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Hungarian Rights Groups Denounce Anti-Romani Statements by Hungary’s Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights
On 2 April 2009, Dr Máté Szabó, Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights, stated in an interview with the online news portal FigyelőNet, amongst other things, that “criminality categorised on an ethnic basis” – “Gypsy crime” – exists, identifying it as a type of crime performed to earn a living. He also referred to Roma as being “a collectivist, almost tribal level social group,” comparing them to the individualist Hungarian society. Furthermore, Dr Szabó stated that the attention of the majority society should be drawn to the existence of this specific criminal profile; he also presented himself as the Parliamentary Commissioner of the majority in contrast with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities – thus openly suggesting that he does not regard himself as a representative of members of the Roma minority.
These statements, indicating that the Parliamentary Commissioner presumes a direct connection between ethnicity and criminal acts, are irreconcilable with the prohibition of discrimination as defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Hungary. The statements are discriminatory and harm the dignity of members of the Romani community.
A statement issued later by Dr Szabó held that the title of the article in which the interview was published misrepresented his statements, even though the above statements are unacceptable and can and should be interpreted on their own, regardless of the title of the article. The Parliamentary Commissioner also did not withdraw his statements. Therefore, the signatories consider that Dr Szabó continues to regard them as valid.
It is the duty and obligation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights to secure the constitutional rights of all individuals and groups who come into contact with the institutions of the Republic of Hungary, regardless of whether they belong to the majority or any minority group in society. In light of the above quoted statements, the signatories believe that Dr Szabó is no longer able to fulfill the function of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights with credibility.
Chance for Children Foundation (CFCF)
European Roma Rights Center (ERRC)
Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI)
Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Romani Civil Rights Foundation