Roma Holocaust Memorial Day 2022

“My testimony is for young people: Don’t leave your future in the hands of bloody fools! You must resist. You must resist the discrimination, racism, and violent evictions to which the Roma and Travellers are falling victim across all of Europe. We, the old ones, have lit the flame. Now, it is up to young people to feed it, make it grow, and so that we become stronger. Young people, stand up! Stay standing, and never fall to your knees!”

Speech of Raymond Gurême, Roma Holocaust survivor, to Roma youth in Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 2, 2016

Imagine a room filled with light somewhere in a quiet town in a peaceful and economically stable country in Europe. This room is full of young people, some of them Roma, some of them not – discussing history, arguing about some interpretations, and agreeing on others. Until someone utters: “I am afraid it can happen again” – and for a little while silence falls. The year is 2022.

Almost 80 years ago, on 16 May 1944, many of the 6,000 prisoners still alive in the “Gypsy camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau resisted their murder. Around half of them were deported to other concentration camps for forced labour. The remaining 2,897 survivors – mostly children, women, and elderly people – were murdered in the gas chambers on the night of 2 August and the early morning of 3 August, 1944.

Each year on 2 August, we commemorate the Roma people who were murdered in Europe during WWII. This day is the official commemoration day in many European countries. Yet even now, 80 years later, the Holocaust remains an open wound, hurting throughout generations the young people today.

In most European countries, there was no official apology given to the survivors or their relatives by the state for the wrongdoings of the war. The reconciliation process was not started, because there was no official acknowledgement of the atrocities done to the Roma communities during the Holocaust, and therefore no promise to never ever do this again.

Moreover, the murders of 5-year-old Robika Csorba and his father in 2009 in Hungary and that of Stanislav Tomáš in the Czech Republic just recently in 2021, derogatory statements by high-level politicians, neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic and now the treatment of Roma refugees from Ukraine as second-class humans proves that the fears voiced by the young people are not completely ungrounded.

We welcome and applaud DIKH HE NA BISTER (“Look and don’t forget” in Romani) – the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative and other youth initiatives that offer a space and an opportunity for youngsters to learn about the past while strengthening their Roma identity. We welcome the resolution of the European Parliament in 2015 to officially recognise 2 August as European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

However, we also must understand that the mass killing on the 2nd of August or the Holocaust as a whole was not a stand-alone moment in history. It takes hundreds of years of antigypsyism, direct and indirect discrimination, and often actions which appear harmless – to lead and build up to this.

It is only by fighting antigypsyism in all its ugly forms today that can we prevent a tragedy of such scope from happening tomorrow.

It is by remembering our past, and teaching the children this part of history, that we can ensure the future we want.

It is by speaking up about what happened, questioning discriminatory practices, and making our inconvenient truth heard that we can avoid the atrocities committed against our communities.

Roma Holocaust Memorial Day

On 2 August, Roma people across all countries and communities remember their ancestors killed by the Nazi regime. Whether through official commemoration events or private moments of remembrance inside families, 2 August represents for Roma people everywhere a turning point in the acknowledgment of the Roma Holocaust.

On this day in 1944, over 4,300 Sinti and Roma were murdered in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. They were taken during the night from their barracks to the gas chamber by SS guards, who only months earlier had been driven back by the fierce resistance of the Romani prisoners fighting with nothing but picks and shovels.

Although Roma, Sinti, Travellers and other related groups have been part of Europe’s history for centuries, our history and narratives remain ignored, neglected, and misrepresented. The lack of recognition of the genocide reflects the continued discrimination against Roma in Europe today.

While the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2015 to officially recognise 2 August as European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, very little is done across the continent to fight the persisting antigypsyism in our societies. The adoption of the EU Roma Strategic Framework for equality, inclusion and participation 2020 -2030 and the corresponding European Council Recommendations ask EU Member States and Accession Countries to do more to ensure a better, more equal future for Roma across Europe. It remains to be seen if national decision-makers will take any serious steps in this direction.

El sildenafilo no tiene un efecto relajante directo en los cuerpos cavernosos aislados en este sitio, pero potencia activamente el efecto relajante del NO en este tejido al inhibir el FDE5, responsable de la descomposición del GMPc en los cuerpos cavernosos.

The pandemic crisis of the last 15 months has drastically exposed the racism and hatred against our communities. Authorities on all levels once again proved that Roma are most likely to be forgotten and neglected, and that our wellbeing is not a priority. Hate speech is a daily reality, police brutality perseveres and many of our communities remain cut off from basic services. In schools, the young generation of survivors is deprived of knowledge about their own history.

We applaud DIKH HE NA BISTER (“Look and don’t forget” in Romani) – the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative and other youth initiatives that fills this gap and offer a space for young Roma and non-Roma from all over Europe to put together the scaffoldings of a stronger future through participation and human rights education. A sincere learning experience about the past and personal encounters with Holocaust survivors creates dialogue and recognition of Roma identity.

Acknowledging the past is crucial – not only for the justice and dignity of the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust, but also for confronting antigypsyism today.  We ask our friends and allies, colleagues, journalists and policymakers to walk the talk: publicly recognize the atrocities committed against our communities in the past and today, and act against antigypsyism and all forms of racism, every day!

