UN Urges Ukraine To Act To Protect Roma From 'Systematic Persecution'

The United Nations has called on Ukraine to take “immediate action” to end what it called the “systematic persecution” of the country’s Roma minority population.

“We unequivocally condemn these heinous acts of intimidation and violence against members of the Roma minority in Ukraine,” a panel of UN experts said in a statement on July 18.

“We are also seriously concerned at the growing hatred and racially motivated violence against this community -- and in particular against its most vulnerable members -- women and children,” the experts added.

The experts urged Ukrainian authorities "to take all appropriate measures to comply with their international human rights obligations, including with regard to the protection of the rights of individuals belonging to national, ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities.”

Just hours after the UN experts issued their call for action, a court in Kyiv's Holosiv district on July 18 placed Serhiy Mazur, coordinator of the Sich C-14 ultranationalist group, under two months of house arrest in connection with a May attack against a Roma camp near Kyiv.

Mazur was detained after police searched his apartment in Kyiv on May 10 and charged him with hooliganism.

Roma, members of an ethnic group that lives on the margins of society, are frequently victims of discrimination, prejudice, and hate in many parts of Europe, particularly in the east.

The Council of Europe has estimated there are 260,000 Roma in Ukraine out of a population of 48.5 million. The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 8 million to 12 million Roma in Europe.

There have been at least six reported attacks on Romany camps in western Ukraine since April 2018, allegedly by members of right-wing extremist groups.

The latest violence was on July 2 when media reports stated that a 30-year Romany woman was killed in the city of Berehove. Local authorities in Berehove said unidentified attackers slashed the woman's throat.

In late June, a 24-year-old Romany man from a village in western Ukraine was killed in an attack by a group of masked men on a Romany camp in a forest outside the city of Lviv. Seven people were arrested in connection with that attack.

The UN experts said Romany settlements in Ukraine have been set on fire and “residents intimidated, assaulted, and forced to leave their homes.” They cited reports blaming the attacks on right-wing ultranationalist groups like Sich-C14 and the National Brigades.

The UN experts said they have been in contact with the government in Kyiv to seek clarification and information on the cases.

They noted that government officials denounced the attacks, but the experts criticized the lack of action taken to protect the population.

The comments follow a joint letter to Kyiv authorities sent on June 14 by four groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, that condemned what they said was a growing number of attacks against the Romany community by right-wing radicals in Ukraine.