The Importance of Human Rights and Ethnic Awareness

20 juli, 2017 § Lämna en kommentar

In recent months, partly through social media and partly through Swedish, Slovak and Czech newspapers, several startling events related to the Roma ethnic affiliation have come to my attention. Roma were struck down by the police in eastern Slovakia, a Roma resident was killed in Chomutov in western Czech Republic, Sweden seems to pretend rather than solve the problem of Roma beggars in the country, but finally something turned in the right direction, damages to all who were included in the so-called Roma register in Sweden, more about it below. In the Slovak newspaper SME, I also learned that, after the events in Eastern Slovakia, Slovakian President Andrej Kiska is convinced that unless Roma are doing well, Slovakia will not be doing well either. I agree with him but would like to add that the Roma issue is not only Slovak but European as well. “Europe still denies Roma human rights”, said Swedish Soraya Post, representative for political party Feminist Initiative (FI), also spokesperson for human rights for the second-largest Social Democratic (S & D) party group in the European Parliament, the same party group to which Robert Fico’s SMER belongs.

A few weeks ago, especially among my Swedish, Czech and Slovak friends on Facebook, the infamous video about Roma in Eastern Slovakia was spread. The police was summoned to Zborov, a small community outside of Bardejov, to dispel a conflict that had arisen between two Roma groups. The brawl ended instead with the police attacking the Roma using completely unacceptable methods. I saw the clip myself and quickly marked with an angry emoji. The film not only caused the self-examination that I should do more than react on Facebook, but also deep feelings and memories from the past within myself. Slovakia, where the event occurred, is, after all, my former home country (Czechoslovakia), I thought first. But it does not really matter, because such a thing that the police attack another ethnic group is totally unacceptable anywhere in the world. On the contrary, the police should be obliged to protect all citizens regardless of ethnic background or any other affiliation. And it is important that we feel confident and not afraid of the police regardless of where and who we are. ”I should do more, I should do more”, turned around in my mind.

Almost simultaneously with the event in Eastern Slovakia, in Sweden came the news that the Swedes who had ended up in the so-called Roma register will ultimately be compensated for its occurrence by the Swedish state.

In September 2013, Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, revealed that the police in Skåne county established an illegal register containing about 4,700 people. Most were Roma or people related to Roma spread all over the country. Many adults who ended up there had no criminal record and over a thousand of the registered were children, for example 52 two-year-olds. The register also contained information about 200 people who were deceased. The revelation caused strong reactions and condemnations by police officers, politicians and ordinary citizens. The Swedish Prosecution Authority in Stockholm initiated a preliminary crime investigation against several police officers in Skåne county. In November 2013, The Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection (SIN) found that the register actually violated the Police Data Law and the Justice Chancellor (JK) assessed that all whose personal data were in the registry were entitled to damages of 500 euros each for violation of personal integrity.

Eleven of the victims chose to pursue the case and sued the Swedish state through the Civil Rights Defenders organization. They claimed that SIN had not established that the register was based solely on ethnicity and that the sum was too small in relation to the damage they had suffered from the registration. The main point, according to Fred Taikon, one of the victims, was not to get a higher compensation but establishing that it was an ethnic register.

In June last year, the verdict of the Stockholm District Court gave the eleven people the right and sentenced the Swedish state to pay damages of 3,000 euros each. Robert Hårdh, director of Civil Rights Defenders, who were responsible for the claim for damages in court, calls JK’s decision historic.

According to the Justice Chancellor (JK), the previous amount of 500 euros should be added to the new, which means that everyone who was in the register now can receive a compensation of a total of 3,500 euros. If all persons demand and receive the higher sum, the total amount of damages will be the highest paid by the Swedish state for a single event, according to Civil Rights Defenders.

And now I return to the anger I felt after watching the video from Zborov on Facebook. The racist behaviour of the police in Sweden and its subsequent legal process illustrates very well how the rule of law should deal with prejudices and ignorance by a police authority. How the police’s racist action in Zborov in Eastern Slovakia will be handled by the Slovak authorities remains to be seen. How similar actions have been handled many times before and how they will be managed in the future and what measures the European authorities will take, we do not know yet. But my hope is that awareness of not only ethnic affiliation but also about human rights increases, and that many Fred Taikons will grow up in Slovakia as well. Because I want nothing but what Andrej Kiska says; Unless Roma are doing well, Slovakia will not be doing well either. Neither will Europe, I would again like to add.

This article is published in the Slovak newspaper SME.



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