Open Letter to demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

Open Letter to demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

President of the European Council,
Mr Charles Michel,
President Ursula von der Leyen,
President David Maria Sassoli
Ambassador Iztok Jarc,
Vice-President Věra Jourová,
Commissioner Didier Reynders,
Commissioner Helena Dalli,
President of the Committee on Civil Liberties,
Justice
and Home Affairs,
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar,
ARDI Co-Presidents and Vice-Presidents,

Open Letter

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations and individuals worldwide, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.
We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him applying excessive and unnecessary force to immobilise him against the hot pavement, even after he was handcuffed.
We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.
The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape were totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.
It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.
Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, have an obligation to perform their duties in accordance with universally agreed standards of human rights and civil and political rights, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved – and in this, the protection and preservation of life should have been their highest priority. Moreover, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective, particularly after the handcuffs have been already placed. If it is disproportionate, the use of force has to be qualified and investigated as a criminal offence. Therefore:

  • We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the case, and that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.
  • We are also calling attention to the need to safeguard the life and personal security of witnesses, their relatives and other persons close to them, from acts of intimidation or revenge and facilitate their access to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings, as needed. Moreover, acts of intimidation of witnesses should be punished either as separate criminal offences or as part of the offence of using illegal threats.
  • It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.
  • We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.
  • We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.
    We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally used police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous and life-threatening methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.
  • As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Background

Amateur video footage was posted to Facebook on Saturday, 19 June featuring troubling images of the arrest of a man by three police officers in front of a group of bystanders who were visibly worried for the man’s safety, as he was kept immobilized by the application of continuous pressure to his neck and nape area for several minutes.
According to the spokesperson for the emergency rescue services in the Ústecký Region, Prokop Voleník, a scuffle had been reported between two people who were under the influence of narcotics at the time. “When the police patrol arrived at the scene, one of the men fled while the other was subdued by the officers and handcuffed,” police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová told the tabloid news server Blesk.cz. Police declared that the officers called an ambulance because the arrested man was under the influence of drugs.Police spokesperson Daniel Vítek stated that “According to the preliminary autopsy report, there was reason to suspect the man had been under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart.” According to police, Stanislav Tomáš collapsed and subsequently died in the ambulance called to the scene.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who also chairs the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, declared that “The court autopsy has clearly demonstrated that he did not die due to the intervention by police. This is sad, but a normal, respectable person would have a hard time getting into such a situation.” He backed the police officers in Teplice and thanked them for their intervention against Stanislav Tomáš. “If somebody destroys a car, is aggressive, and even bites a police officer, he cannot expect to be handled with kid gloves,” the PM commented.
Prior to the statement made by the Prime Minister, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček also backed the police officers. “The intervening police officers have my full support. Anybody under the influence of addictive substances who breaks the law has to count on the police intervening. It is mainly thanks to the work of policemen and policewomen that we are among the top 10 safest countries in the world,” Hamáček commented in response to a police tweet insisting the Teplice incident is not an example of a “Czech George Floyd”.
Looking at the amateur footage, we can observe at second 0.6 the three police officers trying to immobilise a man who was already prone on the ground and who was resisting the way he was being handled, under the close scrutiny of a bystander. In about 10 seconds, two police officers manage to immobilise the man by sitting on him and using a lot of physical pressure: one police officer was positioned at the man’s head, pushing his left knee first onto his head against the pavement, and his right leg laterally and partially on his back, while bringing his hands together behind his back to place them in handcuffs with the help of the third officer, who also kneeled on the man’s back horizontally. The second officer, at first, just sat on the man’s leg, placing his whole-body weight onto his leg and then briefly changed into a kneeling position, using his left knee to press against both of the man’s knees while keeping his ankles still. In less than 1 minute, the third officer managed to place the handcuffs around the man’s wrists, but the two police officers continued to kneel on him, applying strong bodily pressure, despite the fact that he was already handcuffed. The police officer kneeling on the man’s legs then used his police phone (probably calling the ambulance) while continuing to press with both knees on the man’s legs; simultaneously the first police officer continued to apply pressure to the upper part of the man’s body and his right shoulder using his left arm, as well as on his coccyx using his right arm, while pushing his left knee onto his nape and neck, with his right knee probably pressed into the man’s back as well. At this point, people from the adjacent buildings started to scream and signal to the police officers, visibly concerned at the whole scene as it unravelled. Three minutes into this constantly-applied pressure, the second officer stood up while the first officer continued to apply the same pressure to the upper part of the man’s body, including his windpipe. Two passers-by came very close to the scene, one kneeling and trying to get a closer look at the man’s face and to talk to him, it seems. Around 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, the third police officer approached and again kneeled on the man’s right leg from the side, while applying pressure with his hands on his left leg. Five minutes into the intervention, the immobilised man stopped screaming or fighting visibly in the footage. After another 30 seconds, the first police officer finally removed himself from the man’s upper body, kneeling next to him instead and seemingly checking his breathing. The footage ended before we could understand if the man was still breathing and alive before the ambulance arrived.
Czech attorney Miroslav Krutina stated on the CNN Prima News channel’s 360° program that “Kneeling is quite a dangerous instrument”, adding that “if it were to be demonstrated that the kneeling was directly on the nape of the neck or on the neck itself, then it would not be proportionate.” He affirmed that he has consulted the Police Academy that trains officers in such methods. “Kneeling that would aim for the neck decidedly does not belong among the range of safe procedures. The reason is that it’s difficult to control the force of the pressure exerted,” he said, adding that in tense moments the technique can cause serious injury or strangulation.
According to Ondřej Moravčík, spokesperson for the Police Presidium, officers must pay attention to the principles of legality and proportionality when intervening. “The officer must assess the situation and decide which means of force will make it possible to achieve a purpose that is lawful and essential to overcome the resistance, or the escape of the person being intervened against,” Moravčík previously explained to news server Aktuálně.cz.
At the close of the video that was published on social media, it can be seen that the man stops making any movements or sound. “If the person is quiet, stops shouting, stops moving, then it would be time to start testing his vital signs,” news server Romea.cz reported that a police trainer said while watching the closing phase of the video of the police intervention, when Stanislav Tomáš has stopped moving and shouting.
Reporter Richard Samko, who watched the footage together with the police instructor, asked him whether the officers actually proceeded correctly if the video shows that the man had not been moving for about 30 seconds while the officer’s knee remained on his neck; the instructor said: “The patrol is beginning to examine what’s going on with him. He isn’t communicating anymore, but we can’t assess what happened there, what kinds of pressures were exerted.”
Unfortunately, the death of George Floyd, an African-American man subjected to a similar police approach in the USA, has not yet led to a ban of the police technique of using the knee on someone’s neck across all European countries, despite European wide outrage and follow-up European Parliament resolution. However, after the death of George Floyd, police officers in France stopped using the manoeuvre and have also stopped teaching it at their police academies. “During arrests it will be forbidden to apply pressure to the neck or nape of the neck,” the then-Interior Minister of France, Christophe Castaner, announced at the time.
Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, has announced in an interview for ROMEA TV that she will be investigating Saturday’s intervention by the police patrol in Teplice after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, died. “After watching the video of the intervention in Teplice and reading all of the available information, I’ve decided to use my competencies and the scope of activity made possible by the law on the Public Defender of Rights with respect to the Police of the Czech Republic to begin an investigation on my own initiative,” she told ROMEA TV. “This investigation will focus on the proportionality of the methods of force used during the intervention in Teplice,” Šimůnková said. According to her, the investigation will be launched in the next few days and the results will depend on how quickly the Czech Police provide her office with the relevant materials. “I don’t dare predict the timeframe, it could be weeks, it could be months. I am bound by my duty to maintain confidentiality until the case is closed and the entire matter has been investigated, but I will try to conduct this investigation as quickly as possible,” she said.
The Council of Europe (CoE) also published a statement on 23 June, “calling for an urgent, thorough, and independent investigation into the recent death of a Romani man in the Czech Republic after he had been apprehended by the police. Footage taken on 19 June from Teplice, Czech Republic, showing police intervention against a Romani man who later died in an ambulance is alarming and raises numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident,” the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General reads.


