Header image for news printout

UN expert urges governments to crack down on hate speech and crimes targeting Romani and minorities

Roma Holocaust Memorial Day 2 August 2021

GENEVA (30 July 2021) – Roma around the world must not be made scapegoats of politicians, or demonized and targeted on social media, Fernand de Varennes, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, said today.

“States must do more to proactively combat rising signs of intolerance and attacks against Romani and other minorities, particularly hate crimes and attacks on social media,” he said ahead of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August.

“It’s tragic that almost 80 years after the Romani genocide during World War Two, minorities -- particularly Roma in Europe and other parts of the world -- are increasingly experiencing hate speech and are being targeted by politicians and others,” he said.

“We have seen what happened when members of the Jewish minority in Nazi Germany were portrayed as alien and antagonistic to the nation and German values and culture,” de Varennes said. “Today the Roma are again facing the same sort of divisive rhetoric.”

He called for greater public education about the Romani Holocaust, and said States must address the exclusion and discrimination faced by too many Roma today. They must also address hate crime in Europe and the high levels of hate speech demonising Roma on social media.

Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on August 2 marks the night in 1944 when around 3,000 Roma children, women and men from the ‘Gypsy family camp’ of Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered in the gas chambers. It commemorates all the victims of the Romani genocide by Nazi Germany and its allies during World War II. While there is uncertainty over the exact numbers, between 25 and 50 percent of Europe’s 1 million to 1.5 million Romani were probably exterminated.


Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things. He is Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria in South Africa; Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong; and Visiting Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland-Galway. He is one of the world's leading experts on minority rights in international law, with more than 200 publications in some 30 languages.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Marina Narvaez (+41-22 917 9286 / mnarvaez@ohchr.org) or Hee-Kyong Yoo (+41- 22 917 9723/ hyoo@ohchr.org)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

Concerned about the world we live in?
Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today.