|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY CENTRAL COUNCIL OF GERMAN SINTI AND ROMA
The Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, briefed correspondents at Headquarters today on the civil rights movement of the Sinti and Roma minorities in Europe.
During the press conference, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Germany, Mr. Rose said that, in an effort to end racism against Roma and Sinti minorities, an appeal would be directed at the United Nations in connection with the 25 January opening of an exhibition at Headquarters detailing the little known experience of the Roma during the Holocaust.
There had been a recent series of human rights transgressions in Europe against the Roma and Sinti, he added, which had largely gone unnoticed by the international community. In 2005, the European Union Monitoring Centre on Anti-Semitism had declared that no other groups in Europe were more vulnerable than the Roma and Sinti. Hate propaganda against Roma and Sinti, as well as against Jews, on the Internet was increasing at an alarming rate.
Last year, he said, the European Court of Human Rights had condemned Bulgaria and Romania for their failure to prosecute serious violations of human rights and murders directed against those minorities. The feeling such actions engendered were exacerbated when the authorities identified an accused criminal as a member of those minorities.
When asked to distinguish between Sinti and Roma, and who in Europe were called “Gypsies”, Mr Rose said that “Gypsy” was a term used by “outsiders”. The ethnic group itself preferred “Roma”, which was used throughout the world. The term Sinti came from some of the Roma people, who traced their origins to present day Pakistan, specifically to an area named Sint. The Sintis had been living in Europe for approximately 1,000 years, he added.
In response to whether there were other countries besides Romania and Bulgaria that discriminated against the Roma, he said that there was rampant discrimination against them, particularly in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In a report by the United States Department of State, there was mention of racism committed by law enforcement members, police and military in Slovakia; and of two recent incidents, in which the European Court of Human Rights had sentenced police officers. There were also incidents involving Roma women being sterilized in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Such discrimination still existed in Germany, as well.
Asked whether acceptance into the European Union should be used to root out some of those issues, Mr. Rose said that the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma would like to make democratic principles and human rights the basis of membership for Bulgaria and Romania. He added that examples of discrimination in those and other countries included the erection of the wall on Maticni Street, separating Roma from other Czechs in the town of Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic, as well as considerable problems in the educational sector, where a large percentage of Roma children were taught at so-called “special schools”, known for much poorer facilities and worse teachers. Also troubling were the dire living conditions for many Roma, which were comparable to those of developing and lesser developed countries. On a positive note, however, Hungary had made a conscious effort to improve the conditions of the Roma and translate some of the legal principles of the European Union into practice, he said.
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