Signatories
Non-Governmental organisations

  1. European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network, Brussels, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  2. European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  3. European Network against Racism, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  4. Eurodiaconia, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  5. Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  6. Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, Spain, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  7. Roma Active Albania, Albania, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  8. Phiren Amenca International Network, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  9. International Roma Women Network “Phenjalipe”, France, EU Policy Roma Coalition
  10. European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), France, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  11. Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels, Belgium
  12. ILGA-Europe, Brussels, Belgium
  13. AGE Platform Europe, Brussels¸ Belgium
  14. European Disability Forum, Brussels
  15. CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, Brussels, Belgium
  16. Social Platform, Brussels, Belgium
  17. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), Belgium
  18. European Network on Religion and Belief, Brussels, European Youth Forum, Belgium
  19. European Youth Forum, Belgium
  20. Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO) Belgium
  21. Fair Trials, Brussels, Belgium
  22. Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
  23. ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network, Brussels, Belgium
  • Albania
  1. Balkan Youth Activism, Albania
  2. Rromano Kham, Albania
  3. Center for Social Advocacy, Albania
  4. Institute of Romani Culture in Albania, Albania
  5. Roma Women Rights Center, Albania
  • Austria
  1. Romano Centro, Austria
  2. Roma Volkshochschule Burgenland, Austria
  3. ACT-P – Assisting Children Traumatised by Police, Austria
  4. Verein Roma-Service, Austria
  • Belgium
  1. Ahmed AHKIM/Roma and Travellers Mediation Center, Belgium
  • Bosnia and Hercegovina
  1. The Citizens’ Association for the Promotion of Roma Education “Otaharin”, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  2. Women Association “Romkinja” Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Udruzenje “Ženska vizija” Tuzla, Bosnia and Hercegovina
  • Bulgaria
  1. INTEGRO association, Bulgaria
  2. Integro Association Bulgaria, Bulgaria
  3. Amalipe Center, Bulgaria
  • Canada
  1. Czech and Slovak Roma Association in Canada, Canada
  • Czech Republic
  1. ROMEA association, Czech Republic

