Violence against Roma in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine: police operations, forced evictions, pogroms

ADC Memorial, with the participation of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” (Belarus) and experts from Ukraine invite to the side event “Violence against Roma in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine: police operations, forced evictions, pogroms”. September 26, 13.15-14.45, Room 1, during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2019 in Warsaw.

Roma population of Eastern Europe is one of the most vulnerable groups at risk of violence and pogroms motivated by racism and intolerance. Roma often perceived as “new-comers” that trigger hatred. The problem is rooted in ages of discrimination, but even in this context, the events of 2018-2019 in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus seem to be shocking.

In June 2019 the Roma population was forced to flee Chemodanovka village (Penza Province, Central Russia) after the mass brawl between Roma and non-Roma men. Almost 900 Roma were left without a permanent residence. 174 members of the Roma community were immediately arrested as they attempted to leave Penza Province and were reportedly treated inhumanely. The authorities opened criminal investigations against 28 arrested Roma; at the same time, none of the village’s non-Roma residents were prosecuted, even though Roma were injured in the fight.

Similar conflicts between Roma and non-Roma were documented, resulted with anti-Roma actions; like in Kuzbass (Siberia) in August 2019 and one year earlier in Ust-Abakan (Siberia, Republic of Khakassia). In Khakassia when the Romani community returned to Ust-Abakan the same year, the administration initiated a legal action to recognize Romani houses illegal and evict Roma. In May, 2019 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Khakassia declared that 13 Romani homes were unauthorized and that they had to be demolished within one month. The administration has not offered the Roma any alternate option for resettlement.

On August 19, 2019, after a conflict between young people in a village Novo-Ursky (Kemerovo Province, Siberia), some locals were going to burn a Romani house and started throwing stones to the windows. Police prevented the fire and further violence but blocked any efforts of journalists and Human Rights defenders to learn more about the incident.

Also last summer in Mohylev and other cities of Belarus, police raided homes of Roma declaring the search of the reason for the local policemen death (later it was recognised to be a suicide). There were arrested hundreds of men, women and even children, and they were kept for several days in inappropriate conditions without any accusations. When the suspicions were not proved, everyone was released. The later inquiry of the Prosecutor’s Office of Belarus decided that the police did not violate the law.

In 2018, a number of violent attacks by radical groups against Roma settlements happened in different cities of Ukraine, including burnings, pogroms, and even murder. Earlier, in summer 2016, an anti-Roma pogrom took place in Loshchinovka village (Odesa Province) after an accusation of a local Rom in violent crime that was not properly investigated and there are reasons to consider the accusation completely wrong (the lawyer defending this man will present his position during the side event), most of persons responsible for the anti-Roma actions (attacks, pogroms, burning) were not even brought to justice.

All these cases should be closely monitored and addressed as they indicate the alarming rise of anti-Roma actions, violations of Roma rights, intolerance and racist indictment of police, investigators and local authorities in the region.

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