Testimony on the situation of Roma in Hungary by the European Roma Rights Centre

For consideration by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Helsinki Commission

The situation of Roma in Hungary

Human rights NGOs have consistently reported that Roma in Hungary are discriminated against in almost all fields of life, particularly in employment, education, housing, health care, and access to public places. Yet government representatives maintain that the problems faced by Roma relate to their economic and social difficulties, rather than racism and prejudice against Roma in Hungary. A similar view of the Hungarian authorities has been noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in its report following a mission to Hungary.

In January 2013, following a complaint initiated in 2005 by two Romani people represented by the Chance for Children Foundation and the ERRC, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary violated the European Convention on Human Rights in a case challenging the segregated education of Romani children in a special school. The Court underlined that there was a long history of wrongful placement of Romani children in special schools in Hungary and that the State must change this practice. The Court concluded that ‘positive obligations incumbent on the State in a situation where there is a history of discrimination against ethnic minority children’ would have required Hungary to provide necessary safeguards to avoid the perpetuation of past discrimination or discrimination practices.

State response to violence against Roma

In Hungary the European Roma Rights Centre examined the progress in 22 known cases of violence against Roma. In these incidents seven people died, including a five-year old boy, and a number of individuals were seriously injured. Ten Romani homes were set on fire with various levels of destruction. Guns were involved in 10 of the examined cases and in two cases hand- grenades were used. Out of the 22 attacks, nine, resulting in six deaths, are believed by police to have been committed by the same four suspects who are currently on trial.

Police misconduct and procedural errors were documented during the investigation of one of the violent crimes against Roma, as raised by NGOs and later confirmed by the Independent Police  Complaints Committee and by the Head of Police. Misconduct by the National Security Service was also found.

In the majority of the cases examined, the information provided by State authorities was inadequate. Where information was provided, limited results of investigation and prosecution were revealed. In several cases information was not provided by the authorities, who cited data protection and criminal procedure laws.

The Hungarian government does not systematically monitor racist violence. Police, prosecutors and court officials are reluctant to consider racial bias motivation as an aggravating circumstance to crimes: it is not explicitly included in the Criminal Code (only “base” motivation is included). Hate crimes are dealt with as a separate legal provision but are not linked to other crimes.

In Hungary, there are no specific protocols or guidelines developed for police and prosecutors on how to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. In addition, there is no systematic monitoring of racist violence, or the collection of data disaggregated by ethnicity about the victims of crimes. There are no reliable statistics on the real number of racially-motivated crimes in Hungary: according to available statistics the number of cases investigated under the hate crime provision of Hungary’s Criminal Code is extremely low.

Law enforcement abuse against Roma

Following an incident in 2010, the ERRC and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union represented a Romani woman in domestic procedures and before the European Court of Human Rights. In June 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary had violated the European Convention of Human Rights in a case of police violence against a Romani woman.

In its judgment, the European Court found that there had been a substantive and a procedural violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment). The Court concluded that the police used excessive force during the incident, and that such use of force resulted in injuries and suffering of the applicant, amounting to degrading treatment. The Court also noted that no internal investigation or disciplinary procedure appeared to have been carried out within the police force concerning the appropriateness of the police action. The Court also found that no adequate investigation had been carried out into Ms Kiss’ allegations. However it rejected the claim of discrimination (under article 14), finding there was no evidence of discriminatory conduct by the police. Anti-Roma demonstrations and statements Romani individuals and communities continued to be victims of intimidation, hate speech and various violent physical attacks throughout the last two years. The ERRC’s non-exhaustive list on Hungary includes eight attacks in 2012.

