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U.S. Helsinki Commission Urges Respect for Human Rights of Roma

WASHINGTON– Ahead of tomorrow’s International Roma Day, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), issued the following statement:

“As Co-Chairmen of the Helsinki Commission, we commemorate International Roma Day and stand committed to the protection of human rights for all Roma,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin.

“Being a member of a minority group in Congress and, in fact, the first African American to chair the Helsinki Commission, the protection of human rights and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination are especially important goals for me. I am particularly concerned about Roma in the OSCE region who are the victims of racial attacks and widespread discrimination,” Chairman Hastings commented.

Co-Chairman Cardin remarked, “Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority in Europe, and Chairman Hastings and I have made it a point to meet with Romani activists in Kosovo, Bucharest, Prague and Bratislava to learn about their conditions first hand. We commend Finland, serving as the OSCE’s Chair-in-Office, for making Romani human rights issues the focus of one of this year’s three specialized human rights meetings.”

Chairman Hastings observed that it was regrettable that Slovakia has not yet acknowledged the sterilization without informed consent of Romani women. “I met with Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Dusan Caplovic in February, and urged him to address this painful chapter of Slovakia’s history. In addition, it is critical that Slovakia ensure that women have full and complete access to their own medical records.”

Co-Chairman Cardin noted that he and other Commissioners wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Erdo?an just last week about the destruction of the historic Romani district in Sulukule, Istanbul. “I am especially concerned about the explosive housing conditions faced by Roma in many countries,” said Cardin. “In many places, long-settled Roma risk being uprooted from their communities, with predictable and disastrous consequences for families, including the ability of children to receive education.”

“We urge all OSCE participating States to honor the commitments adopted at the 1999 Istanbul Summit and in other OSCE documents to ensure Roma are treated with dignity and respect,” concluded Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin.

On April 4, Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin, along with Helsinki Commissioners Congressmen Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdo?an, regarding the Sulukule urban transformation project. The letter expresses concern about the demolition of this historic community, which dates back to 1054, and whose residents will be forced to relocate to a town 40 kilometers outside of the city. Many residents cannot afford to relocate and will be forced onto the streets of Istanbul.

International Roma Day was established in 1990 in Warsaw, Poland, during the fourth World Romani Congress, in honor of the first major international meeting of Roma representatives. The day celebrates Roma culture and raises awareness of the issues facing Romani people.

The OSCE participating States will hold a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Romani issues in Vienna, July 10 and 11.
 

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