MINELRES: Publication: ERRC Country Report on Roma in Russia

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed May 11 19:32:44 2005

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

Announcement of Publication
European Roma Rights Centre Country Report
In Search of Happy Gypsies: Persecution of Pariah Minorities in Russia

Moscow, May 11, 2005.   The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) announces
publication of the Country Report "In Search of Happy Gypsies:
Persecution of Pariah Minorities in Russia". The Report presents the
findings of close to five years of comprehensive research into the human
rights situation of Roma and other pariah minorities in Russia.

ERRC monitoring of Roma rights in Russia has revealed an alarming
pattern of human rights abuse of Roma and other people perceived as
"Gypsies". The magnitude of the abuse is only comparable to that of the
perpetrators' impunity. Anti-Romani racism is widespread in Russia
today. The law guarantees equal treatment and protection against
discrimination of all people in Russia, yet Roma, among several other
ethnic minorities, find themselves excluded from the equal protection of
the law, or in fact frequently any protection of the law. Indeed, the
authorities whose duty is to uphold human rights are often themselves
implicated in gross human rights violations or acquiesce in them.
Violence and abuse of Roma by law enforcement and judicial authorities,
often motivated by racial animus, persists unchallenged and unremedied.
Racism also effectively precludes many Roma from accessing education,
health care, housing, employment, and public services.

Russia today is characterised by episodes such as the following:
* A local deputy expresses his willingness to lead the process of
setting Gypsies' houses on fire;
* The authors of a textbook for use in school recommends that pupils
"not touch Gypsies" because "there is a risk of major diseases";
* A Romani woman gives birth in a field because emergency staff refuses
to bring her to the hospital;
* A TV channel with national coverage broadcasts, without any form of
commentary, the appeals of a man suggesting the use of napalm on Roma.

Widespread scepticism regarding the rule of law and rampant corruption
at various levels of government have created an environment systemically
thwarting human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia. Certain
ethnic minority groups, including Roma, find themselves particularly at
risk of being targeted for abusive measures, especially in the context
of stepped up efforts to fight terrorism, organised crime and drug
dealing.  Three campaigns dominating Russian internal security policy at
present - the "war against terrorism", the "war against corruption" and
the "war against drugs" - are strongly associated with three most
stigmatised ethnic and national groups - "persons of Caucasian
nationality", Jews, and "Gypsies". The "war on drugs" has gradually
generated, during the 1990s, the image of the typical drug dealer,
namely, the "Gypsy". Today, the identification of the Roma with drug
dealing has reached a point of near synonymous usage in the media.

Anti-Romani racism is widespread in Russia today. Entrenched assumptions
that Roma have a natural proclivity to crime lead to systematic denial
of fundamental rights to Roma because of their ethnicity. Racial
discrimination against Roma is manifested in routinely carried out
abusive raids on Romani neighbourhoods by law enforcement organs;
unlawful and unprovoked use of violence during detention;
disproportionately frequent detention; arbitrary and disproportionate
checks of personal documents; extortion of money; arbitrary seizure of
property; fabrication of criminal cases. "In Search of Happy Gypsies:
Persecution of Pariah Minorities in Russia" presents evidence of
persistent racial profiling and abuse of Roma by the organs of the
criminal justice system. Arguably the most extensive racial profiling of
Roma in Russia has occurred in the framework of the series of police
raids targeting Romani communities and officially named "Operation
Tabor" - a title which unequivocally relates the action to Roma. Racial
profiling of Roma and subsequent detention is often accompanied by
fabrication of incriminating evidence against Roma, usually through
"planting" of drugs. Individuals on whom drugs were "found" have been
found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment or released in exchange of
bribes extorted from their families.
Human rights violations against Roma, often motivated by racial animus,
persist unchallenged and unremedied. Intimidation and harassment by
police, and the perception of the victims that law enforcement officials
are immune from sanctions, are a powerful deterrent for many Roma to
seek justice. Roma are frequently reluctant or fully unwilling to seek
justice for illegal acts by police. In the few known instances in which
Roma filed complaints against police officers, the complaints have been
rejected or the criminal cases against police officers were eventually
terminated for lack of sufficient evidence for the alleged illegal
actions. Racism also affects access of Roma to protection against
violence and abuse by private actors. Public authorities have done
little to nothing to counteract the wave of anti-Romani racism. In some
instances, law enforcement officials knowingly failed to prevent violent
assaults on Romani communities. Racial discrimination of Roma in the
criminal justice system creates an environment in which both public
officials and private actors feel confident that they will be absolved
from responsibility for racially-motivated violence and abuse and
exposes the victims to further violence and abuse.

Racism also effectively precludes many Roma from accessing education,
health care, housing, employment, and public services. Discrimination
against Roma in access to social and economic rights takes two broad
forms: Many individuals are subjected to direct discrimination and
therefore face less favourable treatment on grounds which expressly
relate to their ethnicity. Roma also experience indirect discrimination
in access to social and economic rights, denied to them on grounds that
Roma do not have personal documents, including residence registration.
The system of residence registration itself has caught many Roma in
Russia in a vicious circle of abuse generating further abuse: Roma are
not able to secure residence registration, often as a result of
arbitrary refusal of authorities to register them. At the same time,
Roma are targeted for disproportionate checks of identity documents by
the police and failing to produce them, they are often subjected to
detention and ill treatment.

"In Search of Happy Gypsies: Persecution of Pariah Minorities in Russia"
was prepared on the basis of extensive ERRC research in Russia beginning
in July 2000 and continuing to the present. The facts presented have
been documented (1) during ERRC field missions run directly from the
ERRC's Budapest office, (2) by ERRC local monitors based in various
regions as well as (3) reported to the ERRC by local Romani and other
human rights activists. During field research missions, the ERRC has
obtained first hand information from Romani victims of human rights
violations, their relatives, lawyers and other individuals who were
engaged in helping the victims. The ERRC has also met public officials
to raise ERRC's concerns and urged them to act in order to resolve
situations in which violations of fundamental human rights await
justice. The views of Russian public officials communicated to the ERRC
in official correspondence and during public events are also part of
this report.

"In Search of Happy Gypsies: Persecution of Pariah Minorities in Russia"
was produced as part of a project supported by the British Foreign and
Commonwealth Office. Materials included in this report are also the
result of work undertaken with the generous support of the Ford
Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Netherlands Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

English- and Russian-language versions of the report are available on
the ERRC Internet website: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2241

Paper copies of the report are available upon request by contacting the
ERRC office. The ERRC kind requests a donation of Euro 25 per copy of
the report, to be paid via bank transfer to the following:

Budapest Bank
Bathori utca 1
1054 Budapest
Name of Account Holder: European Roma Rights Centre
* USD Bank Account Number: 99P00402686
(USD IBAN: HU21-10103173-40268600-00000998)
* EUR Bank Account Number: 30P00-402686
(EUR IBAN: HU54-10103173-40268600-00000307)


The European Roma Rights Centre 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 Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

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

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


The European Roma Rights Centre is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:

European Roma Rights Centre
Budapest Bank Rt.
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1

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