Discriminated From Little Up
How can Roma adapt and live in a society that is not ready to coexist with people with other skin color
The first signs of settlement of social and political crisis in Ukraine as a result of the completion of the Revolution of dignity and election of a new president, oriented to the pro-European course of development, give Ukraine a chance to become, sooner or later, a full EU member. However, there are a lot of obstacles on the way to Europe. And these are not just ones of a political or economic nature. Of course, Ukraine can join the European Union only after learning to carry out a responsible social and, especially, ethnic policy.
The undeniable fact is that meanwhile national minorities in Ukraine are not ensured with full and living conditions of their communities. Moreover, discrimination by race is still spread in the 21st century in Ukraine, that is, of course, a shameful and unacceptable for a civilized society thing. Ukrainian authorities convince Europe that cases of direct discrimination in the country are isolated and infrequent. However, reality cannot be hidden: the representatives of national minorities in Ukraine continuously suffer indirect from discrimination. And Roma suffer the most (for various reasons, the main of which we are going to consider in this publication).
Anti-Roma attitude as a symptom of an unhealthy society
Despite the relatively small number of Roma in Ukraine, public opinion poll, carried out by the US State Department in 2005, showed that “social intolerance against Roma is higher than against any other ethnic group.” According to a further study, conducted by Kyiv NGO “Tolerance” in September and October 2006, 65% of Ukrainian responded that they “do not want to see Roma as full citizens of Ukraine”, and 40% do not object to eviction of Roma from Ukraine.
The problem is compounded by the fact that anti-Roma attitude in Ukraine is actively promoted by many institutions, including the government, even by the state educational institutions. Since childhood children in Ukraine are taught, that the Roma should be treated with suspicion and hostility. Thus, children are drawn into the division of people according to their cultural and physical differences, children learn to perceive and associate these features with fear, caution and distrust.
The most common folk stereotypes about Roma are transmitted by word of mouth – from parents to children, that Roma mostly are drug dealers, thieves and bandits, lazy, dirty, sick and immoral; occasionally these opinions are expressed on the official level.
The government also distributes anti-Romani attitude in the school system. For example, on page 81 of “Health Precautions Basics”, the textbook for grade 4 of the secondary schools recommended by the Ministry of Education and published in 2004, ‘children aged 10 are taught, what to do when “strangers” appear at the door your home. The illustration accompanying the text shows how white Ukrainian boy looks into the peephole of the door at a girl with dark skin color, who stretches out her hands pleading. An adult, a menacing looking woman, dressed “Gypsy-alike” (scarf, ear-rings and colorful clothing), is hiding, not to be noticed by the Ukrainian child.
This example is particularly acute dissonant with recommendations to Ukrainian authorities from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). The Commission recommends the national government agencies to guarantee, that the issue of combating racism and racial discrimination are included to school human rights lessons. ECRI recommends the teachers to receive initial and additional training on issues related to racism and racial discrimination. Instead, as we see in the textbooks for Ukrainian students, discriminatory anti-Romani behavioral scenarios are presented openly, while this behavior is not something that is not condemned, but rather – recognized as normal and is even encouraged.
It should also be noted, that the printed and electronic media reinforce the anti-Romani racist stereotypes: the Roma people are associated with crime, drugs and general uncertain “risk”. The media in Ukraine often publish material that provokes racial discrimination, causes negative attitude towards ethnic minorities, including the Roma and nurtures the hostile stereotypes in the population in general.
Journalists regularly draw attention of readership to the Roma and numerous examples of the dangerous situations, which they associate with the Roma, they often advise their readers to be as far away from Roma as it is possible, and avoid any contact with Roma.
