Impunity for anti-Roma hatred must end, ODIHR Director says on International Roma Day

A Roma house in Krásná Lípa, Czech Republic.

WARSAW, 8 April 2018 – Governments and political leaders must do more to end the impunity of violent perpetrators who attack Roma and Sinti, said Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on the occasion of International Roma Day.

“It is unacceptable that Roma and Sinti continue to face hate-motivated attacks and violence,” the ODIHR Director said.

Such violence is often fuelled by racist and anti-Roma rhetoric promoted by high-level public officials as well as populist politicians, all attempting to increase their voting base. “This whips up a climate of prejudice and intolerance, potentially leading to an unending spiral of violence against Roma and Sinti,” the Director said. “Racism and incitement to hatred must be condemned promptly and unequivocally.”

Existing laws and mechanisms must be enforced to ensure rapid and effective investigation of hate crime against Roma and Sinti.  Participating States should also ensure the imposition of enhanced sentences for racially-motivated crimes, in line both with their own domestic legislation and international human rights standards.

To effectively address hate crime and violence, OSCE participating States have committed to improving the access of Roma and Sinti to effective remedies such as the provision of legal aid. This requires the establishment of specific programmes and policies, as well as easy access to information regarding legislation, reporting and support mechanisms for victims.

ODIHR is helping to address such discrimination, hate crime and violence, for example by regularly providing a much-needed space for dialogue between Roma and Sinti civil society and representatives of participating States, as well as other international organizations. These focus not only on current incidents of systemic racism and discrimination against Roma, but also on legal and policy measures undertaken around the OSCE region to address and prevent them.

On the principle that any action taken for Roma must also be carried out with Roma, any project or programme aimed at increasing Roma inclusion must involve them as full partners in all phases of planning, implementation and evaluation.

International Roma Day marks the date of the first international meeting of Roma representatives across Europe, which took place in the United Kingdom on 8 April 1971.