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Hungary: Treatment of Roma and state protection efforts (2009-June 2012)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 16 July 2012
Citation / Document Symbol HUN104110.E
Related Document Hongrie : information sur le traitement réservé aux Roms et les efforts déployés par l'État pour les protéger (2010-juin 2012)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Treatment of Roma and state protection efforts (2009-June 2012), 16 July 2012, HUN104110.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/503600142bd.html [accessed 21 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Treatment of Roma

In a 15 February 2012 statement prepared for a US Helsinki Commission Hearing on state response to violence against Roma, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) states that "racist or stigmatising anti-Roma rhetoric has been on the rise both in public and political discourse" in countries such as Hungary. In addition, the ERRC notes that "[e]xtremist groups, political parties and politicians have sharpened their anti-Romani rhetoric and actions, galvanizing segments of the public against Roma" (ERRC 15 Feb. 2012).

In a February 2009 article, the Irish Times reports that "[g]rowing economic problems and rising unemployment in Hungary have stoked long-held racial prejudices, and far-right organisations have become more prominent through claims that white Hungarians are suffering an onslaught of "'Gypsy crime'" (25 Feb. 2009). In a January 2009 article, MTI (Magyar Tavirati Iroda), a Hungarian news agency based in Budapest, notes that the police chief of Miskolc said that all burglaries in the city during December 2008 and January 2009, approximately 100, were committed by Roma (MTI 30 Jan. 2009). However, the police chief did not comment on whether he was referring to "'gypsy crime'" (ibid.).

In a January 2012 article, The Guardian notes that Roma are the "prime targets for rightwing hate and more general discrimination" (28 Jan. 2012).

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 reported that during 2011, "right-wing extremist groups continued to incite violence against Roma and held marches around the country aimed at intimidating local Romani communities" (US 24 May 2012, 35). According to the Guardian, in March 2011, in the village of Gyöngyöspata, during its two month occupation by the Civil Guard Association for a better Future, the head of the far-right Jobbik party gave a speech during which he indicated that the party planned to deploy similar "'gendarmerie units' nationwide" (28 Jan. 2012).

In April 2011, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP), approximately 200 members of the Brighter Future militia, a "sister-group" of the Jobbik party, began patrolling the Roma community in Hajduhadház, a town in eastern Hungary (AFP 14 Apr. 2011). The Council of Europe report also mentions that patrols of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future were "intimidating Roma inhabitants" inHajduhadház, as well as in Gyöngyöspata, during March and April of 2011; the uniformed groups were carrying torches, whips and axes (Council of Europe Feb. 2012, 48). The militia stopped its activities after a day under the issuance of a police order (AFP 14 Apr. 2011). The Minister of the Interior was quoted as saying that these kinds of militia patrols would no longer be tolerated in Hungary (ibid.). Reporting on the same incident, MTI notes that similar demonstrations had taken place in Gyöngyöspata and Hejoszalonta (12 Apr. 2011). In Hejoszalonta, which is also in the northeast of Hungary, "radical demonstrators" complained about what they referred to as "'Gypsy crime'" (MTI 12 Apr. 2011). The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance noted that the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future organized public rallies in Hajduhadház, Gyöngyöspata, Zagyvarékas, Békéscsaba, Galgagyorgy, Tatárszentgyörgy, Miskolc, and Sajobábony (23 Apr. 2012, para. 47).

However, in April 2012, the Minister of the Interior was reported as saying that vigilantism had "waned" and that "there was not a single area in Hungary today where the Roma community lived in fear of any kind of vigilante groups" (MTI 11 Apr. 2012). Corroboration could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In a February 2012 report on Roma in Europe, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights links hate-crime to hate-speech and cites a series of Roma murders that were committed between 2008 and 2009 in Hungary as an example (44).

In the July 2011 UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group report on Hungary, France and Switzerland both pointed out that Roma have been victims of extremist group violence and racism (UN 11 July 2011,para. 31, 32).

According to Human Rights First, several Hungarian and international NGOs have "documented a disturbing pattern of violent attacks" against Roma in Hungary, including "severe beatings in broad daylight [and] murders by arson, shootings or the throwing of Molotov cocktail explosives" (Feb. 2012). Similarly, an ERRC report lists 50 attacks against Roma in Hungary that were committed between January 2008 and July 2011 (11 July 2011). The list of attacks is a compilation of media reports (ERRC 11 July 2011). Acts of violence include assaults by extremist groups, shootings at Roma houses resulting in Roma being injured or killed, and Molotov cocktails being thrown in Roma houses (ibid.). Locations of the attacks that were committed since 2009 include the counties of Bács-Kiskun, Baranya, Békés, Borsod-Abauj-Zemplén, Budapest, Gyöngyöspata, Heves, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, Pest, Somogyi, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, Veszprém and Zalaegerszeg (ibid.).