Paramilitary groups have been marching and organising demonstrations in Hungarian villages since 2006. In spring 2011, paramilitary groups marched and patrolled, particularly in the Hungarian village of Gyöngyöspata, harassing and intimidating Romani communities. Members of the organisation patrolled the town, where they prevented the Romani residents from sleeping by shouting during the night, threatened Roma with weapons and dogs and followed them every  time they left their houses, unimpeded by local police. Human rights NGOs raised concerns and called on State authorities to take immediate action. During these unlawful actions Romani women and children were relocated due to the threat of violence. As a result of racial harassment, and due to stress, a Romani woman in her eighth month of pregnancy delivered her baby early and needed to be hospitalised. The incidents have been reported by the US State Department in its Hungary Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011 alongside other incidents.

Similar far-right movement activities continued in 2012, when several demonstrations were organised in Devecser, Cegléd and Miskolc. In Devecser pieces of concrete and other missiles were thrown at Roma houses, and one female activist was injured. In an open letter to the Hungarian Minister of Interior and the National Chief of Police, three Hungarian NGOs expressed their concern about the violence in Devecser, stating that by not dispersing the demonstration, the police failed to ensure the rights to freedom, equality and security of the local inhabitants. The Ministry and the police responded by saying they considered the police intervention in Devecser had been adequate.

Incitement to hatred is a common occurrence in Hungary. One of the latest examples was the publication of an op-ed in the Hungarian daily newspaper Magyar Hírlap on 5 January 2013 by a leading journalist and co-founder of the ruling FIDESZ party, calling Roma “animals” that “need to be eliminated” “right now by any means”.   This kind of inflammatory language is especially dangerous in Hungary. Bayer was initially criticised by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tibor Navracsics; Navracsics later defended Bayer, saying that he could not imagine that Bayer seriously thought what he said in his article. Key senior figures in the government, e.g. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and the Minister with responsibility for Roma issues, Zoltán Balog, did not officially condemn the racist article by Bayer on behalf of the Hungarian Government.

In response to the incident, the ERRC joined with a coalition of Hungarian NGOs in asking domestic companies and Hungarian divisions of multinationals to take a stand against racist commentary in Hungary. The NGOs have asked, among others, Vodafone, T-Com, FedEx, IKEA and Procter and Gamble to reconsider advertising in Magyar Hírlap.

To date seven companies have said they will no longer place advertising in the Hungarian newspaper that published the extreme anti-Roma statements. Erste Bank blacklisted Magyar Hírlap after the NGOs’ call, and expressly brought it to their media agency’s attention to “act more prudently next time” when dealing with the publication of their advertisements. They also emphasised that the bank will not advertise in any media whose content “hurts the dignity of others, or uses an inflammatory tone regarding any minority, ethnicity, or religious group”. The leaders of CIB Bank said that the CIB Group will refrain from advertising in Magyar Hírlap and its portal “until the editorial staff categorically condemns Zsolt Bayer’s writing and ensures that both publications are free from writings that include hate speech”. IKEA, FedEx, and GDF Suez also distanced themselves from the article, and stated they do not plan to advertise in the online version of the newspaper in the future.

On March 15, 2013, a national holiday in Hungary which is also the “Day of Hungarian Freedom  of Press” the Hungarian Government awarded the journalist Ferenc Szaniszló the “Táncsics Mihály” award and honoured him as the “journalist of the year in Hungary”.  Mr Szaniszló is infamous for spreading Jewish conspiracy theories and describing the country’s Roma minority as “human monkeys.”

The award was given for “extraordinary journalistic achievements” and was presented by the Minister of Human Resources, Zoltán Balog, who is also in charge of integration of Roma. Balog claimed that he did not know who had received the award, but still handed it over to Szaniszló. Balog later distanced himself from the views of Szaniszló.

Recently, Canadian authorities launched a billboard campaign in Miskolc, Hungary, to deter Romani asylum seekers. The majority of Hungarian Romani asylum-seekers to Canada originate from this town. The billboards around the city stated that “Canada’s refugee system has changed” and that “Asylum claims are evaluated within weeks instead of years”. The billboards further cautioned the public that “Applicants with unjustified immigration claims are sent home faster”.

