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ECRI Country Reports and other human rights-based documents have expressed serious concerns about the treatment of Roma by officials and agencies of the police and justice systems across Europe. On the one hand these relate to the failure of police and justice agencies to provide adequate protection and redress for Roma in the face of racially-motivated violence and discrimination. On the other hand, there are concerns over incidents where police themselves have overtly abused Roma and violated their human rights, as well as concerns that police and other justice agencies more routinely fail to treat Roma fairly, with respect and with the quality of service to which all citizens should be entitled. Partly as a result of these failures, Roma frequently lack trust and confidence in the police and justice agencies. Given also that many Roma lack information about their legal and other rights, and lack the resources to exercise these, their access to justice is often extremely limited.

In order to address these concerns, ECRI Policy Recommendation No.3 sets out a variety of actions that should be taken in Council of Europe member states. These include ensuring that crimes against Roma are dealt with effectively, that justice is not only done but seen to be done when the rights of Roma are violated, that support is available for Roma who are victims of discrimination, that relevant training is provided for officials in the justice system, that arrangements are established to promote dialogue between Roma and the police and other public authorities, and that the importance of the role of NGOs is recognised.

The entries that follow are intended to serve as examples of the kinds of actions that may be taken at local and national levels to help implement Policy Recommendation No. 3 in the field of Policing and Justice. Most of the examples that were identified during the preparation of the booklet were in the field of policing. This was not because policing practices are good, but because bad policing has come under strong criticism from Roma and Human Rights NGOs so that there has been increasing pressure on police to improve their relation with Roma and other minorities. By contrast, the disadvantages faced by Roma in other parts of the justice system are much less visible, and there appear to be very few initiatives relating to agencies such as prisons, prosecutors and the courts. Once again it must be stressed that there is a serious lack of formal evaluation of the effectiveness of projects in this field.

The section opens with the example of the Hungarian National Police who have elaborated a broad strategy for improving relations with minorities, and Roma in particular. A second national-level initiative is that of the Czech Ministry of the Interior which has established mechanisms specifically to combat the right-wing extremism which particularly affects Roma. The third and fourth entries present examples designed to improve relations between Roma and the police at the local level: a local police training project in Stolipinovo, Bulgaria; and the variety of neighbourhood-level activities of the Roma-DROM Centre in Brno, Czech Republic.

The fifth entry widens the scope beyond policing alone, and describes the initiative of the Romanian NGO, Romani CRISS, in establishing a series of multi-agency 'round-tables', aimed at combating outbreaks of inter-ethnic violence that occurred in different parts of the country earlier in the 1990s. The sixth describes the Bulgarian NGO, 'Human Rights Project', which has been highly effective in combating human rights abuses by police against Roma, whilst also engaging in dialogue with the Government to develop a general strategy for integration of Roma. The seventh entry outlines the types of training course run by the European Roma Rights Centre to equip lawyers with advocacy skills to represent Roma in legal cases. Finally, the research conducted by the Barañí Project on Romani women in prisons in Spain highlights the important role of NGOs in highlighting injustice in other parts of the judicial system that are currently being overlooked.


The Hungarian National Police have developed a relatively comprehensive programme of activities on Roma/minority issues, and these in turn form part of a broader strategy for reform of the Hungarian Police. It provides a good example of how an initial project can lead to the introduction of concrete institutional measures on the part of government.

The work focussing on police and ethnic minority relations was initiated in 1996. It began with an assessment sponsored by the US-based NGO 'Project on Ethnic Relations'. This was carried out by representatives of the Southern Police Institute, University of Louisville, USA, with the assistance of the Ministry of the Interior and of Roma and other NGOs. The assessment identified a serious lack of trust and absence of cooperation between police and Roma, and widespread ignorance and stereotyping among the police with regard to Roma. It recommended the introduction of community policing, supported by effective consultation and complaints procedures, and by training programmes on ethnic minority issues.

The Police in Nograd County pioneered the introduction of this new approach. They established partnerships with local community - and especially Roma - leaders, and set up a Police and Roma Advisory Board. They also organised a summer camp for Roma children, both to assist the children's development and to encourage a more positive image of the police among youth.