That’s just one example: one of the Transcarpathian news portals informed about the fact that in areas where Roma live compactly in Mukachevo, the workers of the electricity supply network demounted the electricity supply meters in the homes of locals and set them on poles at a height of 5-6 meters. The portal immediately accused the Roma of stealing electricity. “Rumor has it – the portal journalists write – it is due to the fact, that the camp residents used the electricity not metered.” And then they continued: “From now on the residents of the Roma settlement in Mukachevo have to climb poles to a height of 5-6 meters to get to their electricity metering counters.” It should be noted that the practice of installing electrical energy meters on high poles is widespread in Transcarpathian region, particularly in Mukachevo district. And not only in those localities where Roma live en masse. However, the portal journalists do not write about these cases (when by analogy local Ukrainian or Hungarian can be suspected in stealing electricity)…
The government and the Roma: those who have to defend, but discriminate instead
It is a well known fact: the approach of authorities to the problems of national minorities is a clear indicator of the civilized state and society. In many countries, the national minorities live along with state-nations, when members of other ethnic groups do not have their national state and national-territorial formations. The minorities, which live in these countries as well as in Ukraine, are historical an integral part of society and enrich it with their work, identity and culture. Ensuring their rights is one of the main principles of civil accord in society.
In Ukraine the situation is far from ideal. Extraordinary level of anti-Roma trends, practice of human rights violations against Roma and general tolerance for such actions result from the fact that the attitude towards the Roma as to the outcast has been never seen by the government of Ukraine as a violation, despite the ten-year long efforts of civil society to force the government to do so. The attention to the rights of Roma in Ukraine still remains to be an informal activity, despite the acute problems.
This opinion is shared not only by the European analysts who study the situation in Ukraine. And not only by the representatives of non-governmental organizations, who offer practical help to victims of discrimination. The Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Ukraine agrees with this. In a special report on “The observance and protection of rights of national minorities in Ukraine” (2006) the Ombudsman notes: “The appeals of the minorities indicate problems in observance and protection of human rights and freedoms by the public authorities of Ukraine, local governments and other officials, their inattention to complaints of minorities, the substantial resolution of issues”
Many experts are inclined to believe that the problem of discrimination against the Roma by the authorities and local government appears extremely sharp and has not been solved yet because the Roma minority is practically not represented in the government. At the same time, the representatives of the Roma community have expressed their concern that they are unable to participate in public life. Studies have shown, that a lot of Roma are interested in this issue: 55% of respondents expressed a firm intention to influence decision-making by local authorities, public administrations, national and regional councils and executive bodies; 59% are aware of the need to participate in the work of NGOs; 62% recognize the importance of participating in elections.
It can be stated, that the complaints of minorities to the state and local authorities are a kind of indicator of quality of performance by officials of their duties. After all, establishing and ensuring human rights and freedoms in Ukraine is the main duty of the state (Article 3 of the Constitution of Ukraine). And if the country allowed the massive violation of the rights of citizens of different nationalities (as confirmed by the first monitoring conducted by the Commissioner), the Ukrainian government takes this duty unsatisfactory “- said the Ombudsman special report “On observance and protection of rights of national minorities in Ukraine “.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance notes in its recommendations to the Ukrainian government, that the legislation should prohibit discrimination by any public authority, person or entity, in both the public and private sectors and in all spheres of life, including employment, membership in professional organizations, education, training, housing, health, social protection, public services, economic activity, access to goods and services, access to public places. And what is the real situation of the rights of national minorities in Ukraine now – the details come further.
Using their impunity, public officials allow themselves to give people the “runaround” just because they have a different skin color. One high-profile examples of discrimination of Roma in public administration, namely strategic business, has been held for almost half a year by the lawyers of the Charitable fund «Progress» regarding one Mukachevo Roma, who tried to get at least some kind of document that would testify to the fact of his existence.
And the first document was the decision of the Mukachevo City Court, which established the fact of birth Forkosh Iurii Iurievich, a representative of the Roma minority. To lawyers Charitable fund “Progress” helped get the document; one of their offices is located in the Roma settlement. With the court decision, Forkosh Iu.Iu. addressed a statement to the state department of civil registration for state registration of the fact of birth and issuance of a birth certificate according to the court decision.
