MINELRES: ERRC Concerns: Race Crime in Hungary

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed May 25 18:31:14 2005

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

Authorities Urged to Make Public Standards on Investigating Crimes to 
Determine Whether They Are Racially Motivated

In the wake of the stabbing in Budapest of József Patai, a Romani youth,
by armed perpetrators in extremist garb, on May 19, the ERRC sent a
letter of concern to police and Interior Ministry officials urging that:

* All persons guilty of crimes in connection with the assault be brought
swiftly to justice;

* Serious public debate by opened and led by authorities in Hungary as
to the standards and criteria according to which Hungarian criminal
justice authorities investigate crimes to determine whether they are
motivated or otherwise animated by racial hostility.

The full text of the ERRC letter follows:

Honourable Dr. Lamperth and Dr. Bene,

On the occasion of the recent stabbing of a Romani youth in Budapest,
the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) calls upon your offices to make
public the criteria according to which police and other criminal justice
authorities investigate crimes to determine whether racial animus has
played a role in their commission.

On 8 May 2005, according to reports now widely circulated in the
Hungarian media, József Patai, a fifteen-year-old Romani youth, was
stabbed in the stomach by one of a group of six persons shortly after he
boarded a bus at Budapest's Moszkva ter with two non-Romani friends. The
group of six persons in the company of the perpetrator, as well as the
perpetrator himself, were reportedly dressed in uniforms, helmets and
boots, and some were reportedly equipped with shields. Two of the
members of the group were reportedly armed with swords. The attacker
reportedly singled out József from among a bus full of persons who had
taken notice of the group and stabbed him after shouting "What are you
staring at?" When one of József's friends started shouting for help, the
bus driver opened the doors of the bus, which was just about to leave,
and the assailant as well as the five other persons with him exited the
bus. As of the date of this writing, József Patai is still in the
hospital as a result of wounds incurred during the attack. He is
reportedly in stable condition. Leaders of the Hungarian parliamentary
parties have reacted by expressing concerns about the
growing number of actions of extremist groups. Prime Minister Ferenc
Gyurcsány told the Hungarian Parliament "It is not possible to ignore in
this case that this crime was motivated by racism."

To date, Hungarian police have not managed to identify or detain any of
the alleged perpetrators. Additionally, authorities have reportedly
stated that they have not yet clearly established that the crime was
perpetrated out of racial animus. Ferenc Horváth, the lieutenant-colonel
of the Budapest Police Department stated on a news programme on the
television channel RTL Klub on 13 May: "Based on the testimonies of the
witnesses, we think that the crime was not motivated by it. Although we
can state anything concrete only if we find the perpetrator and he will
tell us what he was motivated by."

The ERRC notes that the present case is not the only occasion on which
police authorities have downplayed the role of race in a serious
physical assault on Romani persons. To name only one particularly
graphic example, on May 28, 1999, a Romani youth named Krisztián Mohácsi
was found stabbed to death in the town of Göd, Hungary. A local
inhabitant reportedly heard the boy shouting and ran to find him lying
near a railroad crossing. The 14-year-old victim reportedly named his
attackers before dying at the scene of the attack. Police stated only
hours after the attack that they ruled out racial motivation in the
attack since the suspects allegedly took 50,000 Hungarian forints
(approximately 200 Euros) from the victim at the time of killing. The
speed with which investigators discounted the possibility of racial
animus gave rise to complaints by local right groups that the Hungarian
Police would "deny first and investigate later".

This latest assault on Romani persons in Hungary highlights the need for
Hungarian police now to make public the standards according to which
they investigate crimes to determine whether they may be motivated or
otherwise animated by racial hostility. It is entirely unclear whether
the current criteria applied by police are capable of identifying race
as a factor, and thereby pinpointing the particular and significantly
aggravating role of race. Absent public debate on the methods and
criteria police apply when evaluating crimes to assess whether they are
racially motivated, a state of crisis of confidence reigns among
significant sectors of the population as to the ability of the police to
tackle the socially corrosive fact of racially motivated crime in
Hungary. In addition, the public as a whole is denied a full accounting
of this disturbing phenomena afoot in today's Hungary.

Honourable Dr. Lamperth and Dr. Bene, we urge your offices without delay
to bring to justice all persons guilty of crimes in connection with the
assault on József Patai. We further urge you to open serious public
debate as to the standards and criteria according to which Hungarian
criminal justice authorities investigate crimes to determine whether
they are motivated or otherwise animated by racial hostility. We would
kindly request to be apprised of any and all actions undertaken by your
offices in this regard.

Claude Cahn
Acting Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:

Dr. Mónika Lamperth
Minister of Interior
1903 Budapest
Pf.: 314

Dr. László Bene
Head of the National Police
1139 Budapest
Teve utca 4-6.

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
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Bathory utca 1

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