THE HAGUE, 10 October 2011 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek issued the following statement today:
“The Roma across Europe have come under renewed attack lately. The stigmatization of an entire community and the seeking of vengeance for crimes allegedly perpetrated by an individual member of it is deeply disturbing. The use of violence and terror by extremist groups threatens not only the physical security of individuals but, if unchecked, also the overall stability and credibility of our States as democratic, multi-ethnic entities based on the rule of law.
“The recent incidents of anti-Roma violence appear to be instigated by extreme nationalists, who exploit insecurities associated with the economic crisis and political uncertainties of our time. Their simplistic messages, often accompanied by the discourse of victimization of the majority community, appear attractive to many people who seek scapegoats and easy solutions to their problems. In such cases, State authorities and all political actors must show leadership and confront such messages. They should denounce hatred and marginalization and ensure the basic security and full respect for the rights of all their residents, particularly those from minority backgrounds.
“History is full of warnings about the repercussions of intolerance in multi-ethnic societies. Violence must be confronted at both the political and judicial level. Law enforcement bodies should be given full support in investigating and prosecuting cases against suspected perpetrators of violence, ensuring fair trials. If this is not done promptly, the credibility and legitimacy of democratic institutions will be undermined and the capacity of society to contain violence and resolve conflicts will be weakened.
“Regrettably, it is not uncommon for ethno-cultural diversity to generate nationalistic and xenophobic responses, particularly at times of crisis. Such responses, however, need to be countered so that they remain marginal and contained outside mainstream politics. I call upon political leaders, and police and judicial authorities across the OSCE participating States to take resolute, consistent and urgent action against violence and the dangerous ‘mainstreaming’ of intolerance in the political and public sphere.”