The Registry Office denied the appeal of Forkosh Iu.Iu., as in the case when the person is 16, the state registration of birth can be made only with a passport and according to the procedure of renovation of the documentary records of civil status. Of course, Forkosh Iu.Iu. had no passport, because that was the first time when the registration of his birth was held.
The lawyers of the Fund had to prepare a following petition to the court. On December 4th, 2013, the Transcarpathian District Administrative Court issued a resolution which ordered the department of Civil Registry in Mukachevo to register the fact of birth YY Forkosh a court decision and issue a birth certificate. However, representatives of the registrar again say no to JJ Forkosh and recommended to contact the migration service at the place of residence for a temporary registration certificate or certificate that establishes its identity. Without presentation of one of these documents the birth certificate issue is impossible.
Only after the Transcarpathian District Administrative Court issued a writ of execution to enforce the judgment and enforcement proceedings, the decision was made. The department of civil registration in Mukachevo recorded fact of birth of Forkosh Iu.Iu. and issue the birth certificate. A year and six months lasted after his first appeal to the Charitable fund “Progress”.
If that would not have been the Roma person instead of Iurii Forkosh, the issue could be resolved without the courts and executive orders. Obviously, the Department of the Registry office have just decided to show their superiority. And that unwillingness to comply court decisions and rulings allows us to assert the fact of discrimination. After all, who, if not employees of the Department of Justice, know, that there is no punishment for discrimination. And the execution of the court is absolutely reasonable – the Constitution of Ukraine is the main law of Ukraine, which is prior to all the “subordinate acts.” The fact that in Mukachevo the internal documents are treated with more respect than the Constitution of Ukraine, once again confirms that discrimination in Ukraine is allowed.
The robbery of the population, ruthlessly and unpunished
The combination of inadequate legal framework, lack of punishment of criminals, inactive administrative and managerial sectors, expressing the racial hatred and promoting racism; community police, which performs an active role in human rights violations, including against Roma, creates an open space for almost unpunished humiliation of others.
Here are some examples of racially motivated violence against Roma that occurred in the Carpathian region in recent years. On April 19th, 2006, the Roma Alberta Conde was attacked by a group of 6 people near his home in Uzhgorod. The attackers demanded his money or valuable things, and when he refused to pay, they started beating him with metal rods and sticks. The victim tried to escape, but his attackers caught him and beat him near his home, saying: “You dirty Gypsy, if you do not pay to us, we will destroy everything here.” Sylvia Fontos heard screams of Conde, ran to help him, but she was also attacked by one of the robbers, he struck her head with a glass bottle. Later more people came running to help and to stop the attackers, so they got into the car and drove off. Many children from the village saw the attack, including children of Alberta Condo. The lawyer of the victim filed a complaint in the police office, but the investigation was stopped.
The following story happened in 2012 at a warehouse in the city of Mukachevo. Several Roma children, 8-12 years old, entered the private area to find something of “metal profit.” The guards noticed the intruders and instead to arresting children and call for backup, they used force against children. And not just force – they were armed with metal rods as if they were attacked by the gangster groups. As a result, children got multiple fractures of the arms and legs, some got unconscious and were hospitalized. One of the doctors said about the child: “They brought a bag of bones.” Do you think anyone was punished? Of course not!
The lawyers of the Charitable fund “Progress” provided parents legal aid, helping to make relevant documents (statements to police requests for information, and so on), but with fear and complete lack of faith in justice, the parents decided not to sue and one of parents have written refusal for some thousand Ukrainian money. Thus, in this crucial time the agreement was set by means a bottle of vodka. The main motivation of parents was: “All the same, always the Roma remain guilty. Now we at least have money, otherwise they would take children to the colony”.
Police are not able to protect Roma from violence. When such events occur, the police, prosecutors and jurisdictions refuse to help the victims. This has a long tradition. Only few similar cases received an adequate reaction. The European Roma Rights Centre, for example, reports that it does not have a single case where the guilty ones for terrorist actions against the Roma would be appropriately punished.
