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Amnesty Urges Ukraine Authorities To Protect Roma Minority, Provide Justice To Victims Of Violence

Roma children rest in the shade of a church wall inside an encampment on the outskirts of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine. (file photo)

Amnesty International has urged Ukrainian authorities to provide better protection to the country's Roma minority and to bring to justice to the perpetrators of last year's attacks which resulted in the deaths of two people.

“We heard strong condemnatory statements from senior officials and they committed to provide justice to the victims, but where are we a year on?" Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine’s Director, said in a statement on April 16.

There have been at least six reported attacks on Roma camps in western Ukraine since April 2018, allegedly by members of right-wing extremist groups.

On 21 April 2018, members of the right-wing ultranationalist group Sich-C14 armed with knives and hammers attacked a Roma camp in Lysa Hora park in Kyiv.

They set fire to tents in the camp and chased out men, women, and children. The group boasted about the attack on social media, with one of its leaders threatening further attacks.

In late June, a 24-year-old Roma man from a village in western Ukraine was killed in an attack by a group of masked men on a Roma camp in a forest outside the city of Lviv. Four people, including a 10-year-old boy, were injured. Police arrested seven people in connection with that attack.

On July 2, a 30-year-old Roma woman was killed in the city of Berehove, with local authorities saying unidentified attackers slashed her throat.

On July 18, a court in Kyiv's Holosiv district placed Serhiy Mazur, a coordinator for Sich C-14, under two months of house arrest in connection with the April attack on the Roma camp.

Serhiy Mazur at a court hearing in 2018.
Serhiy Mazur at a court hearing in 2018.

Mazur, who was charged with hooliganism, was released in November after a court decision which found procedural violations by police.

"The authorities have failed to identify any further perpetrators and bring them to justice," Amnesty said in its statement.

"What the Ukrainian authorities have done over the past 12 months falls far short of an effective investigation, and they have done little to help the victims of this brazen hate crime,” the statement said.

"Even where perpetrators of these crimes have been identified and remanded in custody, justice has not yet been done.

"Those responsible must be brought to justice in fair trial proceedings that ensure the discriminatory motive is central to the prosecution -- contrary to common practice in Ukraine which fails to do so -- and the victims of the attack must be compensated,” Amnesty said.

The Council of Europe has estimated that there are 260,000 Roma in Ukraine out of a population of 48.5 million. The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 8 million to 12 million Roma in Europe.

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