Police justify discrimination against Roma in media by crime prevention
On August 20, Homel human rights defenders Ales Yauseyenka and Maryia Klimovich received a reply to their complaint submitted to the police department of the Homel regional executive committee about the discrimination of Roma in the media. Criticism was caused by another publication in local press that contained anti-Roma statements. The district government-owned newspaper Chyrvony Kastrychnik (Aktsiabrski district, Homel region) published an article written by local police asking citizens to be vigilant. The article gives the following advice: “Beware of the Romani people, who, under any pretext (divination, selling goods, buying pets, etc.), are trying to enter your home and commit theft of money and valuables.” The publication then sums up: “In case Roma people appear in the settlements of the district, as well as suspicious social workers, employees of housing and communal services, please immediately notify the Department of the Interior.”
In this regard, the human rights defenders asked the police department and the regional department of ideology to address publications that promote Romaphobia. The petitioners once again reminded the officials that discrimination (on national, religious, political and other grounds) is prohibited by law and the Constitution.
It should be emphasized that Ales Yauseyenka and Maryia Klimovich have repeatedly raised the issue of discrimination against Roma in the media. Earlier, officials’ answers thanked them for their active citizenship and promised “to conduct awareness-building work”, to analyze and to monitor compliance with the law, in order not to allow further publications with specification of racial, ethnic and national traits of criminals.
The latest answer from the department of internal affairs signed by the deputy head Aliaksandr Nekrashevich was vague. “Analysis of crimes (thefts from retired persons, senior citizens) leads to the conclusion that most of them are committed by persons of the Roma diaspora,” says the response. “In order to prevent illegal acts and to eliminate the causes that contribute to their occurrence, awareness-raising and prevention work has been carried out both with the representatives of national minorities and with the public, which is not aimed at inciting ethnic hatred, but at an effective solution to the existing problems,” says the police chief.
However, the response does not cite any statistics that would indicate that “most crimes are committed by persons of the Roma diaspora”.
Another recent publication in the Homel-based newspaper Savetski Rayon entitled “Roma do not violate the law more often than other residents of Homel” refers to the police chief Aliaksandr Slesarenka, who argues last year there were only two crimes in the district that involved Roma suspects. Similarly, in 2013 the Mazyr newspaper Zhytstsio Palessia published a material about “Roma criminals”. The article says that over the year the district citizens committed over two thousand crimes, of which only a few were committed by Romani people. However, the police emphasized the nationality of the criminals.
“Deputy chief of the police department claims that the local police in this case, i.e. in the Aktsiabrski district, did not intend to foment ethnic hatred, but simply reported that according to their calculations most thefts were committed by representatives of the Roma community. But each officer must remember that when protecting people they should not offend other people, spitting at the soul of all Roma. I think this situation is due to the fact that some officials do not consider decent Roma equal representatives of the indigenous nation. Therefore, I believe that those who are responsible for the ideological work of the police have to work to form a positive image of Roma among police employees,” says Maryia Klimovich.