Human Rights Developments
A large-scale incident of "skinhead" violence against Roma occurred on May 1, 1995, in the town of Kalocsa. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki received reports that many people had gathered to celebrate May Day in the Bishop's Garden. A group of right-wing racists, many with shaved heads, attacked a groups of Roma. More than twenty Roma were beaten, including an expectant mother who was trying to flee the scene. The police arrived at the scene two and one-half hours after being notified about the violence. Nemeth Istvan, a Roma man, was already handcuffed and in the custody of the police when, according to his account, a "skinhead" hit him in the head in front of the police. When he screamed, the policemen pressed his bloody head against the wall and told him to stop shouting because he had only injured himself by falling on some stairs.
After two years of investigation, a report filed against several police officers for severely beating Roma from the village of Orkeny was dismissed in 1995. However, six Roma were found guilty of using armed and collective force against public officials. The incident had occurred in 1993, in the village of Orkeny, when local police went to the Roma neighborhood to investigate a car theft.(No charges related to the car theft were ever filed against the Roma.) During the course of the police action, police tore out a tube from the throat of a Roma woman who needed it to facilitate breathing, a pregnant woman had a miscarriage due to be severe blows by police, and several people suffered serious injuries.
In July, in the village of Paszto, four police officers searched Laszlo Amasi's home because he was suspected of having committed a burglary. In the course of the search, the four police officers severely beat Amasi, apparently in an effort to force him to confess to the crime. Amasi died the same day from his injuries. In October 1995, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee reported that only ten cases (9 percent) of misuse of authority and ill-treatment during official procedures, out of 1,138 reported in 1994, reached the courts. What is more, reported incidents represent only a fraction of the actual number of such cases precisely because the victims know that there is almost no chance of legal redress.
A rise in the crime rate and a perceived scarcity of policemen in Hungary has spurred the creation of "citizens' guard organization" (Polarorseg). These groups of private individuals, which are organized by the law enforcement officials, are supposed to provide information on criminal activities to the local authorities. However, in some cases, groups have actively participated in law enforcement. For example, in March, in the town of Papateszer, a family was attacked by members of the local citizens' guard. In Ozd, a former industrial town that has unemployment rates that exceed 80 percent for the Roma population, many Roma reported being routinely beaten by citizens' guards when they were caught foraging for wood for heating from the forest next to the town. The abusive conduct of citizens' guard organizations has been largely tolerated by local authorities.
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The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki