In 2008 and 2009 Roma in central and eastern Hungarian villages were subjected to a string of petrol bomb attacks and shootings which claimed six lives, including that of a five-year-old child, and seriously injured five other victims.
”The Hungarian authorities have a duty to prevent discrimination and ensure justice for victims of hate crimes. This includes the obligation to investigate whether or not racial and ethnic hatred or prejudice played a role in these and similar attacks,” Nicola Duckworth, AI’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director, told a news conference in Budapest on Wednesday.
Although Hungarian law criminalises incitement of hatred and racist crimes, the related laws are not enforced appropriately, in part because of inadequate police capacities for recognising and investigating such crimes, she said.
The director blamed the authorities for failing to take steps to prevent anti-Roma violence.
She emphasised that police officers should receive appropriate training on the nature of hate crimes. Citing a 2005 report, she noted that hate-crime training focused on the cultural features of the Roma community and “Roma crime” rather than on racially motivated and cimes committed against Roma.
Duckworth also blamed police for their failure to collect detailed data broken down by ethnicity on hate crimes, a shortcoming that prevents the recognition of trends and the drafting of effective programmes.
The Ministry of Public Administration and Justice rejected some conclusions of the report, for instance, it denied that Hungarian authorities were unable to defend the threatened communities.
The ministry said that the suspected perpetrators of the anti-Roma murders in 2008-2009 had been arrested and prosecuted. It blamed the state’s “weakened capacity to protect its citizens” on previous governments.
The ministry emphasised authorities’ commitment to investigate all crimes, irrespective of whether they have been committed against the Roma or non-Roma.