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Open letter of the International Renaissance Foundation on Murder of a Roma settlement resident in Lviv

26 June 2018

Minister of Internal Affairs A.B.Avakov

Head of the National Police of Ukraine S.M.Knyazev

Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yu.V.Lutsenko

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open letter

The murder of a Roma settlement resident in Lviv on the night of June 23 to June 24 has become a tragic result of systematic impunity for actions against Roma taken by some right-wing radical groups. We acknowledge with gratitude a rapid response of the National Police in Lviv and hope for a prompt, impartial investigation and fair punishment of the guilty.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the unprecedented escalation of organized violence against Roma living in spontaneous settlements. In fact, during the two full months of 2018, from the end of April till the end of June, six attacks on temporary Roma settlements took place in Ukraine. “Centers of gravity” of these attacks were big cities such as Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, where the Roma come to get a seasonal work.

-         April 19 – attack on a settlement in Lysogirsky district in Kyiv city, for which the nationalist organization C14 claimed responsibility;

-         May 9 – arson attack on a settlement in Rudne village near Lviv;

-         May 22 – attack on a temporary settlement in Velykogayivka Forest near Ternopil (Velyka Berezovitsya village);

-        on the same day Odessa saw a ‘cleansing from the homeless and Gypsies’ at the Kulikovo Field and Mithian Garden, for which the civic group “Clover” claimed responsibility;

-         June 7 – attack of representatives of the “National Squads” on the settlement in Golosiiv Park in Kyiv city. Following the attack, the National Squads and the National Corps began to actively disseminate leaflets instigating hostility against the Roma and positioning the above mentioned groups as “saviors of the city”;

-        finally, on June 24 a fatal attack on the Roma settlement in Lviv took place, leaving one person killed and four injured. According to the media, the detained persons are members of the extremely radical group “Sober and Evil Youth”.

All of the above mentioned attacks were coupled with intimidation and violence. At the same time, in the chronological perspective there was a steady increase in the cruelty of the perpetrators. As far as we know, the attack on the settlement on Lysa Gora was preceded by a warning, while during the “expulsion” the attackers were throwing stones at the Roma and spraying the tear gas. Witnesses of a similar situation in Ternopil admit the possible use of firearms on the grounds of shells found at the scene of the assault. The last assault in Lviv shows a different picture: the use of cold weapons with the intent of killing or at least causing serious bodily injuries, and not just intimidating.

It is difficult to deny a clear anti-Roma component of all committed assaults, which leads to the need to provide a proper legal definition of this crime. However,  in the case of the assault on Lysa Gora the criminal proceedings were opened under two Articles of the Criminal Code, namely Article 296 (hooliganism) and 161 (violation of equal rights of citizens) only after the video was spread on the internet showing violent actions committed by nationalist groups against the Roma. Criminal proceedings were also opened on the facts of attacks in Rudne village and Velyka Berezovitsya village, but only under the Article 296 “Hooliganism” of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. This legal definition overlooks a specific nature and gravity of committed offences, which were in fact committed out of ethnic intolerance.  Coupled with the lack of any clear, consistent and regular communication by the law enforcement authorities on the course and results of pre-trial investigations, the lack of proper legal definition of actions of assailants does not contribute to promoting public understanding of unacceptable nature of such actions as well as the public expectation of the imminent severe response on behalf of the state authorities. Hence, the atmosphere of impunity was created, which eventually has led to the murder of the Roma on June 24 in Lviv.

The actions of the law enforcement authorities, in particular, the police, lack clear, widely used algorithms for dealing with spontaneous Roma settlements, as well as wider preventive work in communities.

The International Renaissance Foundation addresses the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine with a request to take it under their personal, permanent control and ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the Roma settlement representative murder committed on June 24 in Lviv, as well as to ensure the proper communication of the results of that investigation.

We also urge the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, together with the National Police of Ukraine, to develop a clear and transparent mechanism of preventive work. This work should be aimed at both establishing a constructive dialogue on community security issues as well as preventing illegal actions and promotion of ideas that humiliate citizens on an ethnic basis, as conducted by radical groups, and, finally, responding to less aggressive forms of discrimination to prevent the escalation of conflicts.

We emphasize that the violence against vulnerable groups has a tendency to spread in the society, and the present situation today requires not only rapid response but also systemic preventive work at all levels. We, the International Renaissance Foundation, express our readiness to provide the necessary expert and information support for such efforts and to involve non-governmental organizations working in this field in such cooperation.

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