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Bias against Roma and Sinti
OSCE participating States recognized the danger of ethnic hatred targeting Roma and Sinti as early as 1990. Anti-Roma rhetoric, including that focusing on "Gypsy criminality", can be perpetuated in the media and by political actors. EU enlargement, coupled with Roma marginalization, have led many Roma individuals and families to seek better conditions and opportunities elsewhere through migration, often encountering negative reactions in destination countries or areas. Successive ODIHR annual hate crime reports have presented a range of hate crimes targeting Roma. Assault, property damage and murder, involving the use of explosives, firearms or Molotov cocktails have featured in these reports. Among the particularly worrying incidents reported to ODIHR have been arson attacks against Roma homes.
More recently, Ministerial Council decisions in Maastricht (2003), Athens (2009) and Kiev (2013), as well as the Astana declaration (2010) have reconfirmed the need to combat violence against Roma and Sinti and urged participating States to step up their efforts in this regard.
A number of factors suggest that the reported data provide only a fragment of the overall picture of hate crimes against Roma and Sinti. While some participating States record anti-Roma hate crimes, these may not be disaggregated in their statistics and, instead, be included under the heading of racist and xenophobic hate crimes. In addition excessive force against or ill-treatment of Roma, including, for example, in the course of evictions or during stop-and-search actions by the police, can contribute to a lack of trust in the authorities. This, combined with a lack of means and knowledge on the part of Roma communities to monitor and report hate crimes means that these are likely significantly under-reported.
In its fifth report on Montenegro, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) commended the improved protection of Roma people against hate crime but observed that LGBT people remain at high risk of being targeted. ECRI recommended that the authorities introduce a coherent system for recording hate crimes and collecting data and that they scale-up the training of criminal justice personnel and ensure that this training specifically addresses the identification of hate crimes. ECRI also recommended that the authorities provide clear instructions to the police about how to investigate hate crimes.
In a letter to Prime Minister of Romania, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe observed that police violence against Roma people remained a concern, as attested to by the number of such cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
In its fifth report on Ukraine, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) commended Ukraine's progress in investigating hate crimes and introducing specialized police officers. ECRI also noted the need to step up efforts to end racist violence against LGBT and Roma people. ECRI recommended that an independent investigative body be set up to address allegations of racially-motivated misconduct by the police, and that protected characteristics should be added to all relevant hate crime provisions in the criminal code, particularly sexual orientation and gender identity.
The European Court of Human Rights, in its judgment in the Skorjanec v. Croatia case, addressing a physical assault on the wife of a Roma man, explicitly stated, for the first time, that people can still be victims of hate crime by association, even if they do not carry the targeted protected characteristic.
In its report on the fundamental rights aspects in Roma integration in the EU, the EU Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs called on Member States to investigate and prosecute hate crimes motivated by bias against Roma and Sinti, and to set up specialized police anti-hate crime units with the necessary knowledge of Roma and Sinti issues.