Amnesty International calls on Hungarian government to enhance protection of minorities

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 5th of November 2011   Source: MTI

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Hungary is and has been firm to take steps against criminal acts with racist motivations, the state secretary in charge of government communications said on Friday, in response to Amnesty International’s demand that the government should better protect minorities.


Zoltan Kovacs told MTI that Hungary does not tolerate racist crime and the government had, for instance, prevented paramilitary marches. He added that Hungary, as EU President in the first half of this year, had succeeded in putting Roma issues onto the agenda and expected to be the first EU member state to develop its national Roma strategy.


The European Directors of Amnesty International (AI) have asked the Hungarian government to take steps to provide adequate protection against discrimination and racist violence directed at all vulnerable minorities, especially Roma communities.


The 27 directors, who gathered for their biannual forum for the first time in Budapest from Wednesday to Friday, asked the government to provide “adequate protection equally” to all people in Hungary.


In a press release sent to MTI, the directors noted that it had been almost a year since AI had published its report entitled “Violent attacks against Roma in Hungary” that “highlights the shortcomings of the Hungarian criminal justice system in identifying and addressing hate crimes, in particular racist violence that mostly affects Roma people in Hungary.”


Since then the events at Gyongyospata and at some other locations have demonstrated that the systemic problems identified by the report of Amnesty International “have yet to be addressed”, the directors said.


Gyongyospata in eastern Hungary was the flashpoint of friction between radical nationalists and the local Roma community which developed in March and April.


The government issued a decree in April designed to penalise civil guard activities conducted without prior approval by the police or feigning a right to act as a keeper of public order.


Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said in June, after visiting the village together with US Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, that police must get proper training to be able to handle ethnic conflicts.


AI noted in its release that the government had pledged to support several recommendations in Hungary’s Universal Periodic Review to more effectively identify and address hate crimes and racial violence.


These recommendations, among others, include establishing a plan of action to prevent racist attacks, and the introduction of professional training and capacity-building for law enforcement and judicial authorities to identify and address racially motivated crimes, the press release said.


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