“Although the current law allows you to take effective measures to prevent violations of the rights of national minorities, the reality shows that law enforcement agencies not use them. – stresses the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights of Ukraine in his report “On observance and protection of rights of national minorities in Ukraine.” «That is why the Ombudsman is strongly convinced in the necessity of a fundamental approach to the prosecution of persons who violate the rights of minorities.
When the Hippocratic Oath does not work
Many of the problems related to health care for Roma in Ukraine, are directly related to the extreme poverty in which they live, the most of them. In the study of current problems faced by members of this minority, a survey was conducted of officials for public health across the country, during which it turned out that the overall situation with the health of the Roma, who mostly live in places of “compact living” is extremely bad. This is mainly due to poverty in which they live, poor nutrition, low level of hygiene and housing that does not meet the requirements to stay in it.
Only 50% of Roma respondents said in the previously mentioned study that they have enough to eat every day, 31% of respondents said that from time to time during the month they are malnourished, and 15% reported that, on average, once a week they may not have food at all. In some regions the situation is different. Paradoxically, however, in some cities where the average income is more than that of Roma who live in rural areas, people regularly suffer from hunger or are undernourished. In Uzhgorod, for example, according to the study, about 70% of these minorities are regularly malnourished.
Many Roma also face a serious risk of gastrointestinal illnesses through the use of unclean water. According to the study of the Institute for Social Research Ukraine, only 32% of respondents reported having water in their homes, 20% use groundwater for cooking and drinking.
Roma are denied access to many services (including health) and even the opportunity to get “financial tips” from relevant officials. A low wages and poor working conditions for officials, including doctors, teachers and civil servants, have created conditions for widespread shadow economies in many sectors. In health sector, the doctors usually seek for compensation for the low pay of their work and often resort to unconventional therapies to earn extra money or refuse to treat those who are unable to pay for it.
Racial discrimination by persons who provide medical services, confirms the existing “de facto” expulsion of Roma from the circle of those who apply for medical services rendered. They also relate in particular to the fact, that there are often long distances between Roma and health institutions.
In one case, in February 2005, lady M. T., a pregnant Roma woman, was almost killed because of the negligent medical intervention of the gynecologist from Chop Transcarpathian region. On February 1st, the woman came to the hospital for examination because she did not feel well. After a review, the gynecologist told her that she is really pregnant, advised her to terminate the pregnancy and did not have children in the future, saying: “You gypsies should not multiply like cockroaches.”
Since the woman had a small period of pregnancy, the doctor decided that there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy in sterile surgical conditions. So the doctor started operation immediately in the same office, where the survey was conducted. The doctor refused to make any preliminary assessments or tests before surgery and continued even after the patient started complaining of acute pain and asked the doctor to stop. Only when M.T. began to bleed, the doctor realized that she made a mistake, and immediately sent the patient to a local hospital where three surgeons had been rescuing her for three hours. When the woman’s condition stabilized, gynecologist offered her family money (hryvnia equivalent of less than 10 Euro), so they did not submit a complaint. A criminal and civil case was set against the hospital and the doctor, however M.T. suddenly refused to continue the investigation.
In other case, discovered during ERRC research in 2004 in Uzhgorod, doctor refused to treat a Roma woman newborn child who fell ill and had fever. The mother, who lived in the large Roma settlement in the suburbs, had no phone, she contacted doctor with the help a friend, asking him to come to her home to see the baby because it is too ill to go anywhere. A doctor said to the friend: “I will not go there. Say [the mother] that she can come to me when her child dies. ” Two weeks later the child died, and the woman, totally desperate, went to the doctor to tell him personally that her baby died. The doctor gave her money (hryvnia equivalent of 12 euros) so she could pay for the burial of the child.
As a result of discriminatory refusals to treat the Roma, as well as the reasons stated above, the health of most Roma people is worse than that of non-Roma communities. Health state, including cardiovascular disease, stress and infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, common in the Roma community, is extremely low and there is no effective government policy, which could change the situation. Moreover – the state does not work to widely implement this policy, or even launch a highly specialized (medical, educational, housing and utilities, etc.) programs for Roma.
