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Roma still victims of hate crimes, decades after mass killings, says UN expert

30 July 2020

Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2 August 2020

GENEVA (30 July 2020)Intimidation and aggression directed at Roma minorities has risen alarmingly in recent years and States must do more to prevent hate crimes and incitement to violence against them, a UN human rights expert said today.

Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, issued the following statement ahead of Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day on 2 August, which marks when the Nazis exterminated their last Roma prisoners.

“It’s been nearly eight decades after the Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of Roma, who all too frequently have been victims of massacres and other grave human rights violations. Unfortunately, hatred, exclusion and vilification of the Roma still persist today in many parts of the world.

Nearly 3,000 Roma children, women and men perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz II-Birkenau and it is estimated that the Nazis and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma, possibly 200,000 to 500,000 people.

I am extremely concerned about the alarming rise in recent years of intimidation, aggression and violence against Roma minorities, including scapegoating and hate speech through social media. Racial bias and discrimination resurfaced this year during the COVID-19 pandemic with false rumours against Roma minorities.

The dehumanisation and denigration of the Roma that has led to atrocities in the past must not be perpetuated today in different guises, such as hate speech against the Roma in social media.

I call on governments to take bold steps to prevent any further human rights violations, to ensure that people belonging to the Roma minority can live as equal members of society, without fear and stigmatisation. Comprehensive anti-discrimination measures, as well as legislative and policy initiatives must be taken to protect and promote the human rights of Roma minorities, their identity, languages, and rich culture and history.

On this important date, I urge States to increase public knowledge about the Roma Holocaust, recommit to tackle the racism and discrimination that are still too prevalent, and particularly to designate an official day of remembrance in those States where Roma were victims of the Holocaust.”


Mr. Fernand de Varennes (Canada), 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 with promoting 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.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof 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 Ms. Marina Narvaez (+41 22 917 96 15 / [email protected]) or Ms Hee-Kyong Yoo (+41 22 917 97 23 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]) and Kitty McKinsey ([email protected])

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

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