A side effect of the billboard campaign in Miskolc has been the aggravation of the hostile atmosphere that Romani people have to face every day. The Mayor of Miskolc Ákos Kriza (member of the governing party FIDESZ) stated that, “Miskolc will not welcome back repatriated Roma refugee claimants arriving from Canada”.  A couple of days after his appearance on national television, Mr Kriza announced that he will “keep the criminal elements out of Miskolc by checking whether any of the people who left for Canada also took advantage of social assistance from the city or the central government.” He claimed that he had already found five people who were ineligible and who thereby committed a crime. He got in touch with the police. He will do everything to prevent “these criminals from settling in the city. Moreover, criminals currently residing in Miskolc will be driven out by the authorities.” He even threatened returning Romani parents that the authorities would take their children away and place them under state supervision.

After the campaign in Forró (near Miskolc) anonymous anti-Roma graffiti appeared on houses calling on the Roma to “go to Canada”.

Suggested questions to the Hungarian Government:

Does the Hungarian Government keep detailed data on the number and type of racially motivated crimes committed against Roma, and in particular Romani women, as well as information on prosecutions? Please supply detailed information.

  • What measures have been adopted to bring the Hungarian criminal legislation in line with international standards on investigating and prosecuting hate crimes?
  • What professional training and capacity-building activities have been implemented for law-enforcement, prosecution and judicial officials dealing with hate crimes?
  • What measures have been adopted to ensure that access to counselling, legal assistance and justice for victims of hate crimes is explored, in co-operation with relevant actors?



  1. Győr Calling!

    I think this testimony misses a trick in demonstrating how ‘institutionalised’ ant-Roma sentiment is in Hungary – even in Parliament.

    They should have read your blog, Eva, about Ágnes Osztolykán, the Roma LMP member who suffered inappropriate treatment by peers at the very heart of government.

    Pity that.



  2. Győr Calling!

    O/T – sorry!

    Eva, please would you consider an entry on your blog as to what your testimony might have been had you been asked to testify at the Helsinki proceedings?

    I think we could all offer our top three suggestions, if you wished – ending with a most powerful document.

    Of course, we won’t all agree! But the final decision is yours of course.

    Maybe it might even make Helsinki!

    Why not?



  3. Not really OT. THe German journalist are reporting that the Hungarian Government tries to censor criticism coming from foreign news outlets about Hungary. Not only that but the Hungarian ambassadors try to interfere with the work of foreign journalist when it comes to Hungarian news. “Hungarian lobby groups are putting pressure on the directors of German and Austrian broadcasters. The Budapest correspondent of ORF was confronted with private emails that the Hungarian authorities apparently intentionally intercepted.”

  4. Canadian Italian Frech governments have also anti-roma attitude! They hate romani people! They are not democratic countries! British pm. David Cameron don’t want to open the borders before the Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants, because many of them belong to the romani minority!
    Wake up people and fight against racism and segregation!

  5. From Forró at least one Roma family went to Canada not because they wanted to escape from persecution but escape from Repayment of loans. And you can read a lot of articles what was the real reason of these “escape”. The money, nothing else. The escape was coordinated by a few Roma families emigrated from Hungary to Canada few years before. From the house where I previously lived in Budapest a Roma family also emigrated to Canada in the mid-’90s. But they – especially the head of the family – was persecuted by the authorities but far from that ‘cos he was Roma. He was a pimp. And the “girls” greeted the “guests” in that flat. The man was connection with the Száva-family, too. The Száva-family was one of the biggest and strongest maffia family in Hungary during the ’90s.
    And this last one:
    “Elég lett volna egy jó szó vagy egy kis sikerélmény, hogy megfelelően tudja kezelni a környezete reakcióit, de aztán úgy döntött, hogy ha ennyire akarják, meg tudja mutatni, mi a különbség egy cigány és egy magyar között. Családja jelentette az első nagy próbát a rendszerváltás utáni rendőrségnek, nevüket azonban néhány éve már nem csak az alvilággal összefüggésben hallani. Száva László először a Heteknek meséli el pálfordulása történetét…
    …Egy népes borsodi családból származom, Ózdról…
    …Mikortól vált a Száva család professzionálisan megszervezett alvilági tényezővé?

