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UN rights experts urge wider acceptance of Roma communities

Two independent UN human rights experts noted Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday by calling on the international community to find solutions to the persistent exclusion of Roma denizens from larger society in all countries. "Pharrajimos" is observed each August 2 [UN News Centre report] in remembrance of the approximately 3,000 Roma and Sinti who were killed on that date in 1944 when Nazis liquidated the "Gypsy" section of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. UN Independent Expert on minority issues Rita Izsak [official profile] urged nations to take a zero-tolerance stance [OHCHR press release] against acts of anti-Roma extremism, hatred and violence in the "rising tide of hostility and discrimination against Roma in Europe that shames societies." Izsak is herself of Hungarian Roma origin and has personal experience with racism and discrimination, which has inspired her work for minority rights. Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance [official website], further urged increased awareness and action to tackle the issue of Roma marginalization, advocating the teaching of Roma history in schools and a stronger global message that Roma are a valued part of international societies. The independent experts report to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in an unpaid capacity. There are an estimated 12 million Roma living in Europe, with sizable Roma populations in Latin America and other regions.

The discrimination [JURIST comment] faced by Roma in European countries is not a recent development. In May the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) implored the government of Moldova [official website] to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law [JURIST report] in development since 2008, which would be seen as a large step forward for the Roma population and other minorities in the nation. A month earlier Human Rights Watch [advocacy website; press release] reported that Roma, Jews and Ukrainians in Bosnia and Herzegovina face exclusion from politics and public institutions [JURIST report], identifying the 1995 Bosnian Constitution as the root of the discrimination against minority groups like the Roma. In October the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] called on authorities [JURIST report] to end the hate speech and discrimination [press release] against the Roma migrants in Bulgaria. Last April Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged Serbian authorities to halt the forced evictions [JURIST report] of Roma in Belgrade and provide them with adequate housing and compensation. In March 2011 AI released a report documenting discrimination and human rights violations against Roma migrants [JURIST report] in Slovenia and urging the Slovenian government to protect Roma communities. The report revealed that Roma communities are being denied access to housing, water and sanitation. Much of the Roma population is living in overcrowded shacks without access to adequate health care services, schools, shops and employment.

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