Outrageous police reaction to crimes against the Hungarian Roma

Today’s topic is the Hungarian police’s decision not to investigate the attack on a Roma family in Devecser, one of the villages that earlier fell victim to the red sludge that covered acres and acres of land around a factory producing aluminum. I didn’t deal with this specific incident except as one in a series of anti-Roma attacks by far-right groups during the summer of 2012. However, here is a description of what happened on August 5, 2012 from The Economist. “You are going to die here,” shouted members of a 1,000-strong march as they stopped at houses they thought were a home to Roma, hurling their water bottles and stones to emphasize their point.” The Economist also mentioned that “not a peep of condemnation [came] from Fidesz.”

Ever since that time the Hungarian police have been investigating, taking their sweet time trying to ascertain whether a crime of incitement against the Roma minority occurred in Devecser. One would think that it shouldn’t take a year to come to the conclusion that inciting a crowd to kill people is a crime. But it seems that in Hungary it takes the police a year to decide the opposite. The police in Veszprém county announced a week ago that they found that no crime had been committed and they therefore stopped the investigation. According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union, it was a clear case of incitement and there was a good chance that the court would hand down a verdict against the neo-Nazi groups present in Devecser. But the Hungarian police prevented that from happening.

Before the attack on houses of Gypsies several extremist leaders gave speeches in which they called on their audience to kill the Roma. How else can one interpret such a sentence as “we must stamp out the phenomenon; we must exterminate it from our Lebensraum.” According to the Criminal Code, this kind of incitement against an ethnic group is a serious crime that may result in three years of jail time. Moreover, as a result of these speeches the crowd actually went on a rampage. The Gypsies under siege feared for their lives.

Marching toward to Roma houses in Devecser, August 5, 2012

Marching toward to the Romas’ houses in Devecser, August 5, 2012

How can the police explain dropping the investigation for lack of evidence? According to them, the person “who incites doesn’t address the intellect but appeals to primitive instincts which may result in possible action.” In their opinion, the utterances in this case “did not contain intemperate, antagonistic statements that may induce maleficent action.” What could be heard from the leaders of these extremist groups, according to the police, may be offensive to the Roma population and morally reprehensible, but these extremists cannot be punished by the instruments of the criminal justice system.

Organizations involved with human rights cases decided to appeal the case. One group, called Tett és Védelem Alapítvány (Action and Defense Foundation), will appeal to the Constitutional Court. The president of the Foundation told members of the media that in the last nine months he himself reported 28 cases involving incitement against minority groups but they were all ignored by the police. A day later, however, we learned that there will be an investigation into the case of a member of the far-right crowd in Devecser who, most likely unintentionally, hurled a rock at a Jobbik member of parliament, who as a result suffered a slight head injury.

Meanwhile another case emerged that sheds light on the thinking of the Hungarian police when it comes to hate speech and incitement against minorities. One of the speakers in Devecser was Zsolt Tyirityán, leader of the Army of Outlaws. On October 23, 2012, he delivered another speech in Budapest; this time the targets were the Jews. He vented his hatred of certain Jews who “should be put into freight cars and taken a good distance away and put to work.” The Tett és Védelem Foundation again demanded a police investigation of this incitement case, but the Budapest police refused to investigate. The reasons? One was that this speech is still on YouTube because not enough people complained about the speech’s content. Otherwise, YouTube would have removed it. And the second was that one cannot talk about incitement when “the whole audience shares the speaker’s ideology .” In this case we “should rather talk about agreement of the participants.” So, it seems that according to the Hungarian authorities one can speak of incitement only if not all listeners agree with the speaker. 168 Óra, which reported on the bizarre police rationalization for not investigating, gave the following title to the article: “According to the police one can deliver a Nazi speech before Nazis.”

But don’t fear, the Hungarian police are quite ready to act when it comes to members of national minorities. An organization called Roma Közösségi Hálózat and several other Roma groups staged a small demonstration in front of the Ministry of Interior after the police refused to investigate the Devecser case. The man who organized the demonstration was Jenő Setét, a Roma activist. There were only about 30 people present, who kept repeating the slogan: “The police shouldn’t assist the Nazis.” The final result was a misdemeanor charge against Setét.

It is my impression that Hungarian policemen, who were somewhat constrained during the socialist-liberal administrations, now feel empowered to act aggressively, sometimes illegally, against ordinary citizens and minorities, especially Gypsies. I have been collecting evidence to prove my point and in the near future will give some examples of what I mean.