    – Öcsémmel eleinte csak a diszkókban szereztünk hírnevet, a bátyáim pedig bent a sitten. Miután kijöttek, mindketten disszidáltak Kanadába, és átmentek az Egyesült Államokba is.”

    And these “emigration coordinating” families held many people in slavery, seized in their social aid, passport.
    Three years ago:

    Just look at the table down there:
    the increase in emigration started during the Gyurcsány period!!

    And after Canadians change the policy at last the most roma families had to come back to Hungary.

    “During these unlawful actions Romani women and children were relocated due to the threat of violence.”
    It is a simple lie.

    “But on Tuesday evening, right-wing Hungarian radicals struck again. According to the news service MTI, three people were injured in fights between right-wing radicals and Roma in the village. Seven people were arrested.”
    The three people was attacked by more than 70 armed Romas. The three one “only” provoked the Romas, and the Romas went to kill.

    And this “testimony” tells nothing about the terror by Romas against non-Romas.
    And moreover tells nothing about the facts that 6 Romas were killed during the previously reigned left-liberal Gyurcsány- and Bajnai-govermenst. And no one were killed during Orbán-goverment.
    The extreme-right wing also became stronger during the Gyurcsány period. And Gyurcsány did nothing against them because the strengthening of extreme-right wing was his political target.

    Series of articles of the background:

    Origo.hu is not “close friend” of Orbán-government.

    This “testimony” is biased and the editors of it are liars. They tell lies and silent about the most part of the story. As Gyurcsány – I think – said: “I partly explain the truth.”

  6. Is racist crime that a lot of prostitute is Roma in Amsterdam? Or it is not because the pimps also Romas? And the traffickers are also Romas? Or is it only me who is racist because I wrote it down?

  7. tomtyi :
    Is racist crime that a lot of prostitute is Roma in Amsterdam? Or it is not because the pimps also Romas? And the traffickers are also Romas? Or is it only me who is racist because I wrote it down?


  8. Fight against racism! :
    Canadian Italian Frech governments have also anti-roma attitude! They hate romani people! They are not democratic countries! British pm. David Cameron don’t want to open the borders before the Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants, because many of them belong to the romani minority!
    Wake up people and fight against racism and segregation!

    They are not anti-roma. THey are anti-abusers of the system. I meet at least half dozen Hungarians in Canada who had no romani blood in them and they were abusing the system. (Stealing credit cards, and dealing with drugs!) ARe you telling me that no “pure Hungarian” abuses the system, only the Roma? Give me a break.

    tomtyi :
    From Forró at least one Roma family went to Canada not because they wanted to escape from persecution but escape from Repayment of loans.

    I know many Hungarian non Roma family who came to Canada to escape crimes committed in Hungary. SO would you say, all Hungarians are criminal

    tomtyi :
    Is racist crime that a lot of prostitute is Roma in Amsterdam? Or it is not because the pimps also Romas? And the traffickers are also Romas? Or is it only me who is racist because I wrote it down?

    Do you know this from your own experience?(f.y.i. in Amsterdam being a prostitute is not a crime. Pimping is.)
    Are you saying that all the others are non-Roma? Are you saying that many prostitutes are white women?

  9. @Mutt

    “SO would you say, all Hungarians are criminal”
    No, I wouldn’t. But did I say all Romas were criminals? And if you don’t understand: far not most of the Romas went to Canada because they were persecuted by anyone. But all of them stated this him- or herself.

  10. I looked for the first article of this blog. And I realized that no longer interested in anymore this blog.
    So be careful, and goodbye.

  11. tomtyi :

    I looked for the first article of this blog. And I realized that no longer interested in anymore this blog.
    So be careful, and goodbye.

    I’m glad because I don’t want any Roma bashing on this blog.

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