Strong support for the new approach has been given at national and political levels, with the Hungarian Parliament requiring that community partnerships should be a priority for the Hungarian police. Civilian Advisory Boards have now been introduced in all counties. And the Ministry of the Interior established a dedicated unit within the National Police to promote work on minority issues.

A special programme of training for police commanders on building police-community partnerships was also introduced, with support as before from PER and the Southern Police Institute. Four one-week seminars were held, which were attended by 200 commanders from all districts across Hungary. Nograd County Police and community representatives presented their work as a model approach. Roma leaders played a key role as instructors during the seminars. Alongside this special programme, training on minority and community issues has been incorporated into basic police training for recruits and managers. A textbook containing articles on police and minorities has been produced to support the training.

(For a fuller account, see Toward Community Policing: The Police and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary, Project on Ethnic Relations, 2000)

*** Contact:

Office of Social Relations & Communication,
Ministry of Interior,
Josef Attila u. 2-4,
1051 Budapest, Hungary
Tel/fax: +36-1-338.2832

Project on Ethnic Relations
Budapest Office
Tel: +36-1-175-9011
Fax: +36-1-156.6373



The Garda Siochana (National Police), with funding support from the European Union, have developed a project entitled "Intercultural Ireland: Identifying the Challenges for the Police Service". Although the project is concerned with racism and ethnic relations generally, the relations between police and the Traveller community are a major focus. A series of sub-projects will lead to the production of an ethnic and cultural diversity policing strategy. The sub-projects include international exchange visits, a consultative conference, training initiatives, and the establishment of an Ethnic Relations Forum and of a Racial and Intercultural Office at Garda Headquarters. Traveller organisations are directly involved in the programme.

*** Contact: Garda Racial and Intercultural Office, Community Relations Section, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2; Tel: +353-1-666.3150 - Fax: -666.3801


The Czech Republic has experienced acts of violent racism by skinheads and others against Roma since the early 1990s. Czech law provides enhanced penalties for crimes where racist motives are involved, but relatively few cases were being successfully prosecuted.

In 1995, following a particularly brutal racist murder, the government strengthened the measures available for tackling racist crime. Special instructions were issued by the President of the Czech National Police regarding the recording and investigation of racist crimes, and tackling skinhead activities and other forms of extremism. A Specialist Unit has been established at police headquarters in Prague, and in each district of the Czech Republic an officer is assigned specialist responsibility for dealing with racist and extremist crimes. A personal adviser on minority issues to the Minister of the Interior has been appointed, who is himself Roma. In 1997 a detailed manual on 'Extremism' was prepared and distributed: this describes the general characteristics of racism and extremism, and the various movements to be found in the Czech Republic, together with examples of symbols and other manifestations used by skinheads and others.

In 1998 a substantial report was produced by the Ministry of the Interior, setting out a comprehensive approach to tackling the problem of racism and extremism in the Czech Republic, together with a complete record (and brief description) of incidents recorded in the Czech Republic during 1996-1997. It has been updated by a further report produced in 1999, charting subsequent developments and setting out a further analysis of the problem and further detailed proposals for policy and practice. Both documents highlight the importance of training, preventive work, and cooperation with other agencies and Roma associations.

In 1999 the Ministry of the Interior organised an international symposium to share experience of police forces in tackling racism and extremism. This was attended by representatives from many countries across Europe with experience in this field, including Germany and the UK, as well as from the USA and Canada. The Ministry of the Interior has now launched a follow-up programme of seminars for senior police officials, with input from experienced UK police officers and from representatives of Roma and other ethnic minority communities in the Czech Republic.

Other police-related activities undertaken by the Ministry of the Interior include a programme to recruit Roma into the Czech National Police. Two special 'access' courses to assist Roma candidates to reach the necessary standards for entry have been run during 2000, as a result of which eight Roma have been recruited. Although the numbers are small, this is a positive outcome given that previous attempts to recruit Roma had been unsuccessful.

Despite these various initiatives, there continues to be criticism by Roma and human rights NGOs about police treatment of Roma at the local level (and especially by the separate 'municipal police' in some areas). There remains, therefore, a challenge to ensure that good practice at national level is implemented effectively and systematically at local level.

