Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Concentrated in post-communist Central and Southern Europe, the Romani population is estimated at over 12 million in EU countries, with significant numbers in former Soviet republics, the Balkans, and Turkey. There may be as many as 1 million Americans with Romani ancestry.
Roma have historically faced persecution and were the victims of genocide during WWII. In post-communist countries, Roma have suffered disproportionately in the transition to market economies, in part due to endemic racism and discrimination.
Over the past three decades, Helsinki Commissioners have led the effort in Washington to speak out against racially motivated violence against Roma, including pogroms, murders and other violent attacks, and police abuse. The Helsinki Commission has also advocated for recognition of the enslavement and genocide of Roma and redress for sterilization without informed consent. The Commission has addressed race-based expulsion of Roma, the denial of citizenship to Roma after the break-up of federative states and the consequences of ethnic conflict and war in the Balkans. The first international agreement to specially recognize the human rights problems faced by Roma was adopted by the OSCE participating States in 1989, with Helsinki Commission support.