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40 comments

  1. Hitler had the Jews, Orbán has the Roma.

    All the things we thought, two or three years ago, couldn’t happen in Hungary “because it isn’t Nazi Germany in the 30s” are gradually starting to happen.

  2. I think there are quite a few Jobbik/Garda sympathizers among the police force. And it is also possible that some extremist groups are actively trying to infiltrate the police.

  3. The police will assist the Nazis, simply because so many Hungarians are so hateful toward their minorities. Fidesz as well as Jobbik of course have used them as their scapegoat for so long, that the people, business owners, police, and government will not support them in any way. The governments do not want to take responsibility for failing economy etc. so it is simply easier to have the people blame the minorities for the lack of things. I also believe there is a strong emergence of Nazi ideology once again in Europe and no one seems to want to put a stop to it. I am afraid that the “ethnic cleansing” may occur once again. Until Hungary and Hungarians take responsibility for their racism, the attitudes will not change.

  4. The sad fact is, Hungarian police don’t solve problems, they create problems. Most Hungarians are reluctant to call the police under any circumstances. Anyone who does is playing with fire.

  5. First, the police force is quite racist, probably more so than the general population, which is also racist.

    Secondly, more importantly, elections are coming.

    It is more important than ever to show that the police and the government serve the orderly majority and not the roma.

    Especially in the Fidesz heartland, which is rural Hungary. Don’t forget this fact because these events rarely happen in Budapest, for a bunch of reasons. In rural areas, however, if Fidesz wants to prevail over Jobbik, it must act decisively against the roma.

    The roma (well, rural poor) will anyway sell their votes to Fidesz (as we saw in Baja, where the coopted roma association Lungo Drom organized busing and wholesale vote purchasing), so it’s part of the deal, they can be kicked into too for that money.

    The romas should organize themselves but they don’t do anything. Lung Drom which was originally set up for the sole purpose of co-opting the Romas is just one example of this passivity phenomenon, I mean how passive Lungo Drom can be dispite all what is happening with the roma?

    Did you know that Ernő Kállai was actually the deputy ombudsman for minority issues until as recently as mid-2013? Well, he did not utter a peep in the last 3-4 years so he was well-chosen for the job.

    Until the roma get organized by real leaders they will suffer. It’s a pretty big incentive, yet nothing’s happening. But if they are content with that, then good luck with that. (Same with the majority, it seems we are ok with Orbán, lots of criticism, but people actually like him, he is one of us right? Likes football, like sausage, hates the banks and that is enough for most.)

  6. Louis again at its very best …

    Deportation of the Roma ?

    Where would Hungary send them ? Any idea, little loonie Louis ? They’ve been living in Hungary for how many generations ?

  7. On Sunday I was at Keleti and happened to witness the police harassing the few blacks that were there and all the Roma in the station. They didn’t bother anyone else.

  8. @Paul

    1.
    Navracsics & Martonyi said a few soothing words to gullible foreign Jewish audience.

    By government decision, the Holocaust memorial year of 2014 will be organized by Laszlo L. Simon, whose most famous poem includes an obscene expression about Jewish women.

    http://magyar-irodalom.elte.hu/prae/pr/200206/24.html

    The other organizer will be Maria Schmidt, who became rich after the death of her Jewish husband Tamas Ungar. She is the director of the “House of Terror” where there is ten times as much space dedicated to the Hungarian victims of Communism than the hundred fold more numerous victims of the Horthy era. She also made several statements I considered blatantly anti-Semitic.

    2.
    Orban dedicated a sculpture to Horthy’s longest-serving premier, Istvan Bethlen (April 1921- August 1931) in a prominent square at the Royal Castle yesterday.

    At least, Bethlen was not a Nazi. But he supported the “numerus clausus” (discriminating against Jewish students) in the 1920’s, enacted under premier Pal Teleki in 1920. When the law was “eased” in 1928 to calm Western European concerns, he reassured the anti-Semites, that the modified law will assure that the number of Jewish students would no go significantly higher. And this is how it happened.

    He also re-introduced mandatory open, i.e. non-secret voting in the countryside.

    Orban must have learned this from Bethlen: placate the West by non-substantial changes in your legislation, then continue with your anti-democratic way of governing.

  9. wiwewiw :

    Did you know that Ernő Kállai was actually the deputy ombudsman for minority issues until as recently as mid-2013? Well, he did not utter a peep in the last 3-4 years so he was well-chosen for the job.

    That’s is actually wrong. Kállai lost his job shortly after Orbán won the elections. There is no more ombudsman for minorities. Moreover, Kállai was quite active while in office. He did a good job.

