MINELRES: US Congress Hears Roma Rights Abuse Concerns in Russia

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sun Sep 26 09:20:02 2004


Original sender: European Roma Rights Center <errc@errc.org>


Press Release
September 23, 2004

ERRC Appears at US Congressional Hearing on Roma in Russia


ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova today appeared with Open
Society Institute consultant Leonid Raihman and the Russian Romani
activist Alexander Torokhov to testify at a briefing on Roma in Russia
before the US Helsinki Commission in Washington DC, a body comprised of
esteemed US Congresspersons engaged on human rights in US foreign
policy.

Members of the US Helsinki Commission, who had received in advance a
36-page written submission by the ERRC on Roma rights in Russia, heard
today a summary of the main conclusions of ERRC monitoring, which has
revealed alarming patterns of abuse of Roma and other people perceived
as "Gypsies". Issues documented in the course of ongoing ERRC research
include:

* Torture and Ill Treatment of Roma by Law Enforcement Officials
* Arbitrary Police Raids on Romani Settlements
* Abduction and Extortion of Money by the Police
* Racial Profiling by Police and Other Officials
* Discrimination against Roma in the Criminal Justice System
* Denial of Fair Trial in Cases in which Roma are Accused of Crimes
* Denial of Access to Justice
* Hate Speech against Roma in Russian Media
* Lack of Personal Documents
* Obstructed Access to Social and Economic Rights
* Blocked Access to Education
* Denial of Access to Adequate Housing

The magnitude of the abuse is only comparable to that of the
perpetrators' impunity, according to the ERRC director. Violence by
state officials, paramilitary and nationalist-extremist groups, and
discriminatory
treatment of Roma in the exercise of their civil, social and economic
rights are aggravated by the complete absence of governmental action to
address these problems.

In her testimony before the Helsinki Commission, Dr Petrova warned that
each of the three current security enforcement campaigns of the Russian
government  the war against terrorism, the war against corruption,
and the war against drugs - has a racially discriminatory dimension,
creating a framework for further abuse of the three most stigmatized
national groups in today's Russia: "persons of Caucasian nationality",
Jews, and persons perceived as "Gypsies".

On behalf of the ERRC, Dr Petrova called on the US government to play a
leadership role and use its economic and political weight to help
improve the position of Roma in Russia and address the human rights
problems of Roma in Russia as a matter of urgency and as a primary
concern in combating racial discrimination. In particular, the US
government was asked to:

* Prioritize Roma rights in Russia on the agendas of federal agencies
monitoring the human rights situation in the OSCE area and working to
strengthen democracy and human rights and to reduce poverty and social
exclusion;

* Encourage scrutiny by both its own agencies and international
organizations of the counter-terrorism, anti-corruption and anti-drug
campaigns currently being undertaken by the Russian authorities, to
prevent their abuse in a racist and discriminatory manner as instruments
of repression and persecution of ethnic and national communities,
including the Roma;

* Assist Russian lawmakers and civil society in preparing and adopting
comprehensive anti-discrimination law providing clear and detailed
definitions of discrimination and including mechanisms of its effective
enforcement;

* Provide assistance to the Russian government and Russian civil society
in developing programs and policies aimed at strengthening the rule of
law and the access to justice of disadvantaged groups such as the Roma;

* Develop a dialogue with the Russian government and assist it in
solving the most acute problems related to the education of Romani
children in Russia, and the access of the Roma to employment, healthcare
and housing;

* Draw attention to intolerance towards Roma in the Russian media, and
support efforts of promoting tolerance and respect for Roma and other
stigmatised groups.

The full text of the written submission on the human rights situation of
Roma in Russia, provided to the US Helsinki Commission, is available at: 
http://www.errc.org/Advocacy_index.php.

_____________________________________________
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary


Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201

_____________________________________________

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