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For Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2 August 2012 States must confront modern-day hatred, violence and discrimination against Roma – UN Experts

GENEVA (2 August 2012) – All countries, particularly those with Roma communities, should mark Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day today with a “commitment to confronting modern-day hatred, violence and discrimination against Roma and finding real solutions to their persistent exclusion,” said two UN experts on minority issues and racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák who is herself of Hungarian Roma origin, said not enough was being done to challenge “a rising tide of hostility and discrimination against Roma in Europe that shames societies.”

“Genocide in Europe began by dehumanizing the other, blaming them for the problems of society, ridiculing their differences, excluding them and surrounding them within the walls of a ghetto, labelling them as evil, filthy and unworthy of the rights and opportunities afforded to others. Today in much of Europe, nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, many Roma experience all of the above on a daily basis,” stated Ms. Izsák.

Ms. Izsák, whose personal experience with racism and discrimination has inspired her work for minority rights, urged States to take a zero-tolerance stance against acts of anti-Roma extremism, hatred and violence.

UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mutuma Ruteere, called for increased awareness and action to tackle these issues.

“The teaching in schools of the history of Roma, including the genocide they suffered during the Nazi regime, and awareness-raising measures to inform and sensitise populations about Roma identity and culture are essential to address the persistent prejudices that fuel racism and intolerance against them,” Mr. Ruteere said. “There must also be a stronger message that Roma are a valued part of societies - not only in words, but in concrete actions - to protect Roma and improve their living conditions and inclusion.”

Ms. Izsák and Mr. Ruteere praised efforts and initiatives under the 2011 EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, suggesting that a valuable opportunity exists to make real progress that must be grasped by all States. Under the Framework, Member States have agreed to prepare national Roma inclusion strategies, or integrated sets of policy measures within their broader social inclusion policies for improving the situation of Roma.

However, the United Nations experts cautioned that “commitments must not remain on paper as has so often been the case. They must be followed through with political will, adequate funding, and the full participation of affected Roma communities everywhere, in Europe and beyond.”

Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, or 'Pharrajimos' in the Romani language is observed each year on 2 August. Some 3,000 Roma and Sinti were murdered on the night of 2-3 August 1944, when the “Gypsy” camp was liquidated on orders from Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. Estimates suggest that up to 12 million Roma live in Europe, other sizeable Roma populations live in Latin America and other regions, most of them on the margins of society.

ENDS

Rita Izsák (Hungary) was appointed as Independent Expert on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2011 and took up her functions on 01 August 2011. As Independent Expert, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Minorities/IExpert/Pages/IEminorityissuesIndex.aspx

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was designated by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in October 2011. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/IndexSRRacism.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Mr. Graham Fox, (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Ms. Ravina Shamdasani, UN Human Rights – Media Unit +41-22-9179310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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