Without education – no chance in life
In Ukraine, for members of the Roma minority education is in deep crisis, which deepened and deprives Romani youth any chances in case it will not be taken seriously and there will be no immediate action to change the situation. A whole generation of children is growing and preparing for adulthood so that in the future they have very little chance to escape poverty, social marginalization.
Direct refusal to accept Roma children to schools and (or) elite schools is a well known and common practice in Ukraine. There is no appropriate documentation for this problem, because the Ukrainian government never determined the size and nature of this phenomenon.
The refusal of school administration to accept Roma children to secondary schools – sometimes on their own initiative, sometimes due to pressure parents of other nationalities – is that Roma children learn occasionally or permanently in special schools. For example, there are 20 fully segregated Roma schools in the Transcarpathian region only. Most of them are located in old buildings without facilities that have secondary schools: have no playgrounds or gyms, cafeterias or dining rooms, equipped with a minimal set of school furniture and supplies, textbooks, books, learning materials, toilets are located on the outside, there is no water.
In addition to the fact, that Roma children are studying in inadequate and segregated schools, other critical thing is the total absence of Roma students who have had secondary education. This is partly a consequence of the segregation of Roma children, and the result of inactivity of administration of secondary schools, that do nothing to solve the problem. According to the data, obtained by the Institute of Social Studies of Ukraine, about 50% of Roma children do not regularly attend school.
One of the key problems of education for Roma children is the lack of opportunity to attend pre-school. Sometimes the reason is connected with the internal factors specific to the Roma community – such as lack of transport to take the children to kindergarten, lack of money to get the special devices, misunderstanding of parents of the importance of visiting of pre-school educational institutions by their children. Also, often the result of discriminatory factors – such as pressure from non-Roma parents of children on the administration due to the fact that they do not want their children to study together with Roma, as well as the reluctance of teachers to teach Roma.
Roma children without preschool education, entering high school, are unable to quickly get used to the learning process. Lack of basic skills, which are laid in the classroom in pre-school education, and lack of knowledge of the Ukrainian language, lead to the fact that children are unable to pass the enter tests, they just do not understand what they want. The state does not provide for the education sector any additional resources or capacity to train special teachers, who would be able in such a critical situation to provide specialized training for children of members of this minority, which would have aimed to raise the level of basic education of Roma pupils to the level of their Ukrainian peers.
In other circumstances, Roma children go to schools, where they traditionally have problems in the learning process because they lack training and language skills like their Ukrainian peers in preschool education.
Note an interesting point: in its report on “Observance and protection of rights of national minorities in Ukraine” the Ukrainian Ombudsman notes, that in the Transcarpathian region education system, the structure, the network of preschool, general secondary schools and extracurricular fully meet the educational needs of minorities. However, the Commissioner drew attention to the fact that the particularly acute problem in the province is providing education to Roma children.
“The vast majority of Roma have low level of general education. More than 68% of Roma families have many children. About 65% of Roma school children come into early marriage – before the age of 16 years. Generally in the region only 14.5% of Roma have secondary education, 83.7 – lower secondary education, 0.3 – get special education and only 0.1% – the higher one. Only about 30% of children are regularly attending school. Roma schools do not have proper training, material and technical base, canteens, gyms, libraries, resulting in unstable function of extended day section”- such a disappointing conclusion was made by the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights.
Discrimination in the media
According to the monitoring of Ukrainian Internet media on hate speech and the level of ethnic tension among the population against members of the Roma minority in Transcarpathian region, which was held by the Charitable fund “Progress” in 2014, xenophobic calls for aggressive action against Roma, insults and contempt against them are typical for commentators on the Internet. This negative phenomenon can be combated only by law.
