Budapest, London, New York, 18 March 2011: Yesterday, the European Roma Rights Centre, Amnesty International and Human Rights First sent a letter urging Hungarian authorities to intervene and protect the Romani residents of Gyöngyöspata from the intimidation and harassment they have been subjected to by the vigilante organisation, Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület (Civil Guard Association for a Better Future), since 1 March.
The Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület have been patrolling the town of Gyöngyöspata day and night. They reportedly prevent the Romani residents from sleeping by shouting during the night, threaten them with weapons and dogs and follow them every time they leave their houses, unimpeded by local police. The desperate Roma residents are afraid to go to school, to work or even to buy food. Finally, the Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület indicated that, having successfully established their presence in Gyöngyöspata, they will also set up chapters in other towns to expand their “patrols”.
The Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület patrols have been supported by the far-right political party Jobbik, which organised a march of thousands through the village in black military uniform on 6 March. According to the ERRC’s monitoring, there were at least 48 attacks against Roma in Hungary between 2008 and 2010, which resulted in at least 9 deaths. The presence of anti-Roma vigilante groups in Roma neighbourhoods adds to growing inter-ethnic tensions and fuels a climate of violence.
The organisations called for Hungarian authorities to fulfil their domestic and international human rights obligations in Gyöngyöspata, to intervene immediately to ensure the situation does not escalate into physical violence and to protect the Roma from intimidation and harassment.
Robert Kushen, Executive Director of the ERRC, said: “On April 7-8, Hungary will play host to a major European Union meeting to address Roma exclusion. It is critical that the Government of Hungary lead by example, and protect Roma within its borders from intimidation and harassment.”
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ERRC Media and Communications Officer