  2. Life Together, Czech Republic

  3. Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic

  4. Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) , Czech Republic
  5. Mgr. Jan Husák, Member of the Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs, Czech Republic
  6. NGO RomanoNet, Czech Republic
  7. ROMEA association, Czech Republic
  8. Slovo 21, z.s., Czech Republic
  9. Hana Franková, Organization for Aid to Refugees, Czech Republic
  10. Activist Lab – MgA Tamara Moyzes, Czech Republic
  11. The Czech Helsinki Committee, The Czech Republic
  12. Organization for aid to refugees / Aneta Subrtova, Czech Republic
  13. CONEXE, Czech Republic
  • Croatia
  1. Antifašistički VJESNIK (Antifascist TRIBUNE), Croatia
  2. Roma recourse centre/ Jovan Petrović, Croatia
  3. Roma youth organisation of Croatia, Croatia
  4. Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
  • Cyprus
  1. KISA – Equality, Support, Antiracism, Cyprus
  • Denmark
  1. Fair Play/ Henriette Mentzel, Denmark
  • Finland
  1. Anti-Racist Forum, Finland
  • France
  1. La Voix des rroms, France
  2. Le CRAN Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France, France
  3. GATIEF – Martine Serlinger, FRANCE
  • Germany
  1. Hildegard Lagrenne Foundation Germany
  2. Amaro Drom e.V., Germany
  3. RomaRespekt, Germany
  4. Independent Commission on Antigypsyism, Germany
  5. Thomas Schmidt, Secretary General of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights ELDH, Germany
  6. Society for the Research of Antigypsyism, Germany
  7. RomaTrial, Germany
  8. Romane Romnja Initiative, Germany
  9. save space e.V., Germany
  10. Amaro Foro, Germany
  11. Dalit Solidarity in Germany, Deutschland
  • Greece
  1. Association of Roma Women of Dendropotamos, Greece
  2. Greek Forum of Migrants, Greece
  3. ANTIGONE- Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence, Greece
  • Hungary
  1. Romaversitas Foundation, Hungary
  2. Romedia Foundation, Hungary
  3. We Belong Here Association, Hungary
  4. Diverse Youth Network Hungary
  • India/Nepal
  1. Asia Dalit Rights Forum/Dipanshu Rathore, India
  2. Asia Dalit Rights Forum / Vinayaraj V.K., India
  3. Sabina Pathrose Good Shepherd Sisters India.
  4. GFoD/Johannes Butscher, Global
  5. Aloysius Irudayam, Asia Dalits Rights Forum (ADRF), India
  6. Asia Dalit Rights Forum, India/Nepal
  7. Dalit NGO Federation Nepal, Nepal
  • Ireland
  1. Martin Collins / Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre Ireland
  • Island
  1. Ragnheiður Freyja Kristínardóttir, Island
  • Italy
  1. Il Razzismo è una brutta storia, Italy
  2. Associazione Romni APS, Italy
  3. Associazione Rowni-Roma women network Italy, Italy
  4. Associazione rom e romnja Europa, Italy
  5. Romano drom Coop. Soc. Arl ONLUS, Milano, Italy
  6. Network Romani Italy, Italy
  7. Associazione rom in progress, Italy
  8. Àltera, Italia
  • Lithuania
  1. Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
  2. Public Institution Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
  • Kenya, Africa
  1. Global Voluntary Development Association, Kenya
  • Kosovo
  1. Advancing Together, Kosovo
  2. KOSINT, Kosovo
  • North Macedonia
  1. Regional Roma Educational Youth Association – RROMA, North Macedonia
  2. Lumijakhere Rroma, North Macedonia
  3. RROMA, North Macedonia
  4. Roma Democratic Development Association SONCE, North Macedonia
  5. Roma Women and Youth Association “LULUDI” North Macedonia
  6. Association of multiethnic society for human rights Stip, North Macedonia
  7. Association for Roma Women Development “Latcho Dive”, North Macedonia
  8. Roma Lawyers Association, North Macedonia
  9. 24VAKTI- SKOPJE, North Macedonia
  10. Coalition of Roma CSO’s “Khetane”, North Macedonia
  • Malta
  1. Migrant Women Association Malta, Malta
  • Mauritania, Africa
  1. Sahel foundation / Brahim Ramdhane, Mauritania
  • Republic of Moldova
  1. Roma Women Network “Moldsolidaritate”, Republic of Moldova
  2. Asociaţia Romilor din Republica Moldova „RUBIN”, Republica Moldova
  3. Societatea social-culturală „TRADIȚIA ROMILOR”, Moldova
  4. Asociaţia Obştească „SPERANŢA ROMILOR”, Moldova
  5. Centrul Naţional al Romilor, Moldova
  6. Comunitatea Romilor din mun. Bălţi „ŞATRO”, Moldova