Reading the comments under news and publications on the subject of Roma, one can clearly see, that myths about Roma people, formed for centuries, have not disappeared. Instead, additional “Details” have overgrown, and, in addition, many are new born. Of course, they are all very negative. This behavior and style of expression on the Internet has long been studied and classified by researchers. This – the so-called hate speech – is the systematic application of speeches aimed at identifying aggression directed at a person or group of people because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation.
Perhaps the worst thing the media that makes for Roma – it constantly stresses their nationality in criminal news. Such emphasis usually is not done on other nationalities. That is, you are unlikely to encounter a message like “Ukrainian of Russian origin robbed the house”, but the title “Gypsies stole hatch” are always there in the media. At the time, the Interior Ministry, under pressure from human rights activists, banned a police press-service to refer to the nationality of the offender by reporting criminal information. Some authors have found a way out of this “embarrassing” situation. They started to use the word “swarthy” to still stress – a crime was committed by Roma.
Difficulties with restoring order xenophobic utterances on the Internet lies in the lack of legislation regarding Internet resources. Thus, news sites are still not legally media, and therefore not a subject to the laws governing the media. Meanwhile, in Europe there has been a punishment for the images in the virtual world for a long time. European Court of Human Rights insists on responsibility for the contents of comments held by the owners and staff Internet site. Moreover, in case if the moderators do not control the comments and do not remove them in case of offensive content.
But at the household level attitude to Roma is even worse – there is direct discrimination of Roma, because people in their hatred are not even stopped by their official duties, so to hide their true attitude is not necessary. In a situation of Roma myth about tolerance is completely false.
Skin color as a hindrance to the interview
Most experts are unanimous in the opinion that the low level of education of the Roma population is the “root of evil”, the main cause of deprivation and misery representatives of this minority. An uneducated person would not be able to defend their rights or to counter illegal actions of officials or law enforcement or find decent paid work. According to information provided by the partners of the European Roma Rights Centre, most employed Roma are employed in jobs that do not require high professional skills, often – it’s seasonal work in agriculture and construction industries, they collected scrap metal and are working in the service sector – barbers, marketers.
The vast majority of them do not have a permanent job. The percentage of unemployed among Ukrainian Roma is very high. Congress of Roma of Ukraine provided information that about 90% of this minority does not have a permanent job. And according to the European Commission against Racism, only 38% of Roma are employed, while only 28% work full time. Unequal access to employment puts Roma at a serious disadvantage in the labor market, indicating the long-term effects of discrimination in employment. Ukrainian authorities with European partners reported that they did not feel like the Roma suffer from discrimination in employment.
According to the Commissioner, “one of the main problems in employment of minorities, there is insufficient knowledge of Ukrainian law, ignorance of the language or manifestations of nationalist prejudice and political bias of some officials.” Part of the problem of Roma unemployment is indeed associated with low educational level of many of them. High rates of illiteracy in the Roma community is the reason that Roma simply do not have access to information about where and how to find a job.
However, low level of education is an effective cover for racial discrimination in the labor market. The final obstacle in the way of employment for the Roma in Ukraine is their skin color, ethnic origin and other signs of ethnicity, which are featured for their stigmatization and branding as outcast. Stereotypes about criminals, as well as seing the Roma as lazy or incompetent workers, do not contribute to employment of representatives of minority.
Field survey conducted by European Roma Rights Centre and its partners identified racial discrimination as one of the major factors of failure of Roma in the labor market. Today, the Ukrainian government has not taken effective measures to combat racial discrimination in employment. Lack of registration and residence for Roma created additional factor that prevents them from getting a job in their place of residence, as well as anywhere in general. Until recently, employment has been directly linked with the legal nuances of residence. By the time the amendments were made to the articles of the Criminal Code in 1997, alleged employer had to check registration of a potential employee before hiring him. Amendments to the Labour Code were introduced that year, which deprived potential employers need to focus on residence permit, but the impact of the harsh practices of the past is still tangible.
