violence, Promoting Integration Field Assessment of Violent Incidents Against Roma in Hungary: Key Developments, Findings and Recommendations June-July 2009, http://www.osce.org/odihr/68545, Accessed on 27.01.2013.