Where to turn? Discrimination and barriers to justice are a reality for Roma in Hungary and Serbia
Roma in Hungary and Serbia often face discrimination with restricted avenues to justice. Fears of retaliation or a lack of faith in the justice system often leave them with little choice but to simply accept it, a new report by Minority Rights Group Europe (MRGE), Praxis and the Idetartozunk Association reveals.
Three experts on Roma rights have joined forces to look closer into the high numbers of unreported incidents of discrimination against Roma communities in these countries. The report Building Trust in Equality: Enhancing Access to Justice for Roma in Hungary and Serbia outlines the different areas of discrimination Roma face as well as key barriers in access to justice.
‘In Hungary and Serbia, Roma routinely experience discrimination, typically fuelled by negative attitudes and prejudices, in a variety of areas of their lives,’ says Andrea Spitálszky, Legal Officer at MRGE and one of the report’s co-authors. ‘Despite the high number of occurrences, incidents of discrimination typically go unreported.’
‘It is crucial to raise awareness in the Roma community about anti-discrimination legislation and the available legal remedies. Doing so can encourage Roma to report discrimination cases to the equality body, paving the way for future empowerment,’ says Marijana Luković, co-author of the report and Executive Director at Praxis.
Simply not knowing that it is possible to seek protection from discrimination, and legal systems that are inefficient and full of barriers, are other key factors limiting access to justice for Roma in both countries. In Hungary, the complicated regulation of legal representation, the protracted nature and uncertain outcome of discrimination cases, and the limited preventive effect of judgments, further contribute to the reluctance of Roma to report discrimination.
It summarizes the outcomes of field visits and legal work conducted during an MRGE project aimed at increasing access to justice for Roma. Three trained mediators visited Roma communities in each country and compiled information on discrimination cases, including their resolution. It also maps how field visits and legal work contributed to raising awareness among Roma about their rights and supported them in eliminating obstacles to accessing justice.
‘Beyond raising awareness, Roma mediators have an important role in resolving more straightforward cases through mediation between the parties, or by assisting those who have experienced discrimination in drafting submissions and other documents. The more positive decisions the equality body delivers in discrimination cases, the more trust Roma will have in the system’, says third co-author Erika Muhi, a Hungarian lawyer who has been working on discrimination against Roma since 1998, currently at Idetartozunk.
In the framework of the project, lawyers, Roma civil society organization (CSO) staff and other Roma activists were trained on the national anti-discrimination legislation and the available legal remedies. The CSOs Praxis and Idetartozunk assisted clients in reporting discrimination to the respective national equality bodies on several occasions.
The report concludes with recommendations tailored to the governments and local decision makers of Serbia and Hungary. In both countries, awareness-raising amongst Roma is recommended to increase the visibility of human rights and existing avenues to justice. Other recommendations include increasing access to free legal assistance and steps to enhance the capacity of CSOs to represent victims of discrimination.
Notes to editors
- Read the report Building Trust in Equality: Enhancing Access to Justice for Roma in Hungary and Serbia (in English, Hungarian and Serbian)
- Minority Rights Group (MRG) is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
- Praxis is a national non-governmental organization established in 2004 in Belgrade that protects human rights by providing legal protection and advocating for elimination of systemic obstacles in access to rights.
- The Idetartozunk (‘We Belong Here’) Association, established in 2017, aims to strengthen the social movement of the Roma communities in Hungary and to improve the Roma emancipation movement.
- Find out more about Serbia, Hungary, Roma in Serbia and Roma in Hungary in our World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples.
- Authors of the report: Marijana Luković (Praxis, Serbia), Erika Muhi (Idetartozunk, Hungary), Andrea Spitálszky (MRGE, Hungary)
- Zsofia Farkas, Managing Director at Minority Rights Group Europe (MRGE)
- Mediators from the project referenced
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact press [at] minorityrights [dot] org.
Photo: Portrait of a Roma man in Rudabánya, Hungary. Credit: Róbert Bordás.