The chances of Roma women to get a good job are even worse than men ones. In addition to the obstacles in the form of racial discrimination, employers discriminate against them even according to their sex. Most Roma women have to agree to work for lower pay than men if they were offered something.
At the same time, the European Roma Rights Centre reports, that there is not a single case, when the Ukrainian government acknowledged that racial discrimination prevented employment of Roma in Ukraine.
All life – under suspicion
Another problem that is often faced by Roma in Ukraine – a prejudice based on racial stereotypes relation to representatives of the minority of the whole system of law enforcement. When Roma are victims of crime, they are totally devoid of protection by law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions. When addressing complaints and statements to the police, law enforcement officers often do not believe Roma or do not take measures to conduct the investigation under those claims.
Anti-Roma attitude in Ukraine, the existence of stereotypes about Roma criminals, lack of effective and viable means of legal assistance or other forms of protection, are leaving Roma completely vulnerable to officials of law enforcement agencies. Moreover, often pre-trial cases in which Roma are suspected based on the presumption of their guilt, which has racial roots.
In 2003-2006, the European Roma Rights Centre and its partners have collected evidence on the incidence of physical violence against Roma suspects when police charged their iniquity in the absence of evidence, and thus thought to obtain confirmation of his suspicions. In the absence of direct or indirect evidence, police frequently used measures of physical violence and psychological pressure to force suspects to sign confessions of guilt for crimes they did not commit.
Frequent use of racist lexica while cases, in which Roma are suspects, is another indication that racial prejudice is an active component of police investigative procedures. In some cases, the use of standard methods of investigation when considering these types of cases as petty theft, of which the Roma are often accused, is also physical abuse in the course of the inquiry, so that defendants admit their guilt.
Prejudice by law enforcement officials and the judiciary is a barrier faced by Roma in understanding their access to equal rights and equality before the law. On the other hand, Roma community is more controlled by law enforcement authorities than others. Frequent and regular contacts with hostile police increases the vulnerability of Roma and the use of illegal (often – physical) punishment against them, often without proof of their guilt.
Even the Ombudsman appeals to the police to protect discriminated Roma do not give results. Thus, on May 20th, 2000, policemen of Chop Municipal Police Department brutally beated the Roma H.Rostana. He was forced to confess to the theft of a bicycle. Having received a confession from an innocent man, he was sent home, where his wife had to call the “fast” aid, since the condition of the man was very serious.
According to the surgical department of the central hospital of Uzhgorod, H.Roshtan had injuries: bruised chest and left shoulder, blunt abdominal trauma. However, the criminal case on this fact was denied by prosecutors Transcarpathian region. In July 2000 Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine on this occasion, then, on July 28th, 2000, according to the Deputy Attorney in the Transcarpathian region I.Kaushan, the refusal to investigate the case was canceled because previous investigation was carried out superficially. But on December 8th, 2000 a criminal case was again closed “for the lack of evidence” because even after 6 months in the investigation was “proved”, that H.Roshtan received alleged injuries through “a fall from a bicycle.”
By the way, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has not just recommended, and “urged” the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the police misconduct against members of the Roma community to punish those who were found guilty. ECRI also recommends that the authorities ensure that direct contact between Roma organizations and all stakeholders of criminal justice system to address the problems faced by Roma communities in their relations with the police and other law enforcement agencies. That is just great doubt that the government will listen carefully to these recommendations. Here’s why.
For whom and why the law does not apply
Existing Ukrainian laws are not sufficient to adequately protect against racial discrimination and punishment for such actions. This gap in the law was repeatedly noted by international observers. They focused on issues related to the lack of comprehensive legislation to combat discrimination, procedural problems and lack of access for victims of discrimination to meet their requests and appropriate compensation.
For the first time ERRC emphasized these points in the Annual Report on Ukraine in 1997. In 1999, the US State Department stated that the judiciary and the government have failed to ensure compliance with the conditions of equality enshrined in the Constitution. In 2001, the UN Committee on the Prevention of Racial Discrimination (CERD) made a study of the Ukrainian legal field and, having found the inadequacy of existing regulations and legislative measures to combat racial discrimination, developed specific recommendations to the government of Ukraine.