2. State Protection
2.1 Monitoring Ethnic Violence

The ERRC notes in a March 2011 report that in Hungary, "racist violence" is not monitored systematically (Mar. 2011, 19). Similarly, a Human Rights First report published in February 2012 indicates that the Hungarian government does not have an "effective system" to collect data on "violent hate crimes" nor a way to identify the ethnicity of a crime victim (Feb. 2012, 3).

2.2 Legislation and Enforcement

Article 174/B of the criminal code criminalizes violent acts committed against a person for belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (Human Rights First Feb. 2012, 3; AI 8 Nov. 2010, 1). According to Amnesty International (AI), "an incident is only considered a crime of violence against a community (punishable under Section 174B of the Criminal Code), or a crime aggravated by a 'base reason' (such as racial motivation), if evidence that the crime was motivated by the belief that the victim belonged to an ethnic, racial, national or religious group or other community was raised during the investigation" (AI 8 Nov. 2010, 4). The Office of the Prosecutor General told AI that this would require the victim or the perpetrator to state that the attack was due to the victim's ethnicity (ibid.).

Human Rights First indicates that this Article is not "systematically" applied, and that even when there are cases where "bias motivation" could be suspected, police often choose to begin the investigation on the basis of "non-hate crime charges" (Human Rights First Feb. 2012, 3). Similarly, AI notes that the authorities often do not recognize biased motivation behind violent crimes, unless pressured by NGOs to do so (AI 8 Nov. 2010, 2, 3). Furthermore, the ERRC indicates that the police, prosecutors and court officials are "reluctant to consider racial bias motivation as an aggravating circumstance to crimes" (Mar. 2011, 19).

Country Reports 2011 notes that in 2011, "NGOs complained that courts increasingly used the provision of the criminal code on racism to convict Roma, whereas the law was designed to protect members of minority groups" (US 24 May 2012, 36). According to the report, seven Roma were convicted in March 2011 by the Pest County District Court for racist attacks on non-Roma, applying the provision of "violence against a member of a community" under the penal code (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). In October 2011, the Budapest Metropolitan Court of Appeal only upheld the charges against one of the Roma, and the rest were charged with "'armed hooliganism'" (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). In its ruling, the court "emphasized" that violence against members of an "ethnic community" was criminalized in order to increase the protection of minority groups, not the majority (ibid.).

In 29 June 2012 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) noted that while changes to the Penal Code were adopted on 25 June 2012, law-makers did not include bias motivation for crimes against property and harassment; the HHC added that consequently, the Penal Code did not meet OSCE guidelines and the modifications are "insufficient."

Country Reports 2011 notes that in April and May 2011, the Hungarian government adopted legislation to "halt the 'uniformed criminal activity' of far-right groups" (US 24 May 2012, 35). Amnesty International specifies that the criminal code was amended to criminalize "unauthorized activities to maintain public order or public security, which induced fear in others," as well as "blatantly abusive behaviour against a community that might threaten members - real or perceived - of an ethnic, racial or other group" (AI 2012, 170).

2.3 Guidelines for the Investigation of Hate-Crimes

The ERRC notes that police and prosecutors do not have a "specific protocol or guideline on how to investigate and prosecute hate crimes" (ERRC Mar. 2011, 19). Similarly, AI indicates that the police do not have special procedures for cases where a hate-crime could be suspected, with a representative of the Pest County Police saying that hate-crime investigations do not differ from any other investigations (AI 8 Nov. 2010, 3, 4). Nevertheless, AI reports the Office of the Prosecutor General as saying that "there was no need for issuing a general guideline on the implementation of Article 174/B as current legislative provisions adequately covered this" (AI 8 Nov. 2010, 2). However, AI maintains that according to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, there are cases where police and prosecutors did not consider or identify hate motivation and therefore failed to apply the relevant legal provisions (ibid.).

However, the AI country report on Hungary for 2011 noted, without providing further details, that in January 2011, the Ministry of the Interior began working on a "protocol for police work on hate crimes" (AI 2012, 170). Nevertheless, in 29 June 2012 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the HHC stated that despite "numerous promises" by the government, the "investigation methodology of hate crimes" continued to lack elaboration.

3. State Action Taken in Relation to Violence Against Roma

In an article published in February 2012 by The Guardian, the Hungarian Minister of state for government communication stated that the Hungarian government is acting to counter "displays of racial hatred," as well as the "conditions" that help them arise by "tighten[ing] the law" (21 Feb. 2012). According to the Minister, "[e]vents on the ground show [that the] policies are working" and the "last two or three years have shown a decline in violence" (The Guardian 21 Feb. 2012). However, in a report on his mission to Hungary in May 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance noted that according to several interlocutors, racism against Roma is prevalent within public institutions, notably the police and judicial system (UN 23 Apr. 2012, para. 36).

