NEWS BRIEFS

Interior Minister refuses to publish Romany crime figures

Speaking at a November 23 press conference, Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said he would not allow statistics on Romany crime to be published. The data had been requested by the far-right opposition Slovak National Party (SNS), which had submitted a draft plan for combating Romany crime to parliament.

Pittner explained that he does not consider distinctions between Romanies, Hungarians and Slovaks involved in crime to be helpful to the public. "These data will not be revealed, so as not to discriminate against Romanies, but they will be used for the internal needs of the police," Pittner announced. Pittner and the Roma Intelligentsia for Coexistence (RIS) agreed last week that statistical data on Romany crime would only be used to serve the internal needs of the Interior Ministry and would not be provided to the media. The Roma community has long protested against the publishing of Romany crime rate statistics at regular ministry press conferences, marking it as a racist move.

Data from the early 1990's show that only 7% of Romanies were involved in criminal activities. However, the Romany share of the total crime rate was actually several times higher because that 7% repeatedly committed crimes, thus giving the impression that Romanies were unusually disposed towards crime.

Pittner has agreed with RIS representatives that an external advisor on the human rights of ethnic groups and national minorities should be appointed to the Interior Ministry, and furthermore that this person should be an RIS-nominated Romany. The advisor should begin working as of December 1 this year.

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