In particular, the Committee notes that the national legislation does not contain enough items to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic or national origin in accordance with the requirements of the Convention. The Committee recommended that the government should take all possible appropriate measures at the legislative level to ensure the full requirements of the Convention reflected in national legislation. The
Committee emphasizes the importance of the existence of appropriate measures of punishment and responsibility for actions related to racial segregation and discrimination both when they are committed by individuals or groups.
The lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation as a logical enhancement to the existing, but obviously insufficient criminal, civil and administrative restrictions, procedures and legal means to protect the rights, is a key factor that determines the current status of the implementation of the principles established by relevant international legislation on racial discrimination, the Law of Ukraine. It should also be noted that comprehensive civil and administrative regulations about racial discrimination in areas such as education, housing, access to social security and civil and contractual relations between individuals and / or other entities are not available, while there is no effective mechanism for their realization or recovery.
Today there is a clear absence of any stipulated by law opportunities to identify cases of racial discrimination by the community or certain individuals, and to establish criminal responsibility for such incidents in a wide range of industries that, nevertheless, fall under the international regulations aimed at protecting the human rights. In addition, Ukrainian law does not clearly state responsibility for discriminatory actions, if not individuals – businessmen, institutions and, most importantly, the public sector, which should also be responsible in case of acts of racial discrimination.
Still unclear is the answer to the question: what are the responsibilities and penalties for accused of discrimination. Administrative and criminal liability, according to Ukrainian laws, could mainly be incriminated to individuals, but there is no transparent legal basis for the application of any penalties to legal persons.
Today, the cornerstone of the prohibition of racial / ethnic discrimination in Ukrainian legislation, beyond the responsibility according to paragraphs of Constitution of Ukraine, is a Criminal Code. Article 161 warns of criminal liability for violation of the principle of equality for racial, national or religious grounds. Article 67 identifies racial, national or religious hatred as special aggravating circumstances. However, these warnings are not effective mechanisms of protection because they contain many essential clauses that do not give guarantees to obtain proper satisfaction to victims of discrimination and in practice few victims of discrimination could obtain legal protection, based on this legislation.
Irrefutable fact: people, who have been discriminated against in Ukraine, must overcome many barriers and obstacles to reach the examination of their complaints in court. State financial support in cases of victims of discrimination is virtually absent. In the Ukrainian government, there is no structure that took care to provide assistance and support to victims of discrimination – representatives of national minorities in the consideration of their cases in court. In addition, complicated, prolonged and often ones taking place in an atmosphere of hostility, the trial procedures can also be considered as an obstacle in the creation of justice in such cases. All these factors pose serious obstacles for Roma when they have a need for legal protection in racial discrimination.
Today, thanks to the program “Roma of Ukraine”, International “Renaissance” Foundation, there are advocacy centers in some areas, that provide Roma free legal assistance. In the city of Mukachevo issue of free primary and secondary legal aid is engaged in “Mukachevo Rights Center”
Currently in Mukachevo supported by the International “Renaissance” Foundation, the UNDP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark that created a local target program to provide free primary legal assistance to residents of Mukachevo. This gives hope, that in 2015 the system of legal assistance will become operational with the assistance of the local budget; that will enable members of vulnerable sections of the population, in the absence of their financial capacity, to receive professional legal assistance and legal advice free of charge, promptly and in full and will enable residents of Mukachevo, and especially the Roma, to implement their constitutional right to free legal aid.
By Oleg Grigoryev
PS: The centers of legal information and advice that provide free legal aid to Roma people working with the support of the “Roma of Ukraine“, International “Renaissance” Foundation. To learn more about the activities of a network of centers, foundations and principles of work visit the website www.legalspace.org under “Legal Empowerment of Roma communities.” The views in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the International “Renaissance” Foundation and other civil, religious and political organizations and individuals.