Hungary’s National Police force has been accused of discrimination in targeting Roma citizens for trivial fines. NGOs have sent a letter to the police commissioner, who denies the allegations, asking for a working group to study the problem.
Six Hungarian NGOs have addressed the chief commissioner of Hungary’s National Police in a letter requesting the investigation of the discriminatory practice of fines targeting Roma people. The police chief has thus far refused to cooperate with the NGOs.
Disproportionate and extreme fines
The organizations that sent the letter, including HCLU, continue to receive complaints from citizens of Roma origins concerning their subjection to disproportionate and extreme fining practices by police officers. Cases collected by the Roma Press Center have recently gained publicity.
According to the complaints that have found their way to the civil society organizations, police officers have explicitly targeted Roma people in many communities, fining them for trivial misdemeanor charges, typically related to traffic violations and mostly concerning bicycle transportation, which the non-Roma population, although equally liable for such infringements, are often not fined for.
According to the NGOs, this practice is ethnic profiling and violates the right to equal treatment of the Roma citizens being targeted.
The police chief claims that ethnic profiling is not applied in fining practices, and therefore refuses to cooperate with the NGOs in setting up a working group. In a subsequent letter, the NGOs reacted one by one to each argument made by the police chief to refute the charge of discriminatory fining.
The NGOs keep urging the police chief not to reject the idea of establishing a working group in order to improve fining practices and respect for the right of equal treatment. After all, the point of the cooperation between the police and civil society is precisely to investigate and discuss problematic cases in a factual manner.