  7. Asociaţia Obştească a Romilor din Municipiul Chişinău „AME ROMA”, Moldova
  8. Mişcarea Socială a Romilor din Moldova, Moldova
  9. Asociaţia Obştească „JUVLIA ROMANI”, Moldova
  10. Asociaţia etno-sociocultural-educativă „BAHTALO ROM”, Moldova
  11. Asociaţia știinţifico-culturală „ELITA ROMANI”, Moldova
  12. Organizația Obștească „ROM CĂTUNARE”, Moldova
  13. Comunitatea Romilor din or. Fălești „ROM-SAM”, Moldova
  14. Organizația Obștească „ROMII CIOCĂNARI”, Moldova
  15. Asociaţia Obştească „Romano ILO”, Moldova
  16. Asociaţia Obştească „Comunitatea Romilor din Găgăuzia”, Moldova
  17. Organizația Obștească a Romilor din or. Otaci „BAHTALO DROM”, Moldova
  18. Fundația Internaţională de Binefacere a Romilor pentru Dezvoltarea Culturii şi Renaşterii Naţiunii „BARONUL MIRCEA CERARI”, Moldova
  19. Asociaţia Obştească „OPRE O CEACIMOS”, Moldova
  20. Asociaţia Obştească „ROMII în PROGRES”, Moldova
  21. Asociaţia Obştească „DROM ANGLE”, Moldova
  22. Asociaţia Obştească „AMARI EUROPA”, Moldova
  23. Asociaţia Obştească „POROJAN” Moldova
  24. Asociaţia Obştească „PETALO ROMANO”, Moldova
  25. Asociația Obștească „UNIUNEA INTERNAȚIONALĂ a ROMILOR”, Moldova
  • Netherlands
  1. Roma Utrecht Foundation, Netherlands
  2. Roma Advocacy Network, Netherlands
  3. India ki Rasta Foundation, Netherlands
  4. Salonica Utrecht Foundation, Netherlands
  5. Romane Sheja, Netherlands
  6. Roma Capelle, Netherlands
  7. Roma Overijssel Foundation, Netherlands
  8. Roma Media Group, Netherlands
  9. Nederlandse Roma Vereniging Lelystad, Netherlands
  10. Roma Committee against Statelessness, Netherlands
  11. Roma Foundation I am the Way, Netherlands
  12. Koshish Foundation Netherlands (Art & Culture) The Netherlands
  13. Romane Shave, Netherlands
  14. RADIO PATRIN NEWS NETWORK, Netherlands-Ukraine-Moldova-Turkey-Portugal
  • Norway
  1. Inter African Committee Norway, Norway
  • Poland
  1. Jaw Dikh! Art Foundation, Poland
  2. Cosmodernity Consultants, Poland
  3. PADLINK, Poland
  4. JAW DIKH! Art Foundation, Poland
  5. Ad Lucem Foundation, Poland
  • Romania
  1. Nevo Parudimos, Romania
  2. CADO-Advocacy and Human Rights Center, Romania
  3. REDI Brussels, Romania
  4. Partidul Phralipe al Romilor Judetul Botosani, Romania
  5. Asociatia Partida Romilor Pro-Europa filiala Botosani, Romania
  6. RUHAMA Foundation, Romania
  7. Association Rroma Center “Amare Rromentza”, Romania
  • Senegal, Africa
  1. TrustAfrica, Sénégal
  • Serbia
  1. Roma Forum Serbia, Serbia
  2. Roma initiative for sustainable development, Serbia
  3. Roma sport association Freedom, Serbia
  4. Women Space, Serbia
  • Slovakia
  1. Roma advocacy and research centre, Slovakia
  2. Human Rights League Slovakia, Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  1. European Romani Union, Slovenia
  • Spain
  1. Fundación Secretariado Gitano, Spain
  2. Federació d’ Associacions Gitanes de Catalunya (FAGIC), Spain
  3. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos, Spain
  4. Asociación Nacional Presencia Gitana, Spain
  5. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos, Spain
  6. Institute of Cultural Affairs, Spain
  • Turkey
  1. Zero Discrimination Association, Turkey
  2. Eurasian Rroma Academic Network, Slovenia – The Netherlands – Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  1. Gipsy Strength, United Kingdom
  2. Gypsy Council, United Kingdom
  3. Minority Rights Group International, United Kingdom
  4. Roma live, United Kingdom
  5. KaskoSan Roma Charity / Gyula Vamosi, United Kingdom
  6. Traveller Pride, United Kingdom
  7. Care for young people’s future, England, United Kingdom
  8. European Network on Statelessness, United Kingdom
  9. Apna Haq, United Kingdom
  10. Inequalities Research Network/G Mir, United Kingdom
  11. Alan Murray, All Faiths and None, United Kingdom
  12. Romano Lav, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
  13. Ashli Mullen (Romano Lav/University of Glasgow), Scotland, United Kingdom
  • United States/Africa/India
  1. Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (GFoD), Global organization New York/Dakar/Delhi
  2. Phoenix Forbes United States of America
  • No country mentioned
  1. Gipsy top team