In December 2008, the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard), created by the Jobbik party, was dissolved by the Budapest Municipal Court for conducting "anti-Roma" activities (US 19 Feb. 2012). In addition, in November 2009, a law passed fining anyone wearing a Magyar Garda uniform 50,000 Hungarian forint (HUF)[222.95 CAD (XE 27 June 2012)] (US 19 Feb. 2012). However, the 2012 US Crime and Safety Report on Hungary, by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, reports that theMagyar Garda "continues to intimidate and conduct anti-Roma activity throughout Hungary" "despite the court ruling and fines" (19 Feb. 2012).

The Associated Press (AP) reports that in March 2011, the trial for four men accused of "deadly late-night attacks" against Roma in Hungary was initiated (25Mar. 2011). The attacks were said by prosecutors to be "planned with military precision," were executed between July 2008 and August 2009, and resulted in six people shot to death, five with life-threatening injuries, and five that were seriously wounded (AP 25 Mar. 2011). The Council of Europe report noted that the 2008-2009 attacks included "a pattern of firebombing houses on the periphery of villages at night, and then shooting at inhabitants as they attempted to escape the burning house" (Feb. 2012, 66). A 2010 report by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), on violence against Roma in Hungary noted that the number of attacks, as reported by media and NGOs, was approximately 40 (OSCE 15 June 2010, 5). According to US Country Reports 2011, the Pest County Court charged three of the defendants with multiple homicides and the fourth as an accomplice (US 24 May 2012, 35). Further information on this case could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Police Effectiveness

The ERRC notes that state authorities are not effective in responding to violence against Roma (15 Feb. 2012). The Irish Times reports in a 25 February 2009 article that the Minister of Justice admitted that the police force in Hungary is "failing to find those responsible for a growing number of fatal attacks" on Roma.

In a March 2011 report, the ERRC provides information on the progress of 22 cases in Hungary in which Roma were victims of violent attacks between 2008 and 2009, with the following results being observed:

  • In six cases the police investigation was suspended because no suspect was identified;
  • In one case the police investigation was suspended for lack of crime
  • an investigation against the alleged victims for false testimony was opened;
  • In 12 cases prosecution was pending;
  • In one case the perpetrator was convicted, resulting in 11-years imprisonment.
  • In two cases no information was available. (ERRC Mar. 2011, 20)

On the issue of whether the attacks were caused by "base motivation," ERRC notes that in eight of the above cases, racial motivation was ruled out, but for nine of them it was part of the indictment (Mar. 2011, 20). ERRC also noted that one of the cases revealed police misconduct and procedural mistakes during the investigation (Mar. 2011 19).

In a public statement issued in April 2012, AI states that law enforcement officials failed to protect Roma residents of Gyöngyöspata during March 2011 vigilante activities in the village, which included a 2,000 person march by the far-right Jobbik, as well as three vigilante groups patrolling the village for approximately a month, during which they were "threatening, intimidating and harassing Romani residents" (4 Apr. 2012). In its 2012 country report, AI indicates that the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) submitted complaints regarding four Roma cases that occurred in Gyöngyöspata, which involved verbal abuse and attempted physical violence, stating that police "failed to classify the acts as violence against a member of a community" and they also failed to inform the victims of the "relegation of these crimes to minor offences and of the stages of investigation" (AI 2012, 169). The Prosecutor General ordered that the investigations be reopened (ibid.).

4.1 Roma and Police Relations

The UN UPR Working Group report on Hungary notes that the government of Iran stated its concerned with the situation of minorities in Hungary, including the "profiling of Roma by the police, excessive use of force and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, [and] the disproportionate number of Roma children in the juvenile justice system" (UN 11 July 2011, para. 40). The UN Special Rapporteur also noted the racial profiling and abuse against Roma by the police, as well as refusal of police officers to record Roma complaints and imposing "disproportionate fines" when Roma broke the law (UN 23 Apr. 2012, para. 36).

According to Human Rights First, because of cases of police "ill-treatment and discrimination" against Roma, there is a "high level of mistrust of authorities" within Roma communities, which results in "severe underreporting" of racist and violent incidents (Feb. 2012, 2). The HHC also noted that a "large majority of hate crimes are not investigated or reported to the police" (29 June 2012).

