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Hungary trial over Roma 'hate attacks' set to begin

The Hungarian authorities must act to aid victims of racially motivated attacks, Amnesty International said ahead of the Budapest trial tomorrow of four people suspected over a series of killings of Roma.

Barbora Cernusakova, Amnesty International’s Hungary expert, said:

“As this long awaited trial begins, the protection of Roma communities in Hungary from racial harassment and violence should be a top priority.

“It is important that victims and their families receive the justice and redress to which they are entitled. This will show that hate attacks are not going to be tolerated.”

Six people, including a woman and a child, were killed in nine attacks against Roma across Hungary in 2008 and 2009.

The four suspected perpetrators of the crimes were arrested in August 2009. Three of them were charged with multiple homicide, the fourth was charged with giving assistance to the crime of premeditated multiple homicide.

The crimes were investigated by the Hungary’s National Bureau of Investigations. However, Amnesty International, as well as local Roma rights organisations, have pointed out that the authorities lack procedures for investigating racially motivated crimes.

Under the European Convention for Human Rights, the Hungarian authorities are obliged to “take all reasonable steps to unmask any racist motive and to establish whether or not ethnic hatred or prejudice may have played a role in the events.”

The attacks traumatised the Roma community in Hungary, which has been living in fear of further violence.

Ágnes Kóka, a relative of one of the victims, told Amnesty International: “It doesn’t matter what we do, how we try to prove to the majority of the society and to ourselves that we can get along. The only thing that matters is that we were born Gypsy.”

Amnesty International is concerned that police are not taking effective measures to stop the continuing harassment of Roma people.

Following an anti-Roma march by the far-right Jobbik party on 6 March in the village of Gyöngyöspata, three vigilante groups have been ‘patrolling’ the area harassing and intimidating Roma residents. Local Roma have allegedly been racially abused and are scared of possible future attacks. The groups have said their next activities will target the town of Hajdúhadháza, where they have announced a march for 1 April 2011.

Barbora Cernusakova said:

“The trial starting tomorrow must send a signal to society that the rights of Romani communities are protected from violent attacks and harassment, including examples of such harassment in Gyöngyöspata and elsewhere.”    

Amnesty International will monitor the trial of those accused of the series of killings of Roma.

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