Activists/individuals

Albania

  1. Ines Stasa, Albania
  2. Gerta Xega, Albania
  3. Benjamin Fasching-Gray, Austria
  4. Nicole Garbin, Austria
  • Belgium
  1. Martin Demirovski, Belgium
  2. Ela Guler, Belgium
  3. Simona Barbu, Belgium
  4. Mediha Hadžajlić, Bosna and Hercegovina
  • Bulgaria
  1. Bagryan Maksimov, Bulgaria
  • Canada
  1. Michael Cina, Canada
  2. Marek Rybar, CANADA
  3. Karicka Ondrej, Canada
  • Czech Republic
  1. Andrea Balážová, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
  2. Jan Horváth, Czech Republic
  3. Julius Moro, Czech Republic
  4. Andrej Sivak, Czech Republic
  5. Juliana vodrazkova, RomPraha, z.s., Czech Republic
  6. Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Republic / USA
  7. Alexandr Dzurko, Czech Republic
  8. Lucie Orackova Czech Republic /Netherland
  9. Sára Kavurová, Czech Republic
  10. Milan holan, Czech Republic
  11. Martin Dzurko, Czech Republic
  12. Michaela izerová, Czech Republic
  13. Sára Tanková, Praha, Czech Republic
  14. Adéla Deňová, Liberec, Czech Republic
  15. Kevin lak, Czech Republic
  16. Simona slepcikova, Czech Republic
  17. Ivana Gaziova, Czech Republic
  18. Simona Černá, Czech Republic
  19. Simona Slepcikova, Czech Republic
  20. Lackova Souhlasim, Czech Republic
  21. Martin Kompush, Czech Republic
  22. Alzbeta Harvanova, Czech Republic, town Teplice
  23. Julius Hudi, Czech Republic
  24. Robert Hmilánský, Czech Republic
  25. Vladislav Bandy, Czech Republic
  26. D, Praha, Czech Republic
  27. Z, Praha 3, Czech Republic
  28. Ondrej Karicka, Czech Republic
  29. Zuzana Pavelková, Czech Republic
  30. Aneta Midlochová, Czech Republic
  31. Katerina, Czech Republic
  • Croatia
  1. Josipa Lulić, Croatia
  2. Milan Mitrović Croatia/Slavonski Brod
  3. Ines Salimović, Hrvatska, Croatia
  4. Nikolina Đurđević, Croatia
  5. Petra Matic, Croatia
  • Denmark
  1. Emil Novák-Tót, Denmark
  • Finland
  1. Marko Stenroos, Finland
  2. Vivian Isberg, Finland
  • France
  1. Reneta LIDKOVA, France
  2. Danièle MARY, France
  3. Ingo Ritz, France
  • Germany
  1. Suzana, Germany
  2. Beatrix Tessmer, Germany
  3. Alina Maggiore, Germany
  4. Taisiya Schumacher, Germany
  5. Kelly Laubinger, Germany
  6. Esther Bendel, Germany
  7. Dr. Hilde Hoffmann, Germany
  8. Anna Friedrich, Germany
  9. Toralf Stark, Germany
  10. Lisa-Marie Heimeshoff, Germany
  • Hungary
  1. Georgina Laboda, Hungary
  2. Szilvia FRANK, Hungary
  • India
  1. Paul Jesuraja, India
  2. Nayantara Raja, India
  3. Conor Dervan, Ireland
  4. Irene Siragusa, Ireland
  5. Valentina De Amicis, Ireland
  6. Gentina Jusufi, Kosovo
  • Lithuania
  1. Svetlana Novopolskaja, Lithuania
  • Mali
  1. Rhaichatou, Mali
  2. Rhaïchatou walet Altanata, Mali
  • Mauritania, Africa
  1. Aboubekrine El Jera, Mauritania
  • North Macedonia
  1. Fatma Bajram Azemovska, North Macedonia
  2. Nesime Salioska, North Macedonia
  3. Mustafa Jakupov, North Macedonia
  4. Daniela Janevska, North Macedonia
  5. Urmeta Arifovska, North Macedonia
  • Republic of Moldova
  1. ACOPERI/Israel Collier, Republic of Moldova
  • Netherlands/Syria
  1. Joost van der Braag, Netherlands
  2. Marijke Manders, Netherlands
  3. Froukelien IJntema, The Netherlands
  4. Danial L., Netherlands/Syria
  • Portugal
  1. Bruno Fernandes Prudêncio, Portugal
  2. Larry Olomofe, Poland
  • Romania
  1. Alexandra Grigore, Romania
  2. Mereuta Laurentia Mariana, Romania
  3. Aida-Diana Farkas, Romania
  4. Delia Grigore, Romania
  5. Marian Mandache, Romania
  • Serbia
  1. Vera Kurtic, Serbia
  • Spain
  1. Jordi Perales Gimenez, Catalonia, Spain
  • Slovakia
  1. Radoslav Gonbar, Slovakia
  2. Barbora Meššová, Slovakia
  3. Kristián Horváth, Slovakia
  • Sweden
  1. Jitka Pallas, Sweden
  2. Former ARDI President Soraya Post, Sweden
  • Switzerland
  1. Elise M, Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  1. Geiza Kuruc, England, United Kingdom
  2. Marcela Cinova, United Kingdom
  3. Bianca williams London, United Kingdom
  4. Michael Daduc, United Kingdom
  5. Sona Polak, United Kingdom
  6. Michaela Tologova, England, United Kingdom
  7. Patricia Petik, England, United Kingdom
  8. Vilem Kona, United Kingdom
  9. Jiri krichle, United Kingdom
  10. Jessica konova, United Kingdom
  11. Daniel Kona, United Kingdom
  12. Samuel Kona, United Kingdom
  13. Katerina Konova, United Kingdom
  14. Dr Laura Cashman, United Kingdom
  15. Nadia Szoma, United Kingdom
  16. Maria Hmilanska, United Kingdom
  17. Emil Kompus, United Kingdom
  18. Zaneta Kurecajova, United Kingdom
  19. Gabco Roman, United Kingdom
  20. Jiri, Wales, United Kingdom
  21. Simona Slepcikova, England, United Kingdom
  22. Kristyna Nemcova, United Kingdom
  23. Simona Polakova, United Kingdom
  24. Roman Kompus, United Kingdom
  25. Kristyna Nemcova, United Kingdom
  26. Irena Cisarova, United Kingdom
  27. Simona Bihariova, Leeds, United Kingdom
  28. Daniela Hmilanska, England, United Kingdom
  29. Radek Eros, United Kingdom
  30. Veronika Balogova, United Kingdom
  31. Roman Mirga, United Kingdom
  32. Daniel Slepcik, England, United Kingdom
  33. Nela, United Kingdom
  34. Miroslav Hmilansky, Bournemouth, United Kingdom
  35. Vera, United Kingdom
  36. Nela Erosova, United Kingdom
  37. Vladimíra Surmajova, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  38. Miroslav Tulej, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  39. Josef Daduc, United Kingdom
  40. K McCormick, United Kingdom
  41. Jiří Bartko, United Kingdom
  42. Barbora Sebkova, United Kingdom
  43. Pihik Stanislav, Halifax, United Kingdom
  44. Daniela Kompusova, United Kingdom
  45. B. Yasemin Sidiqi, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  46. Sarah-Jane chamberlain-Kent, United Kingdom
  47. Dr Lucie Fremlova, United Kingdom
  • United States
  1. Rachael Dosen, United States
  2. Zulfikar Reese, United States
  • *No information about the country
  1. Ondra Gizman
  2. Nistor

