MINELRES: ERRC: Roma Rights in Russia

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Oct 10 18:49:05 2006


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


The European Roma Rights Centre Remains Concerned about the Human 
Rights Situation of Roma in the Russian Federation

Statement on the occasion of Russian chairmanship of Council of 
Europe's Committee of Ministers, October 3, 2006, Strasbourg

Contact:
Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director, dimitrinapetrova@errc.org; +36 
1 413 2200
Claude Cahn, Programs Director, ccahn@errc.org, +36 1 413 2200


The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public 
interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at 
combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma.

ERRC has been monitoring Roma rights in Russia since 2000, revealing 
an alarming pattern of human rights abuse of Roma and other people 
perceived as "Gypsies". In May 2005, the ERRC issued a comprehensive 
report on the human rights situation of members of these groups, 
entitled "In Search of Happy Gypsies: Persecution of Pariah 
Minorities in Russia". In this report, ERRC charged that violence by 
law enforcement officials, paramilitary and nationalist-extremist 
groups, and discriminatory treatment of Roma in the exercise of 
civil, social and economic rights are aggravated by the complete 
absence of governmental action to address these problems. ERRC stated 
that the magnitude of the abuse is only comparable to that of the 
perpetrators' impunity. The report contained a number of concrete 
recommendations addressed to the competent authorities of the Russian 
Federation.

In the year and a half following the publication of the ERRC report, 
the Russian authorities have attempted to follow up on some of ERRC 
recommendations. In certain regions, prosecutorial authorities have 
contacted Roma organisations and tried to verify the facts ERRC had 
alleged; and launched independent investigations in some cases 
reported by human rights organisations, including the ERRC. It 
appears that police and other law enforcement bodies, as well as 
administrative authorities have been instructed to refrain from 
abusive conduct when coming into contact with Roma.

However, the ERRC is concerned that new cases of grave human rights 
abuse have continued to be reported by Roma in Russia after the 
report's publication. For example, from May 29 to June 2, 2006, 
authorities bulldozed 37 houses belonging to Roma families and set 
fire to the ruins in the village of Dorozhnoe, in Kaliningrad region, 
thus condemning to homelessness more than 200 Roma, including over 
100 children. Regional authorities began their eviction campaign by 
initiating court proceedings to have the Roma families' ownership of 
their homes declared void. In proceedings that violated fundamental 
standards of due process, the court issued decisions on May 3, 2006 
rejecting the families' claims and opening the door to the forced 
evictions that would follow. Despite protests from international 
organisations, the Russian authorities continued the forced eviction, 
and destroyed all houses belonging to Roma in Dorozhnoe. Over a 
hundred of the displaced Roma, who had lived legally for long periods 
in their homes, were forced to live in tents and other temporary 
shelters and are being threatened with physical expulsion from their 
land. Others have fled elsewhere or been expelled from the area.

ERRC is concerned that this is not an isolated incident. 
Discriminatory evictions have been executed or threatened in 
Arkhangelsk, north-western Russia, Tula and Ulyanovsk in central 
Russia, and other places, and Roma fear that this practice will grow 
due to emerging economic and financial interests related to plots 
occupied by Roma settlements.

The following changes have been observed in the patterns of 
anti-Romani racism described by the ERRC in its May 2005 report:

Racially-motivated violence and abuse of Roma by law enforcement
officials

Some local Roma organisations report that in the last year, police 
treatment of Roma seems to have improved. However, the ERRC is not 
aware of any prosecutions that have resulted in adequate punishment 
of perpetrators and/or relief for Romani victims of abuse in the 
cases reported until May 2005. Despite some commendable steps in the 
right direction, police abuse of Roma in Russia remains to date 
widespread, though frequently not reported directly to the 
authorities due to a combination of mistrust and fear that sadly 
remain the prevailing sentiment among Roma toward law enforcement 
bodies. Romani men and women are disproportionately targeted for 
document checks, arbitrarily detained and often subjected to ill 
treatment in custody.

Discrimination against Roma in the criminal justice system

Roma continue to be exposed to the interference of racism in the 
administration of justice. The frequent use by criminal justice 
officials of stereotyping implicating Roma in drug dealing indicates 
that the conduct of criminal proceedings against Roma is not free of 
racial bias. In a number of instances, criminal investigation against 
Roma and subsequent trial proceedings have been carried out in a 
manner incompatible with international and domestic human rights 
standards for fair trial. Roma who have suffered human rights 
violations by law enforcement officials as well as by non-state 
actors usually do not have access to an effective investigation of 
their complaints.

