From Penury to Prison: The Vicious Circle of Rights Violations Against the Roma of Belarus

ADC Memorial submitted a new report for the 94th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the report was prepared with the participation of the International Center for Civil Initiatives “Our House”).

The Human Rights experts found Roma in Belarus being discriminated, specifically in employment, that results in exclusion, extreme poverty, and the criminalization of a part of the Roma population of the RB.

The specific nature of the problem in Belarus is that the state not only fails to take measures to improve the situation of the Roma population, but also subjects Roma people to repressions for the very fact of their miserable situation. This is expressed in the criminal prosecutions of Roma living below the property line, of Roma who cannot pay the “tax on parasitism,” and of Roma who cannot prove that their incomes are legal. It is also expressed in intimidation and threats to remove children from poor Roma families.

The lack of state job placement programs and the impossibility of finding a legal means of earning a living have pushed some members of the Roma community into crime, which, given the prosecutorial bias of the Belarusian justice system overall and the animosity the law enforcement system has for Roma in particular, results in a disproportionately high number of Roma people (in comparizon with the percentage of the Roma population of the country) in prisons and penal institutions of Belarus.

The Human Rights defenders consider the following measures necessary for the protection of the rights of Roma in Belarus: adopt and implement a program to ensure the rights of all Roma people to a mandatory complete education and employment in their specializations; put an end to ethnic profiling and discrimination against members of the Roma minority by police officers in the course of detentions, arrests, and other police activities; ensure that courts treat Roma in a non-discriminatory manner; conduct a serious review of all statements on discrimination, including regarding violations of the rights of prisoners in jails and correctional colonies.

Besides, it is recommended to the government of Belarus to revoke anti-constitutional Decree No. 3 “On Preventing Social Parasitism,” which obligates all unemployed to pay a tax; and Decree No. 18 “On Additional Measures for the State Protection of Children in Troubled Homes,” which makes it possible to deprive people of their parental rights due to poverty, illness, and other circumstances that people can’t change. Realization of the International Human Rights standards requires immediate abolition of the death penalty that is still being executed in Belarus – there were also Roma sentenced to death during the last decade.

The web page of the 94th CERD session

The report From Penury to Prison: The Vicious Circle of Rights Violations Against the Roma of Belarus