For more information on the joint letter and demands, please contact Isabela Mihalache, ERGO Senior Advocacy Officer at: i.mihalache@ergonetwork.org

Justice for Stanislav Tomáš

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.

We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him to immobilise him.

We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.

The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape are totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.

It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.

Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, are there to serve and protect, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved. In this particular case, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate.

  • We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the situation, so that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.
  • We are also calling attention to the need to protect the privacy and safety of eyewitnesses, including shielding them against potential threats from non-state actors and police, if they are willing to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings.
  • It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.
  • We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.
  • We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.
  • We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally-recommended police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.

As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Background 

Amateur video footage was posted to Facebook on Saturday, 19 June featuring troubling images of the arrest of a man by three police officers in front of a group of bystanders who were visibly worried for the man’s safety, as he was kept immobilized by the application of continuous pressure to his neck and nape area for several minutes.

According to the spokesperson for the emergency rescue services in the Ústecký Region, Prokop Voleník, a scuffle had been reported between two people who were under the influence of narcotics at the time. “When the police patrol arrived at the scene, one of the men fled while the other was subdued by the officers and handcuffed,” police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová told the tabloid news server Blesk.cz. Police declared that the officers called an ambulance because the arrested man was under the influence of drugs.

Police spokesperson Daniel Vítek stated that “According to the preliminary autopsy report, there was reason to suspect the man had been under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart.” According to police, Stanislav Tomáš collapsed and subsequently died in the ambulance called to the scene.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who also chairs the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, declared that “The court autopsy has clearly demonstrated that he did not die due to the intervention by police. This is sad, but a normal, respectable person would have a hard time getting into such a situation.” He backed the police officers in Teplice and thanked them for their intervention against Stanislav Tomáš. “If somebody destroys a car, is aggressive, and even bites a police officer, he cannot expect to be handled with kid gloves,” the PM commented.

Prior to the statement made by the Prime Minister, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček also backed the police officers. “The intervening police officers have my full support. Anybody under the influence of addictive substances who breaks the law has to count on the police intervening. It is mainly thanks to the work of policemen and policewomen that we are among the top 10 safest countries in the world,” Hamáček commented in response to a police tweet insisting the Teplice incident is not an example of a “Czech George Floyd”.

Looking at the amateur footage, we can observe at second 0.6 the three police officers trying to immobilise a man who was already prone on the ground and who was resisting the way he was being handled, under the close scrutiny of a bystander. In about 10 seconds, two police officers manage to immobilise the man by sitting on him and using a lot of physical pressure: one police officer was positioned at the man’s head, pushing his left knee first onto his head against the pavement, and his right leg laterally and partially on his back, while bringing his hands together behind his back to place them in handcuffs with the help of the third officer, who also kneeled on the man’s back horizontally. The second officer, at first, just sat on the man’s leg, placing his whole-body weight onto his leg and then briefly changed into a kneeling position, using his left knee to press against both of the man’s knees while keeping his ankles still. In less than 1 minute, the third officer managed to place the handcuffs around the man’s wrists, but the two police officers continued to kneel on him, applying strong bodily pressure, despite the fact that he was already handcuffed. The police officer kneeling on the man’s legs then used his police phone (probably calling the ambulance) while continuing to press with both knees on the man’s legs; simultaneously the first police officer continued to apply pressure to the upper part of the man’s body and his right shoulder using his left arm, as well as on his coccyx using his right arm, while pushing his left knee onto his nape and neck, with his right knee probably pressed into the man’s back as well. At this point, people from the adjacent buildings started to scream and signal to the police officers, visibly concerned at the whole scene as it unravelled. Three minutes into this constantly-applied pressure, the second officer stood up while the first officer continued to apply the same pressure to the upper part of the man’s body, including his windpipe. Two passers-by came very close to the scene, one kneeling and trying to get a closer look at the man’s face and to talk to him, it seems. Around 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, the third police officer approached and again kneeled on the man’s right leg from the side, while applying pressure with his hands on his left leg. Five minutes into the intervention, the immobilised man stopped screaming or fighting visibly in the footage. After another 30 seconds, the first police officer finally removed himself from the man’s upper body, kneeling next to him instead and seemingly checking his breathing. The footage ended before we could understand if the man was still breathing and alive before the ambulance arrived.

Czech attorney Miroslav Krutina stated on the CNN Prima News channel’s 360° program that “Kneeling is quite a dangerous instrument”, adding that “if it were to be demonstrated that the kneeling was directly on the nape of the neck or on the neck itself, then it would not be proportionate.” He affirmed that he has consulted the Police Academy that trains officers in such methods. “Kneeling that would aim for the neck decidedly does not belong among the range of safe procedures. The reason is that it’s difficult to control the force of the pressure exerted,” he said, adding that in tense moments the technique can cause serious injury or strangulation.

