In Borsod county in Hungary, Romas (who live in poverty and segregation) on bicycles are fined daily for motoring offences. They are regularly penalized for offences that they haven’t committed, alongside fines for petty offences, such as lack of lamps in broad daylight. The imposed fines are disproportionately high, and extremely difficult to repay. Due to the lack of information, the capacity for legal redress is very low in these peripheral communities. The word of a Roma man against a policeman’s is generally not taken seriously in these courts; penalized people are not able to defend themselves against such infringements on their rights. Does it make sense for the police force to spend tax-payers’ money and allocate its own resources for an undue and unnecessary penalization activity? Is it beneficial for our society to unduly penalize and criminalize the already underprivileged?
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Most people hardly hear or know anything about the living conditions and everyday concerns of the Roma population living in extreme poverty, often in segregated settlements.
During their visits in North-Eastern Hungary, our colleagues interview locals about the issues they are currently most concerned with. The aim of our new series entitled “Make Your Voice Seen” is to deliver the messages of these people to a broader public.
On June 13, 2013 the trial of the actio popularis against the Heves County Police begins at the County Court of Eger. The lawsuit was initiated by the HCLU against the Police for discriminating against the Roma in Gyöngyöspata based on their ethnicity and skin color during and following the extremist “patrols” of 2011. At stake: will the court hold the state responsible for the discriminative treatment of the Roma?
We have started a series, titled ‘To serve and beat’ on the topic of police aggression. TASZ (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) has been running its Roma Programme centred on the issue of police brutality for seven months in the counties of Borsod and Heves in Hungary. We have received numerous complaints of police maltreatment during this period. In some towns, local policemen abuse their power daily; they I.D. and penalize people based on their Roma origin. Their behavior often ends in violence. People living in abject poverty have no options: even if they are aware of their rights, they cannot, or fear to exercise them. They are afraid to file formal complaints. And even when they do, the counsel generally refuses to investigate.
The ad hoc committee that investigates the events at Gyöngyöspata held its first substantial session on September 28.The HCLU published its Shadow Report and documentary video about the events the same day. The Committee was established by the two-third government majority in the Parliament through a resolution that was enacted on June 7.
The summary of the Shadow Report can be found attached.