  10. “Hungarian policemen, who were somewhat constrained during the socialist-liberal administrations, now feel empowered to act aggressively, sometimes illegally, against ordinary citizens”

    There’s no real change here, for better or worse – just ask Tamás Bodoky, editor-in-chief of Átlátszó.hu, about how “constrained” policemen were during the socialist-liberal administrations.

  11. While Ernő Kállai lost hos job as a fully-fledged ombudsman for the minorities, he stayed on as a deputy ombudsman in the new system until 2013.

    He decided to stay and elected not to say anything, which is quite strange, after all being in the media is perhaps the strongest power of an ombudsman (although now the right to initiate a constitutional court review is the most important, though the court is just a bunch of Fideszniks).

    Mr. Kállai is a decent enough person, it is true, he is just not an ombudsman type of personality, but this is how the government politicians prefer it. Jenő Kaltenbach was also a very weak minority ombudsman before Kállai, but I mean which politician would want another László Majtényi?

    http://www.ajbh.hu/zh_TW/korabbi-biztosok;jsessionid=5B6F54DE5ECCEB22D673B77D85903AC4

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130912_Szabo_Mate_tavozo_ombudsman_interju

  12. wolfi writes: “Deportation of the Roma ?

    Where would Hungary send them ? Any idea, little loonie Louis ? They’ve been living in Hungary for how many generations ?”

    To wherever they lived 3000 years ago to their holy land. They don’t have the right for their homeland???

    BTW I did not make the comment per se because of the deportation issue, but only for comparative democracy issues. You guys see if it occurs in Hungary and denigarate Hungary for it,, while ignoring when it happens in one of your favorite ” western democracies”.

  13. Here is another government takeover.

    There is [another] strange thing in Hungary. To the best of my knowledge, it is legal to download books and music, but it is illegal to install downloaded software.
    (Please correct me, if I am wrong) I do not know the legal status of downloading movies.

    In return, a self-governing association of musicians (ArtisJus) collects money on each hard drive, pen drive or SD card sold.(There is a holographic stamp on each pieces of data storage sold legally in Hungary) They then distribute the money among their members.

    Here is the latest royalty schedule:
    http://artisjus.hu/_userfiles/file/felhasznaloknak/aktualis_jogdijkozlemeny_u.pdf

    For instance, if you buy a 1 TB external hard disk in Hungary that costs $80 net, you pay $22 in VAT to the government, plus an extra $10 to ArtisJus.

    Now the government has decided to take away 1/4 of the royalties the self-governing associations collect in the future. That is about 3 billion forints a year.

    Fidesz and Jobbik voted together for the measure yesterday.

    index. hu/kultur/2013/10/07/az_nka_olcsobb_mint_az_artisjus/

  14. This is a blog about Hungarian affairs – not about all the evil things in the world …

    Btw, where did Hungarians live 3000 years ago ? Should they be sent there ?

    PS:

    That French politician got a lot of flak for their ideas to send the Roma back – of course you have these types in every country, but in Hungary they seem to rule without constraints …

    PPS:

    You really should look this up: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/
    This can also be called “Kindergarden Logic” – the other guy did something similar last week, so why am I being punished ?

  15. There are so many seemingly blind people all over the world.
    Or uneducated?
    If we start rearranging the world, let us start by listing the most corrupt, criminal secular and religious leaders of Hungary?
    For example the list of FIDESZ, JOBBIK, KNDP ministers and members who had a nice carrier under Kadar, and are living in cozy denial nurtured by the orban team.
    Where can we send them? Those great Hungarian liars?

  16. Tyrker :

    “Hungarian policemen, who were somewhat constrained during the socialist-liberal administrations, now feel empowered to act aggressively, sometimes illegally, against ordinary citizens”

    There’s no real change here, for better or worse – just ask Tamás Bodoky, editor-in-chief of Átlátszó.hu, about how “constrained” policemen were during the socialist-liberal administrations.

    I’m not saying that they were angels then. Oh, no! But I noticed a worsening of the situation. But it is also possible that the left-liberal media reports the cases more frequently than before and since the perception. I noticed the same thing with domestic violence too. Practically one is reported every day.

  17. wiwewiw :

    While Ernő Kállai lost hos job as a fully-fledged ombudsman for the minorities, he stayed on as a deputy ombudsman in the new system until 2013.

    He decided to stay and elected not to say anything, which is quite strange, after all being in the media is perhaps the strongest power of an ombudsman (although now the right to initiate a constitutional court review is the most important, though the court is just a bunch of Fideszniks).