*** Contact:

Major Stanislav Daniel, Adviser to Minister
Ministry of Interior, Czech Republic
Nad Stolou 3
170 34 Prague 7
Tel: +420-2-6143.2283
Fax: -6143.3500



Since 1996, a variety of community policing initiatives have been developed in the Stolipinovo district of Plovdiv in Bulgaria. Stolipinovo is one of the largest Roma quarters in Bulgaria with more than 30,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are unemployed and experience multiple social disadvantage. The initiatives have been developed by the local police, with the support of a British ex-police officer from the London Metropolitan Police, and funded by the UK Know-How Fund. Nine local NGOs, including the Foundation for Regional Development 'Roma', have been involved as partners in the programme.

In 1999, initiatives such as the establishment of a local police station and a schools programme were supplemented by a police training project. This began with a session for senior officers, which was also attended by local Roma NGOs, the local Mayor, and representatives from the Ministry of Interior and the Police Academy. Subsequently a course was developed for Sergeants (front-line officers) working in the Roma areas. This course consists of two main elements. The first is two days of classroom-based information provided by representatives of the local Roma community. The second is a period of supervised patrol with experienced instructors, observing and practising a range of community policing skills. Several such courses have now been run, and have received a positive evaluation from both police and NGOs.

The Ministry of the Interior now plans to extend this type of training to other areas of Bulgaria where there is a substantial Roma population. A senior police officer has now been appointed as coordinator for the programme. Sliven is already participating, and Lom will follow, with the local police working in partnership with the Roma-Lom Foundation. For each new municipality or region, basic training for trainers (police and NGO partners) will be provided by experienced trainers in Stolipinovo. It is intended in this way to extend the benefits of this initiative widely across Bulgaria.

*** Contact:

Foundation for Regional Development 'Roma',
12 Malina Street, Stolipinovo,
4006 Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Tel: +359-32-622.322
Fax: +359-32-836.048
E-mail: romafon@plovdiv.techno-link.com

Coordinator, Roma Training Programme
Directorate of National Police
Ministry of Interior
235 Slivnitsa Boulevard
Sofia 1202, Bulgaria
Tel: +359-2-982.39.81


In Veliko Turnovo, in north-eastern Bulgaria, the police and local Council of Europe Information Centre organised a programme of locally-based police training which addressed Roma/minority issues within a framework of human rights. Roma NGOs acted as partners for the project, which has now been extended through the region.

*** Contact: PO Box 345, 5000 Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria; Tel/fax. +359-62-300.48

In Barcelona, the UNESCO Human Rights Centre of Catalonia formed a partnership with the Catalan Police Training School and a group of NGOs, to design and deliver training for the local police on migrant and minority issues. Local Gypsy Associations were among the partners. The initiative formed part of the EU-funded NAPAP Project, "NGOs and Police Against Prejudice".

*** Contact: Mallorca 285, Barcelona 08037; Tel: +34-93-458.95.95 - Fax: -457.58.51

Representatives of the Pavee Point Travellers Centre provide training on Traveller Issues for police officers attending courses at Templemore, the training college of the Garda Siochana (Irish national police).

*** Contact: 46 North Great Charles Street, Dublin 1, Ireland. Tel: +353-1-878.0255 - Fax: -874.2626.

Czech Republic:
At the regional Police Training School at Brno, a senior member of the Roma community with long professional experience has been appointed to provide teaching on Romany language, culture and background for students at the school.

*** Contact: Horní 21, 659 65 Brno; Tel: +420-5-4354.4288 - Fax: -4152.3061

The Minority Rights Group Slovakia (now the Foundation for Citizenship and Democracy) undertook in 1994-1995 a series of locally-based seminars aimed at improving the relations between the police and Roma communities in ethnically-mixed areas. The project was funded by the UK Know-How Fund, and had participation from British police officers. A guidance manual for police training schools was also produced.

*** Contact: Dobrovičova 13, 811 09 Bratislava; Tel/fax: +421-7-5292.0426


The DROM Romani Centre is an independent body that was originally established on the initiative of the Municipality of Brno (North District) in 1989, and it continues to receive funding from the Municipality. Its initial aim was to focus specifically on the needs of Roma children and youth in the Bratislavska Street neighbourhood of Brno, where many Roma are living. Experience has led it to widen its field of activities, so that it now also works with the parents of young people. Currently, it operates a supplementary educational establishment, provides free-time activities for children and youth, and runs a Counselling and Information Centre for parents. It also cooperates with the SPOLU Foundation on a pioneering community housing project, in which Roma tenants work on the reconstruction of their apartment block, thereby paying off their debts for unpaid rent.

