Gyöngyöspata: Government Fends Off Responsibility

The opportunity for the government to make good on the mishandling of events and its series of mistakes in Gyöngyöspata has come and gone. It failed to condemn politicizing and operations based on the theory of collective criminality and it also failed to lay blame on the right-wing political party Jobbik for inciting hatred against the Roma minority.

Instead, the government made the reasoning of Jobbik its own and it is more worried about its international reputation, while clearly, any government is judged upon its own actions and failures.

Counting on the findings of the Committee to have nothing to do with assessing failures on behalf of the government, the HCLU compiled a Shadow Report on the events in Gyöngyöspata for the first substantial session of the Committee.

The HCLU’s Shadow Report and the Committee’s report have only one thing in common: both agree that Jobbik and its close ally, the vigilante group Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület (SZJPE), have grave responsibility in instigating conflict between Roma and non-Roma locals.

Besides correctly identifying the political ambition behind the events in Gyöngyöspata - namely the acquisition of local power by Jobbik - the Committee’s report unfortunately only deals with diverting blame from the government.

However, this came as no surprise. Earlier in June, when the Committee was set up, the HCLU stated that the assessment of a prejudiced Committee based on preconceptions cannot be legitimate.

While assuming EU Presidency and advocating for a European Roma Strategy in Brussels, the Hungarian government did nothing to protect the Roma community of Gyöngyöspata from extreme anti-Roma groups for seven weeks standing.

It took the government two months to amend the Penal Code. The HCLU believes and voiced its opinion even back in Spring 2011, when events began unfolding in Gyöngyöspata that the then effective laws would have permitted for law-enforcement measures against the uniformed vigilante groups. Even if the government did not share this opinion, it should have amended the law two months prior in order to put a stop to the intimidation of the Roma people.

The HCLU believes it is a shame that while the state was impotent for weeks and did not provide effective protection to members of the terrified Roma minority, the Committee – made up of mostly ruling government party members – lays blame on human rights defenders and humanitarian organizations, which with their own limited resources – replaceing the government - stood up for the Roma community rejecting all intimidation based on the theory of collective criminality, which goes against all democratic values.

By questioning the HCLU’s present role in Gyöngyöspata, the Committee makes nothing of Ernő Kállai, former Ombudsman’s report on Gyöngyöspata, which deals in detail with the situation in the settlement – misuse in the operations of the public work system, discriminative fines for minor offenses, and segregation at the local school. The Minority Rights Ombudsman, whose position was terminated on January 1st, 2012, stated in his report:

“Gyöngyöspata is a frightening example of „law and order”. Do we really want to set this as an example?”

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