    You are right but I’m not sure whether he was allowed to do anything directly. Maybe only through the office. Possible that his complaints never reached the public?

  18. A bit OT re the Hungarian police:

    Their image is really bad and it also seems that they are quite ineffective. Of course I can’t tell whether that’s a management problem but we find it really strange that there are not more traffic checks for example.

    There are so many crazy drivers around (much more than say in Austria and Germany) – using their phones, driving much too fast etc …

    Even the very simple rule “Lights on 24 hours!” isn’t followed by a large proportion of drivers – it would be very simple to just stop them and make them pay but nothing is done…

    PS:

    My wife used to say that there is not enough money for gas in the police’s coffers – but I can’t really believe that …

    And I won’t tell you the jokes about policemen that she knows …

  19. @wolfi
    Re: traffic accidents & police

    I disagree with the “lights on during daytime” policy. Lights can blind ongoing cars.

    Differences between US and Hungary

    1. You never pay a fine on the spot to the police in the States. That would be considered an attempt of bribery.

    2. In the States, you can go in front of a judge and dispute the traffic fine the policeman gave you. I convinced the judge that it was impossible for the policeman (who was also present in the courtroom) to measure my speed with good enough accuracy, so the judge lowered my fine.

    3. There are “turning lanes” in the middle of the roads – these prevent most frontal accidents.

    4. Instead of the confusing “right hand rule”, there is a full stop to everyone at a crossroads. The first arriving will have the right to proceed first.

  20. Interesting news from the appeal court in Miskolc this afternoon. In a case very similar to the Sajóbábony case covered by Prof. Balogh in her post on 2nd October the court reduced this verdict to disorderly conduct from the original racially motivated attack on a community. This would put their prison time to practically zero, as they have been inside since their arrest. This case related to an attack on a car with skinheads in it cruising in a Roma neighbourhood in Miskolc very soon after the Tatárszentgyörgy murders in March 2009.
    http://index.hu/belfold/2013/10/08/felmentettek_a_miskolci_romakat_a_rasszista_vad_alol/

    While reading it, I was wondering if the judiciary is not actually affected by the approaching elections and the increasing international pressure reaching Hungarian courts? Or perhaps there are a few decent, honest judges left in the appeal courts, even in Miskolc?
    In the same article they suggest that the Sajóbábony case will probably end up in Strasbourg according to TASZ and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

  21. “You guys see if it occurs in Hungary and denigarate Hungary for it,, while ignoring when it happens in one of your favorite ” western democracies”.”

    I don’t usually feed the trolls, but this sort of ‘logic’ really gets me ANNOYED.

    It doesn’t take a brain the size of a pea to realise that if there’s something wrong somewhere, it’s wrong. Period. It doesn’t matter in the least how many other places are also wrong, even if they are even more wrong.

    Your house is burgled. You call the police. The police arrive, look at the damage and assess what’s missing. Do they then say “sorry, mate, there’s places on the other side of the city who’ve been burgled much worse than this, think yourself lucky”?

    By all means spam and troll, but do it with at least a passing acknowledgement of basic, simple, LOGIC.

  22. To Tappanch’s points concerning traffic rules in the United States. I agree with everything he said except perhaps the lights which by now is part of every car here. It is not a full light. As soon as you start the car it automatically comes on. In rain or darkness you still have to put up your proper lights.

    As for right-hand rule, I am also convinced that most of the accidents in Hungary are caused by it. Indeed, in the States and in Canada there are full stops at crossroads without traffic lights. But, I’m sure, someone in Hungary would say that for one reason or other it is impossible to introduce it in Hungary.

    The only time I was fined by a policeman (actually he was a state trooper) I decided to argue my case. I was fined unjustly and on top of everything else he was rude. I was waiting for my summons. It wasn’t coming. They never called me. I have the feeling that this guy was notorious and both the judge and his own superiors knew it and saw no use of me coming there and telling them what happened exactly and why I don’t want to pay the fine. I would have won the case.

  23. Paul :
    Hitler had the Jews, Orbán has the Roma.
    All the things we thought, two or three years ago, couldn’t happen in Hungary “because it isn’t Nazi Germany in the 30s” are gradually starting to happen.

    Ahh, the cleverness of Viktor–he’s such a Felcsutian!

    Generally, Viktor has several reasons for most things he does–he’s such a slip-sliding, huckster. In this instance, anti-Roma activity serves to take the spotlight off the anti-semitism that is rampant in the society not to mention the constabulary.

    The ‘B’ reason is to distance Orban–himself–from those vile rumors of his Roma roots. (His psychiatrist, if we could but contact him, would have a lot to say about that.)

    The ‘C’ reason is to endear himself to the ever-growing wild, right wing of the electorate. You can’t go wrong in the countryside attacking the Roma.

    There are probably more, and viable, reasons, but I won’t trouble myself further trying to follow the ins-and-outs of the great Felcsutian mind.

  24. re traffic rules in hungary

    actually around heviz even in the smaller villages you always find right of way traffic signs for the main roads, so there is nary a situation where two roads cross on the same level, i e right before left. this is true even for the dirt roads crossing

    ps
    sorry for the spelling, one of my hands is in the famous black heviz mud, that is supposed to be good for arthritis – says my wife …

    pps

    the economist has a scathing comment on the visit of king viktor to the queen of england – sorry only mr cameron …
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2013/10/hungary-and-britain?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/viktor_goes_to_london
    really fun to read that.

  25. Paul writes: “Your house is burgled. You call the police. The police arrive, look at the damage and assess what’s missing. Do they then say “sorry, mate, there’s places on the other side of the city who’ve been burgled much worse than this, think yourself lucky”?

    This has nothing to do with the issue. In this blog either Dr Balogh or the commenters cite that for one reason or another Hungary is not able or capable to “fit into” the western democracies for one reason or another. It looks like that that type of comparative denigration is perfectly acceptable to the acolytes. When it is used in the reverse case then the personal name calling immediatley begins. I am used to it by now, but I am puzzled why are you guys living there if you hate everything that goes on there? Let me assure you, your tiredes do not convince anyone that what you spread is true. If anything, you strongly influenced my thoughts to dislike your heros evermore and certainly convinced me of the total lack of your debating abilities.

  26. Louis Kovach :
    I am puzzled why are you guys living there if you hate everything that goes on there?

    They hate everything that goes on there because they are living there. Unlike you …

  27. Louis, get it into your thick head:

    Fidesz is not equal to Hungary!

    You should remember: Just 53 % of the people who voted gave their votes to Orbán and his henchmen …

  28. Louis Kovach :
    Paul writes: “Your house is burgled. You call the police. The police arrive, look at the damage and assess what’s missing. Do they then say “sorry, mate, there’s places on the other side of the city who’ve been burgled much worse than this, think yourself lucky”?
    This has nothing to do with the issue. In this blog either Dr Balogh or the commenters cite that for one reason or another Hungary is not able or capable to “fit into” the western democracies for one reason or another. It looks like that that type of comparative denigration is perfectly acceptable to the acolytes. When it is used in the reverse case then the personal name calling immediatley begins. I am used to it by now, but I am puzzled why are you guys living there if you hate everything that goes on there? Let me assure you, your tiredes do not convince anyone that what you spread is true. If anything, you strongly influenced my thoughts to dislike your heros evermore and certainly convinced me of the total lack of your debating abilities.

    I’m not sure it’s only the logic of debate that Louis is missing – as his ‘answer’ appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with the bit of my post that he quotes!

    Louis – exactly which bit of my post didn’t you understand?

  29. wolfi writes: “Fidesz is not equal to Hungary!”

    Exactly, therefore stop denigrating all of Hungary and the “Hungarians” when you dislike something that Fidesz does!

  30. Louis, you’re really just a troll!

    There’s a link to a report on an exhibition in Austria about the problems of the Roma in Hungary in German:http://derparia.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/hetze-gegen-marika-schmiedt-widerstandige-roma-positionen-werden-kriminalisiert/

    For those who can’t read German here some info in English:http://art-leaks.org/2013/10/03/hungarian-ambassador-intervenes-against-anti-hungarian-art-exhibition-in-linz/
    and http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/10/ban-art-targets-far-right-says-hungarian-ambassador/
    The reaction of Fidesz politicians is again like louis’: This exposition is anti-Hungarian!

    The essential point of the expo is of course that the artist Mrs Schmiedt is Romani herself …

    The highlight is of course that picture of the “Gypsy Salami” with Orbán’s picture on it – that provoked ugly reactions among Fidesz henchmen …

  31. I forgot again that two links aren’t allowed here in one comment without moderation, so here is the core of my last comment again:
    http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/10/ban-art-targets-far-right-says-hungarian-ambassador/
    The essential point of the expo is of course that the artist Mrs Schmiedt is Romani herself …

    The highlight is of course that picture of the “Gypsy Salami” with Orbán’s picture on it – that provoked ugly reactions among Fidesz henchmen …

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