The Centre has established close links with the various public services in Brno, including both the City and National Police. An initial attempt to recruit Roma into the police was unsuccessful. It was decided that a longer-term strategy to improve Roma-police relations, and to combat criminality amongst young people, was therefore needed.

With the City Police, the Centre has established the 'Mission Project', which is particularly targeted at children between 7 and 10 years. Representatives of the police participate in the activities of the children, aiming to interest them in the work of the police, and motivating them towards education and avoidance of criminality. The basic Project Team consists of one Police Constable, one worker from the Romani Centre, and one teacher. A core group of about 15 children are engaged in this Project, having been selected from local schools as youngsters who are both challenging but also have leadership potential. They participate in activities which develop knowledge and skills relating to law, policing, self-defence, and countering pressures towards criminality. The role of the police officer also involves getting to know, and be known by, the Romani community generally, and so establishing better communication and relations between Roma and police in the area.

The DROM Centre is also involved in other activities designed to improve Roma-police relations. Liaison has been established between the Centre and the officer of the National Police responsible for monitoring activities of racists and extremist groups. This enables mutual exchange of information about planned or expected events organised by skinheads and others. The Director of the Centre also provides advice to the Police Training School in Brno on issues relating to Roma in the training of police recruits. Following his observation of role-play sessions in which actors simulate practical policing situations, the possibility of involving Roma in such sessions is now being explored. To complement the training for recruits, a programme of in-service training for experienced police personnel working in the new local area is being introduced. This will be a Roma-police partnership project based at the Roma community centre, supported by the UK-based RrAJE Programme (Roma Rights and Access to Justice in Europe).

The various local initiatives mentioned above all form part of the programme of implementation of the City's 'Strategic Plan for Inter-Ethnic Relations between the Majority and the Roma Minority in the City of Brno'.

*** Contact:
DROM - Romani Centre
Bratislavská 41
602 00 Brno
Czech Republic
Tel: +420-5- - Fax: +420-5-57.43.46
E-mail: drom.r.s@razdra.cz


In the early 1990s, numerous incidents of collective violence against Roma took place in localities in various parts of Romania. Individuals were attacked, and in some cases killed, and houses were burnt down. In most instances the police failed to protect Roma or investigate the attacks properly, and sometimes clearly sided with the perpetrators. Roma activists and NGOs campaigned for firmer action by police and the courts against inter-ethnic violence, and directly assisted Roma families to rebuild their homes.

In 1994, the NGO Romani CRISS (Roma Centre for Social Intervention and Studies) launched a project with the title "Round Table Series for the Promotion of Trust and Communication in Communities and the Prevention of Criminality". Although by this time the incidence of inter-ethnic violence had reduced, relations between Roma and the police remained poor. High profile raids were conducted by police in Roma areas, ostensibly to prevent communal violence and to tackle criminality. The series of Round Tables was intended as a constructive intervention in what appeared to be a spiral of deterioration in relations between the Roma community, the police and the wider community generally.

The Round Tables brought together the full range of key local and administrative actors. These included local Roma, police, mayors and local councillors, local government officials, lawyers, NGOs, religious organisations, and many others. They were held in a variety of localities in Romania where there had been inter-ethnic tensions or conflict between Roma and the police. The structure of the events was flexible, and provided for open discussion among the participants. The goal was to promote a more coordinated response both to crisis situations and to proactive/preventive activities. In many areas, more permanent structures and a variety of innovative projects resulted from the Round Table Programme.

One of the outcomes for Romani CRISS was that, in addition to its campaigning role and provision of legal and other support for Roma, it increased its capability to engage effectively with the public institutions. Also, at this time, the Romanian National Police established a national 'Crime Prevention Service' (now the 'Institute for Crime Prevention'), with officers in all counties, which specifically addresses issues concerning Roma and ethnic relations and which cooperates with Roma NGOs. The Round Table Programme and other subsequent developments were supported in a variety of ways by the US-based Project on Ethnic Relations and by the Council of Europe.

