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Human Rights Developments
Hungary continued to make significant strides toward the protection of human rights. Adding to its international human rights commitments, on September 25 Hungary signed the Council of Europe Convention on the Rights of Minorities. Despite these legal protections, Hungary experienced a dramatic rise in xenophobia and right-wing-violence during 1995. The most serious human rights abuses involved police brutality, primarily directed at the Roma minority. In addition, "skinhead" and community violence increased during 1995, and the lack of a concerted response on the part of the authorities to such violence was troubling.

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.

The Right to Monitor
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki received no reports of any attempt by the government to impede the work of human rights monitors during 1995.

U.S. Policy
The State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994 was accurate and comprehensive in its portrayal of the human rights situation in Hungary.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki's work in Hungary centered on one principal issue, human rights violations against Roma. During July and August, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki investigated many cases of violence against Roma, both by police officers and "skinheads." Human Rights Watch/Helsinki representatives traveled throughout Hungary, conducting more than 215 interviews with Roma victims, government officials, policemen, and human rights activists. A report on the findings of that mission and our recommendations were under preparation.

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