Police advice steeped in hate speech
Volodymyr Batchaev, Head of the Board of the Cherkasy Centre for Monitoring Human Rights begins a recent article with a quote from a circular issued by Heinrich Himmler from 1938 “On fighting the gypsy scourge”. He quotes the text in detail, then cites another text which appeared, unfortunately, much more recently. It states that “the protectors of order are constantly calling on citizens to not get into any contact with gypsies, after all almost each such conversation ends with them being cheated. Be vigilant, when gypsies ask to come into your place under any pretext: to drink water, change a baby’s nappy, to ask for food or clothes”. The text continues in this vein.
This was an article published on 23 April 2010 on the official site of the Ministry of Internal Affairs under the title “Six ways of parting with your money. The third: nice and unfortunate Roma in your home”.
Just in 2010 the same site has published 9 similar negative items about Roma people. The author hopes the aim is not to arouse hatred towards the Roma, that the police genuinely want to warn people not to be cheated. “Yet the police, by dismissively and contemptuously writing about an entire “Gypsy people” and posting this on their official website, have effectively themselves committed a crime falling under Article 161 of the Criminal Code (infringement of equality on the basis of race, ethnic identity or religious convictions”. Articles such as that quoted, he believes, can be classified as deliberate actions aimed at inciting national enmity and hatred, at denigrating national honour and dignity”.
“In Ukraine these days everything has become so entangled and mixed up that you suddenly wonder if you’re not losing your mind: communists are building their glorious future in a coalition with oligarchs, the destruction of parks is explained as concern for people, while banning meetings is considered an achievement of democracy; an increase in the pension age vital for improving life already today, while the constant re-publishing of history textbooks is viewed as a way of uniting the nation. And posting material which denigrates an ethnic group on the police site is from that same market of madness since a mere two months earlier the same ministry approved “an MIA Action Plan on Countering Racism and Xenophobia for the period up to 2012. In my view this is the best indicator of the lack of balance in the Internal Affairs system.
However one truth remains unchanging: if you use hate speech yourself, you can expect it to be used with regard to you. The author adds that if you ask most people who is more likely to take money from them illicitly – Roma people or the traffic police, the result would likely be the latter.
“We dream of integration and persistently knock on Europe’s door, assuring them of our readiness to live by the rules established there. Yet we stubbornly fail to listen to an entire people who have long been trying to reach us and tell us of their woes and difficulties. Perhaps it is this, and not ethnic features, which explains the increase in crime in the Roma community?”
The author ends by expressing the hope that the MIA management will understand that tolerance is not just a word for meetings on fighting racism with the OSCE. They should begin by removing from their site that shameful article and others, and making a public apology to the Roma community.