According to Ondřej Moravčík, spokesperson for the Police Presidium, officers must pay attention to the principles of legality and proportionality when intervening. “The officer must assess the situation and decide which means of force will make it possible to achieve a purpose that is lawful and essential to overcome the resistance or the escape of the person being intervened against,” Moravčík previously explained to news server Aktuálně.cz.

At the close of the video that was published on social media, it can be seen that the man stops making any movements or sound. “If the person is quiet, stops shouting, stops moving, then it would be time to start testing his vital signs,” news server Romea.cz reported that a police trainer said while watching the closing phase of the video of the police intervention, when Stanislav Tomáš has stopped moving and shouting.

Reporter Richard Samko, who watched the footage together with the police instructor, asked him whether the officers actually proceeded correctly if the video shows that the man had not been moving for about 30 seconds while the officer’s knee remained on his neck; the instructor said: “The patrol is beginning to examine what’s going on with him. He isn’t communicating anymore, but we can’t assess what happened there, what kinds of pressures were exerted.”

Unfortunately, the death of George Floyd, an African-American man subjected to a similar police approach in the USA, has not yet led to a ban of the police technique of using the knee on someone’s neck across all European countries, despite European wide outrage and follow-up European Parliament resolution. However, after the death of George Floyd, police officers in France stopped using the manoeuvre and have also stopped teaching it at their police academies. “During arrests it will be forbidden to apply pressure to the neck or nape of the neck,” the then-Interior Minister of France, Christophe Castaner, announced at the time.

Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, has announced in an interview for ROMEA TV that she will be investigating Saturday’s intervention by the police patrol in Teplice after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, died. “After watching the video of the intervention in Teplice and reading all of the available information, I’ve decided to use my competencies and the scope of activity made possible by the law on the Public Defender of Rights with respect to the Police of the Czech Republic to begin an investigation on my own initiative,” she told ROMEA TV. “This investigation will focus on the proportionality of the methods of force used during the intervention in Teplice,” Šimůnková said. According to her, the investigation will be launched in the next few days and the results will depend on how quickly the Czech Police provide her office with the relevant materials. “I don’t dare predict the timeframe, it could be weeks, it could be months. I am bound by my duty to maintain confidentiality until the case is closed and the entire matter has been investigated, but I will try to conduct this investigation as quickly as possible,” she said.

The Council of Europe (CoE) also published a statement on 23 June, “calling for an urgent, thorough, and independent investigation into the recent death of a Romani man in the Czech Republic after he had been apprehended by the police. Footage taken on 19 June from Teplice, Czech Republic, showing police intervention against a Romani man who later died in an ambulance is alarming and raises numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident,” the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General reads.

Signatories

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Brussels

European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels

European Network against Racism, Brussels

Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels

ILGA-Europe, Brussels

AGE Platform Europe, Brussels

Romanonet network, Czech Republic

ROMEA association, Czech Republic

Life Together, Czech Republic

Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic

 

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache,  Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team

Fighting antigypsyism as a precondition to achieve equality for Roma

Regional Conference: Fighting antigypsyism as a precondition to achieve equality for Roma

On 22 June, ERGO Network together with the Central Council for German Sinti and Roma, the Roma Active Albania and Equinet co-organised the Regional Conference: Fighting Antigypsyism as a Precondition to Achieve Equality for Roma – The Role of Ombudsperson Institutions and Equality Bodies. The Conference brought together equality bodies, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations from Western Balkan countries, European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Germany. Participants discussed on the role of equality bodies and ombudsperson institutions in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national Roma strategic frameworks to tackle antigypsyism based on the principles of non-discrimination and equality set out in the EU Treaties, reaffirmed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC and the Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

Some of the conclusions highlighted inter alia that equality bodies and ombudsperson institutions:

  • have a mandate to deal with discrimination using civil and administrative law and most of them have a mandate to deal with hate speech using their general mandate for promotion of equality and fighting discrimination or broadly interpreting their mandate to tackle harassment.
  • should also have a mandate to start own-initiative cases and use strategic litigation as an effective means to reach an impact that goes beyond the individual case.
  • even in the absence of an explicit legal mandate to cover certain issues related to antigypsyism (such as hate crimes, for instance), can gather information, commission or conduct studies to reveal the extent and manifestations of antigypsyism
  • can contribute with independent reports in the implementation of national Roma strategic frameworks.
  • should raise awareness about antigypsyism and widely communicate positive, values-based messages; use their powers to advise governments and other policymakers so that policies and legislation contributes to challenging antigypsyism; use their powers to work with duty bearers, such as employers and service providers, to spread good equality practices
  • should ensure close and structured cooperation with civil society. Equality bodies should enter into a constructive dialogue with pro-Roma civil society that should include mutual education where each party shares their unique knowledge and expertise
  • work closely with Roma and involve them in their activities – as trainers and trainees, as valued partners and as employees of the equality body and ombudsperson institution.

The conference also emphasized the need for equality bodies and ombudsperson institutions to be provided with the necessary human and financial resources, powers and independence to conduct their work effectively. Participants saw this regional conference between equality bodies, the EU and civil society as an important step in building a closer and structured cooperation in fighting structural antigypsyism.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache , Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.

 

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antigypsyism – ERGO Network

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