Abuse of Roma rights by non-state actors

In recent years, and especially in 2006, as nationalist-extremist 
movements have been gaining increasing popularity in Russia, violent 
attacks on Roma by skinheads and other formal and informal groups 
have been reported with disturbing frequency. In September 2006, a 
court in Belgorod, central Russia, convicted ten skinheads to 
different terms of imprisonment ranging from one to five years for a 
racially motivated attack against a Romani family which took place in 
August 2005.  In April 2006, skinheads attacked a Romani group near 
Volzhskiy, Volgograd region, killed two and injured six people. The 
assailants were promptly detained and charged under Article 105 of 
the Penal Code, and motivation by racial hatred was invoked as an 
aggravating factor in the offence. While this is a significant 
positive example of a prompt and decisive law enforcement reaction, 
in general the protection provided to Roma by authorities against 
racially motivated violence remains inadequate.

Hate speech against Roma in the media

The Russian media continues to contribute to anti-Romani racism by 
creating a strong association between Roma and crime, and even by 
encouraging in some instances violence and discrimination against 
Roma. The central newspaper MK -Moskovskiy Komsomolets, for example, 
published on August 1, 2005 an utterly obscene article referring to 
the allegedly high birth rate of the Roma and their sexual and 
hygienic practices, describing the Roma as plainly subhuman 
creatures. The ERRC and local partners have since taken legal action 
in this case. As submitted in the ERRC report, the media continue to 
persistently identify Roma as the main actors in the Russian drug 
trade, using "drug dealer" and "Gypsy" interchangeably in reporting. 
Public officials do not condemn the dissemination of anti-Romani 
sentiments through the media and frequently themselves make 
statements which feed into the racist discourse against Roma. Cases 
of the latter type have been reported in Krasnoyarsk, Volzhskiy and 
other localities.

Access to personal documents

Roma continue to face difficulties in attempts to secure residence 
registration, which is a condition for access to a range of civil, 
political, social and economic rights. Such difficulties arise from 
arbitrary refusal of authorities to service Roma, as well as from 
failure by Roma to meet local officials' expectations of receiving a 
bribe in exchange for the service. At the same time, Roma are 
targeted for disproportionate checks of identity and residence 
documents by the police and failing to produce such, they are often 
subjected to ill treatment and extortion of money in place of legal
penalties.

Abuse of Romani women's rights

As submitted in the 2005 Report by the EDRRC, Romani women occupy a 
special place in the popular racist perception of Roma in Russia. 
Romani women are frequently portrayed as possessing the power to 
hypnotise and manipulate victims with the purpose to commit robbery. 
These racist stereotypes often translate into abusive police actions 
targeting specifically Romani women, regardless of whether they are 
practicing traditional fortune-telling in the streets or begging or 
selling goods at the marketplaces. Violence and abuse of Romani 
women, whether committed by law enforcement officials, racist groups 
or in the family is usually unremedied because victims do not report 
cases due to fear of reprisals and shame within the community.

Romani children's right to education

The human rights situation of the Roma is aggravated by the weak 
economic position of the larger part of this minority. Although there 
are affluent families throughout the country, many Romani communities 
live in severe poverty and do not have access to basic social and 
economic rights. A large number of Roma live in settlements in 
substandard conditions. This set of factors, taken together with the 
failure of the authorities to ensure that schools are accessible for 
Romani children, have contributed to the exclusion of large numbers 
of Romani children from the education system. ERRC reiterates the 
concern expressed in the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee 
on the Rights of the Child (23/11/2005), "that children belonging to 
minorities, and in particular Roma children, are more likely to be 
restricted in the full enjoyment of their rights, in particular with 
regard to health and education services."

ERRC Appeal to the Russian Government

ERRC calls on the Russian authorities to provide leadership in 
counteracting racism and racially based discrimination, including 
against the Roma.

The Council of Europe has made it clear that racism must be condemned 
by any Member State, and it is therefore incumbent upon the Russian 
Federation to lead by example, and to properly address during its 
chairmanship all legitimate concerns voiced by independent observers.

ERRC once again urges the government of the Russian Federation to 
address the almost complete lack of legal provisions protecting 
against discrimination, and consider adoption of comprehensive 
anti-discrimination legislation complying with modern European 
standards set out, inter alia, in ECRI's General Recommendation No. 7 
(2004), and in a series of European Union Directives. The Russian 
government must adopt such legislation in order to give effect to the 
right to non-discrimination which is protected by a number of major 
UN Treaties to which Russia is a party, and in view of ensuring to 
all, including Roma, equality of treatment and of opportunity without 
discrimination.

ERRC reiterates the Recommendations made by the European Commission 
on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its Third Report on the Russian 
Federation adopted on 16 December 2005 and made public on 16 May 
2006, in particular Recommendations 100 and 101 pertaining to the 
issue of Roma.

ERRC reiterates its own Recommendations contained in its 2005 Report 
In Search of Happy Gypsies. Urgent measures must be taken to combat 
anti-Romani racism, particularly among the police force, the bodies 
of the judicial system, and local administrative bodies.

_____________________________________________

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 
http://www.errc.org.

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


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

_____________________________________________

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