Debacles of Roma people houses as result of absence of interethnic policy in Ukraine. Expert commentaries

Debacles of Roma people houses in Odesa region have merely covered the problem that exists in our state. There is absence of interethnic policy, token use of the strategy on protection and integration of the Roma national minority into Ukrainian society and the National Human Rights Strategy.

The National Police promised to carry out transparent investigation into the Roma debacles incidents, and Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights initiated a hearing within the Committee.

Representatives of Roma communities, National Police, Ombudsperson Office representative and human rights activists made statements in connection with the abovementioned issues in Ukrainian Media Crisis Center today, on September 5.

Loshchynivka conflict has opened a Pandora's box. If we do not close it while it is ahead, then today’s situation with Roma in Loshchynivka village and yesterday’s situation with Syrian refugees in Yahotyn city will provoke another conflict tomorrow. Such aggressive behavior towards national minority is unacceptable,” representative of Ukrainian Ombudsperson for children's rights, non-discrimination, and gender equality Aksana Filipishyna said.

Filipishyna also noted that all the episodes related to the situation in Loshchynivka village should be considered from the point of view of law and human rights.

The situation has not yet been resolved. The problem is that there were children who did not go to school on September 1. Who should take responsibility for the violation of children’s rights and mistreatment of children who have not committed any crime? Today, we have the citizens who lost their property, who, in fact, have no place to go. Today we face a community with a certain point of view, and we need to work out with it. But this work should have started a few years ago, right from the beginning of Roma inclusion strategy implementation,” the representative of the Ukrainian Ombudsperson adds.

Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Committee for Human Rights Hryhoriy Nemyria reminded of Ukraine's commitments to the European Union. Implementation of the Roma strategy was one of the points of the EU action plan on liberalization of the visa regime for Ukraine.

At the same time, Nemyria noted that the solution of interethnic issues is not just an external obligation to Europe.

The events that take place in south of Ukraine are not isolated and should not be considered as isolated problems. The perpetrators should be punished. And the government will judge all the participants in the conflict. If appropriate actions are not taken, the same events will happen in the future, but even with bigger consequences,” Hryhoriy Nemyria said.

Chairman of the Committee also put forward an initiative to hold the committee hearings in the nearest future with the support of Roma community, the International Renaissance Foundation, the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine and others in order to prevent situations like that.

Nemyria also announced that at the end of 2016 the Government will report to Verkhovna Rada and the Ukrainian people on the implementation of the Human Rights Strategy. The situation with observance of national minorities rights, in particular Roma people, should be included in this report.

Kostiantyn Tarasenko, the representative of the newly created Human Rights Office at the National Police of Ukraine said that working group, which would consist of public representatives and National Police officers, was being created in order to stop the conflict in the region.

We understand that there are certain threats. The National Police promise to investigate all the crimes that were committed in the midst of these events impartially and bring to justice the perpetrators, regardless of their origin by nationality, ethnicity,” Tarasenko said.

Loshchynivka conflict was a debacle on ethnic grounds,” a representative of the Congress of National Minorities of Ukraine Josef Zissels said.

Unfortunately, reaction of the local authorities was ‘anti-appropriate’. As well as inaction of police. These events are not just spontaneous and did not occur by chance. It has happened more than once in recent 10 years. This should have been assessed at the national level. However, the relevant conclusions have not been drawn. As well as the government did not harshly condemn all those actions,” Zissels said.

Volodymyr Kondur, the chairman of the Coalition of Roma NGOs in Ukraine ‘Strategy 2020’ commented: “Everyone should be responsible for their actions. A criminal has no nationality. However, the state did nothing to prevent such tragic events that happened in Odesa region.”

Executive director of the International Renaissance Foundation Yevhen Bystritskii made a point of the fact that Roma community was the most unprotected one in Ukraine, and at the same time they wer trying to change the situation by joint efforts

Roma people do not have their own country outside of Ukraine, they live in a special cultural way. Today, there is a great progress in protection of Roma’s rights in the sphere of education, self-defense, self-organization. This applies not only to the outstanding leaders of Roma communities, but also to young people. Having education - legal, medical, etc. - Roma people are trying to create better conditions for integration of Roma community in Ukraine. Nevertheless, I am surprised by weak reaction of the government, who could not reduce Roma debacles – either to stop them, or to solve them from the viewpoint of law,” Yevhen Bystritskii said.

Bystritskii also noted that inaction of the National Police and weak reaction of local authorities, as well as weak reaction of the government, in general, have tainted the image of Ukraine.

The international community reacted to the events in Odesa region faster, than our government did. This really bothers. This weakens the legal norms of Ukraine,” Bystritskii emphasizes.

Director of the Strategic Litigation Centre of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) Mykhailo Tarakhkalo noted that UHHRU lawyers had also focused on this case.

There are serious questions to the police. We cannot understand how local residents found out about a suspect at the beginning of investigation and the reason how this information provoked such a negative reaction.

The police not only failed to fulfill its duty to protect the people, but also took part in those debacles: they came into the yard together with wrongdoers, communicated with them.

The next question is recovery of damages for victims. This is a very important point, because the situation in Odesa region happened due to the complete inactivity of government,” Mykhailo Tarakhkalo said.

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