Romani CRISS now cooperates with other NGOs and public authorities across Romania to promote, coordinate and implement a wide range of Roma-focussed programmes. The scope of these activities covers fields such as community development, education, youth training, small business development, women's projects, analytical studies, and transnational cooperation (e.g. on the PAKIV Project, and the INTRINSIC and PASSPORT Programmes). Romani CRISS also promotes the participation of Roma associations in public policy-making, for example through the formation of the Working Group on Roma Association (GLAR) which is a partner of Romanian Government in elaborating a national strategy for Roma. In 1998, Romani CRISS received the Award for Civil Society and Democracy of the European Union and the USA.

*** Contact:
Romani CRISS
19 Buzesti Street, Bucharest 1
Tel: +40-1-231.41.44 - Fax: +40-1-212.56.05
E-mail: criss@dnt.ro


In many European countries, serious incidents of abuse of human rights of Roma by police officers have been recorded, including physical violence against Roma. Raising awareness of this problem, punishing those responsible, assisting victims to secure justice, and ultimately preventing such incidents from occurring are all important challenges which NGOs and governments must address.

The Human Rights Project was founded as an NGO in 1992. Its goal is to monitor and publicise incidents of police and other abuse of Roma rights in Bulgaria, and to support victims in their dealings with the authorities, including taking legal action where appropriate through the courts. Incidents and actions taken are publicised in local media, and examples are documented in HRP's Annual Reports. HRP also monitors and, where necessary, challenges the responses of the judicial system in such cases. In 1998, in cooperation with the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights and the European Roma Rights Centre, HRP successfully took the case of Anton Assenov to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and secured a condemnation of police brutality against Roma. A second case, on behalf of Mrs Ania Velikova whose husband died in police custody, was also successful in 2000.

HRP's approach brings it directly into conflict with the police, and in its early years any form of cooperation was impossible. However, in 1996-7, with the support of the Council of Europe, HRP organised a series of round tables in which police officials and representatives of NGOs and Roma communities were able to exchange views. In 1998-9, the HRP, in association with national Roma organisations, successfully promoted the adoption of the 'Framework Programme for Equal Integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society' by the Bulgarian Government. The elaboration of the Framework Programme, and the campaign for its adoption carried out by Romani organisations in Bulgaria, exemplify a model for the participation of Roma in national policy-making on Roma affairs.

HRP continues to campaign for effective complaints and discipline procedures to deal with cases of police abuse of citizens' rights. (The lack of such procedures is not unique to Bulgaria, but a widespread problem in transition states.) HRP is now able to address these issues through dialogue, while continuing to act on behalf of victims in individual cases. HRP also maintains close connections with the Roma communities in Bulgaria, through its regional offices, its human rights education programmes, and its casework. Both the Board and staff of HRP are composed of a mix of Roma and non-Roma individuals working together.

*** Contact:
Human Rights Project
23 Solunska Street (6th floor)
1000 Sofia,
Tel/fax: (359-2-) 986.3546, 981.5066


The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international NGO which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe, and provides legal defence for Roma who have experienced violation of their human rights. Based in Budapest, Hungary, it has an international Board of Directors, and a body of legal and other staff drawn from a variety of countries.

In 1998-99, the ERRC, with the cooperation of the Council of Europe, organised a series of national-level workshops on international and domestic human rights litigation. These workshops were held in six countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Spain, Ukraine and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In each country they were conducted in association with local bar associations and human rights organisations. The workshops brought together domestic lawyers, Roma and representatives of human rights NGOs, judges, government officials, and international lawyers dealing with cases in international courts. The aim of the programme has been to help empower Roma and their advocates to secure their human rights by use of the law. The main emphasis in the approach was on practical issues of conducting litigation on behalf of Roma clients to achieve strategic legal goals.

Since 1996, the ERRC has also cooperated with the Council of Europe to help provide human rights training for lawyers involved in legal assistance to Roma/Gypsies. A three-day training session is currently held annually in Strasbourg. It is hosted and funded by the Human Rights Awareness Unit of the Directorate of Human Rights, and the Division of Migration and Roma/Gypsies. Legal experts, including ERRC staff and lawyers of the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights, act as tutors.

