Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
August 25, 2000
HELSINKI COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
DECRIES MURDER OF ROMANI WOMAN
Calls for Government to Hold Perpetrators Accountable
(Washington) - Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today denounced the racially motivated murder of a Romani woman in Zilina, Slovakia, this week.
On Sunday, August 20, three men entered the home of Anastazia Balazova and attacked her with baseball bats, yelling racial epithets. Two children present during the brutal murder had to be treated for injuries. On August 22, Ms. Balazova, a mother of eight, died of her injuries. Today, the Slovak Parliament held a minute of silence in homage to the slain woman.
“I join with Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora, Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Figel, and Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky in condemning the outrageous and brutal murder of Anastazia Balavova. This killing stands as yet further evidence that more – much more – must be done to combat the injustices to which Roma are subjected,” said Chairman Smith.
“I agree with Minister Figel that this is a ‘deplorable act,’” Chairman Smith continued. “I agree with Minister Csaky that this is a ‘shocking tragedy.’ And I agree with Ambassador Butora that this was a ‘despicable and heinous crime.’ Like Ambassador Butora, I raise my voice to strongly oppose this barbarous act.”
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated, freak event. In many countries, Roma face the kind of prejudice that, if unchecked, is all too likely to escalate into violence,” Chairman Smith said.
“Ethnic Bulgarians in the village of Mechka have refused to allow Roma into grocery stores or other public places. In Nea Kios, Greece, the city council decided in May to exclude Roma from the village. In Csor, Hungary, the mayor has stated that the Roma ‘have no place among human beings.’ In all of these countries, national leaders have stood by in shameful silence. In such a climate, is it any wonder that thugs believe they can attack women and children with impunity?” Chairman Smith asked.
“This pattern must end. The perpetrators of the cowardly murder of Anastazia Balazova must be held accountable before the law for the crimes they have committed. Moreover, governments must face up to their responsibilities. Public leaders who remain silent in the face of blatant manifestations of racism against Roma implicitly condone bigotry. From Budapest to Athens, it is time for national leaders to stand up and be counted,” Chairman Smith said.
Media Contact: Ben Anderson
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