Human Rights First notes that police abuse incidents of Roma include arbitrary arrests, misuse of legal procedures and verbal abuse (Feb. 2012, 2). Similarly, the US Country Reports 2011 notes that the HCLU has reported instances of verbal and physical abuse of Roma by police, most "frequently" in Borsod-Abauj-ZemplenCounty, located in the northeast of Hungary (US 24 May 2012, 2).

Country Reports 2011 indicates that according to the HCLU, "members of the Romani community were regularly sentenced for minor offenses, such as collecting firewood or minor traffic violations, that were usually ignored when committed by non-Roma" (ibid., 35).

In a June 2012 article, the ERRC reports on a European Human Rights Court ruling against Hungary for breaking the European Convention of Human Rights in a case where police used excessive force against a Roma woman in Tiszaluc; the Court ruled that the excessive force and the "failure to conduct an effective investigation" after the woman filed a complaint against the police was a violation of Article 3 of the Convention (ERRC 26 June 2012).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 14 April 2011. "Hungarian Police Halts Far-Right Militia's Patrols." (Factiva)

Amnesty International (AI). 4 April 2012. "Document - Hungary: Report into Vigilante Activities in Gyöngyöspata Fails to Address Discrimination." [Accessed 11 June 2012]

_____. 2012. "Hungary." Amnesty International Report 2012: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 19 June 2012]

_____. 8 November 2010. Hungary: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review. 11th Session of the UPR Working Group, May 2011. [Accessed 19 June 2012]

Associated Press (AP). 25 March 2011. Pablo Gorondi. "Trial Begins in Hungary of 4 Men Accused of Deadly Attacks Against Country's Roma Minority." (Factiva)

Council of Europe. February 2012. Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe. [Accessed 27 June 2012]

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 26 June 2012. "European Court of Human Rights Rules Against Hungary in Police Brutality Case." [Accessed 26 June 2012]

_____. 15 February 2012. "State Response to Violence Against Roma." Statement prepared for the US Helsinki Commission Hearing, 15th of February 2012. [Accessed 20 June 2012]

_____. 11 July 2011. Attacks Against Roma in Hungary: January 2008-July 2011. [Accessed 19 June 2012]

_____. March 2011. Imperfect Justice: Anti-Roma Violence and Impunity. [Accessed 19 June 2012]

The Guardian. 21 February 2012. Zoltán Kovács. "Hungary's Positive Role in Helping Roma." [Accessed 19 June 2012]

_____. 28 January 2012. Helen Pidd. "Hungary: Roma Living in Fear as Armed Militias Terrify Village with Message of Hate: Families are Desperate to Leave After Threats, Abuse and Years of Segregation." (Factiva)

Human Rights First. February 2012. Violence Against Roma in Hungary. [Accessed 19 June 2012]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). 29 June 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by a project coordinator.

Irish Times. 25 February 2009. Daniel McLaughlin. "Hungary Failing to Combat Anti-Roma Crime, Says Minister." (Factiva)

MTI (Magyar Tavirati Iroda). 12 April 2011. "Radicals 'Patrol' Town in E Hungary." (Factiva)

_____. 11 April 2012. "Hungary Govt Acts Against Vigilantes, Interior Minister Tells FAZ." (Factiva)

_____. 30 January 2009. "NE Hungary Police Chief Cites Gypsy Stats in Connection with Crime." (Factiva)

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). 15 June 2010. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Addressing Violence, Promoting Integration. Field Assessment of Violent Incidents Against Roma in Hungary: Key Developments, Findings and Recommendations, June-July 2009. [Accessed 26 June 2012]

United Nations (UN). 23 April 2012. Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Githu Muigai. Addendum. Mission to Hungary. (A/HRC/20/33/Add. 1) [Accessed 26 June 2012]

_____. 11 July 2011. Human Rights Council. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Hungary. (A/HRC/18/17) [Accessed 12 June 2012]

United States (US). 24 May 2012. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 21 June 2012]

_____. 19 February 2012. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security.Hungary 2012 Crime and Safety Report. [Accessed 6 June 2012]

XE. 27 June 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." <&lt;http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert/?Amount=50000&From=HUF&To=CAD> [Accessed 27 June 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The following could not provide information for this Response: professor of law at Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), member of Constitutional Court of Hungary, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice Victim Support Department.

The Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa did not reply within the time constraints of this Response.

The following sources could not be reached within the time constraints of this Response: Institute of Roma Civil Rights, National Police Headquarters, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, international lawyer at ELTE.

Internet sites, including: ecoi.net; EUobserver; European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance; European Roma Information Office; European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights; Hungarian Civil Liberties Union; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Hungary - Ministry of the Interior, National Police Service, Ombudsman for Human Rights; International Crisis Group; Factiva; Minority Rights Group International; Rabble.ca; UN - Human Rights Council, Refworld.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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