The objective of the course is to familiarise the participants with relevant mechanisms of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the functioning of the European Court of Human Rights. The session in 2000 was specially designed to provide guidance on discrimination cases. It was attended by 15 persons drawn from 11 countries (in Central/Eastern Europe, and Italy), all of whom were practising lawyers who provide legal representation and advice to Roma. The course included attendance at a Hearing at the European Court, and a 'moot trial exercise' which was very well received by the participants according to the course evaluation.

A full account of the workshop programme is provided in the report, Legal Defence of the Roma, published by the ERRC. Further information about the training at Strasbourg can be obtained from the Council of Europe Secretariat.

*** Contact:

European Roma Rights Centre
PO Box 906/93, H-1386 Budapest 62
Tel: +36-1-413.2200 - Fax: +36-1-413.2201
E-mail: errc@errc.org

Coordinator for Roma/Gypsy Affairs
Secretariat-General, Council of Europe
F67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France
Tel: +33-388-412991
Fax: +33-388-412731


Although accurate statistical evidence is usually lacking, Roma are seriously over-represented in prisons in many countries in Europe. The Barañí Project carried out a study of Romani women in prisons in Spain, in order to investigate the reasons for this over-representation and the consequences for Romani women and their communities. This project has been financed under the EU Daphne Initiative, under the auspices of the Association 'La Kalle', based in Madrid. The study provides a good example of how a small NGO project can make a major contribution to diagnosing systematic discrimination in a particular institution, and to identifying the actions required for tackling the problem.

During 1999, the Barañí team interviewed 290 Romani women in 12 prisons, as well as police, prosecutors, judges and prison officials. According to their report, 1.5% of the population of Spain are Romani, but 25% of women prison inmates. 60% are serving sentences for drug-dealing, usually on a small scale, and most of the rest for drug-related theft or robbery. The average sentence is 6.7 years, and 60% are repeat offenders. 87% of the women are mothers, and 44% are located outside their region or province.

The study focuses on three levels of discrimination that impact these Romani women. The first is at the level of Spanish society as a whole, affecting the Romani community in areas such as employment, housing, education, and welfare services. Romani women experience triple discrimination: class, ethnic and gender. The second level is that of the criminal justice system. Despite the lack of statistics, there are strong indications that Romani women are systematically discriminated against at all stages: more targeted by police and detained pre-trial; more likely to be tried, convicted and imprisoned; and less likely to receive alternatives to prison or be paroled. The third level is the destructive effects on the women and their families of the long sentences, which are anyway ineffective in combating small-scale drug-dealing.

The study has helped to promote public awareness and debate, not only about the situation of Romani women in prisons, but about the problem of discrimination against Roma in Spain generally. The Barañí Project has put forward a comprehensive series of recommendations for combating discrimination against Romani women in all areas of Spanish life. Those relating to the field of criminal justice include: recognition of systematic discrimination, creation of an 'oversight body on discrimination', training for officials, provision of mediators, raising Roma awareness of legal rights, addressing specific needs of Romani inmates, location of women near their homes, and support programmes for ex-prisoners.

*** Contact:

Proyecto Barañí
c/o Daniel Wagman
C/Libertad 11:2, 28015 Madrid
Tel: +34-91-531.89.04
E-mail: dwagman@gea21.com



In 1997, UNICRI (the UN Interregional Crime & Justice Unit) carried out a comparative research study on Roma youth and juvenile justice, based on three sites - Paris, Florence, and Pest County in Hungary. The study revealed common failures of the juvenile justice systems in all three countries to comprehend the social and cultural context of minor criminality among Roma youth, and to deal with the problem effectively and constructively. Almost no programmes had been introduced to address these failures, apart from an initiative of the tribunal in Paris designed to improve interventions with a group of Roma girls originating from Yugoslavia. Research of this kind plays a valuable role in identifying needs, but there is also an urgent need for action by relevant authorities.

*** Contact: viale Maestri del Lavoro 10, 10127 Torino, Italy; Tel +39-011-653.7111 - Fax -631.3368; website: www.unicri.it