NEWS - Archive August 2013

Headlines 30 August, 2013

By David Fischler

30/8/2013- Facebook is the world’s largest social media website, one with hundreds of millions of users in well over a hundred countries. Despite its size, however, Facebook is not an entirely public forum on which “anything goes.” Rather, it is a worldwide gathering place where certain forms of speech and certain kinds of images are not allowed. On its community standards page, the site lists a variety of types of speech that are not allowed, including threats of violence, pornography, and spam. Among those prohibited is “hate speech,” about which the policy is as follows: “Hate Speech: Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.” [Emphasis added.]

This has nothing to do with censorship (which is a government activity, and cannot be engaged in by a private individual or organization), but with maintaining a civil space for the exchange of ideas. Granted, that isn’t always the case, but that’s why Facebook makes provision for hate speech to be reported. One can disagree with the policy, but it is clear what sorts of speech are being curtailed. 

I was recently pointed in the direction of a Facebook page entitled The Untold History, run by a group out of Sweden that calls itself the European Knights Project, a partner of the Institute for Historical Review. On its masthead, it proclaims in all-caps that it is a “HISTORICAL SITE NON-POLITICAL,” but this is a sham. It is, in fact, a Holocaust denial site that not only presents bogus and falsified history, but also traffics in the vilest sort of anti-Semitism. Presented primarily in the form of graphics with messages, Photoshopped pictures, and cartoons, the page offers all of the anti-Semitic greatest hits: Jews control America and want to control the world; the Holocaust never happened; Jews exploit the Holocaust myth for money; the Allies did far worse to the Germans, Japanese, and Japanese-Americans than the Nazis did to the Jews; Hitler was a great guy who was just standing up for Christian civilization; Communism is a Jewish tool; Israel is the source of all evil in the world; 9/11 was a Mossad job; etc. In one graphic, a “quote” fabricated by the American evangelist Texe Marrs is put in the mouth of Menachem Begin: “Our race is the ‘Master Race.’ We are divine gods on this planet. We are as different from the inferior races as they are from insects.... other races are beasts and animals, cattle at best. Our destiny is to rule over the inferior races. The masses will lick our feet and serve us as our slaves.”

Once I had examined “The Untold History” for myself, I reported it to Facebook, and expected it to be quickly removed. Instead, I received this response from administrators:
Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our community standard on hate speech.”

Flabbergasted by this response, I began contacting my Facebook friends, and urging them to report “The Untold History” for violating site standards. Dozens have done so, and all have received the same response. For some reason that is impossible to fathom, the administrators of Facebook seem completely incapable of recognizing anti-Semitism when it is staring them in the face, or see how it constitutes a violation of terms of use that ban hate speech. In an effort to put pressure on Facebook to act, I have set up a page called Protest “The Untold History” and Other Anti-Semitic Pages. Oddly enough, this page seems to have a problem with disappearing posts. But you can still “like” it to send a message. I have also contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Anti-Defamation League to look into Facebook’s non-disapproval of hate speech directed at Jews. As the word gets out, hopefully the company will do some serious self-examination, and ask itself why it has such a difficult time seeing what is obvious to all but the most bigoted observer.

David Fischler is an Evangelical Presbyterian pastor and writer who blogs issues of religious and moral import, including anti-Semitism in the mainline churches, at

Jewish News.


Defence minister rebuffs 'anti-Semitic conference' (Canada)

Rob Nicholson's staff say he never endorsed fringe Catholic group's symposium

29/8/2013- Another federal politician is moving to distance himself from a conference taking place next month organized by a fringe religious group accused of anti-Semitism. Defence Minister Rob Nicholson's name appears several times in a brochure, letter and news release for the "Path to Peace" forum being put on in his riding by a southern Ontario group called the Fatima Centre. His communications director, however, said Wednesday that Nicholson never intended to participate, never agreed to lend his name to the event and will seek to have it removed. On Monday, CBC News reported that Senator Roméo Dallaire had been booked to speak at the event without realizing who was behind it, and pulled out when his staff were alerted to the background of the Fatima Centre and some of the other conference speakers.

The conference has come under fire from a U.S. non-profit that campaigns against organizations it deems to be hate groups. On its website, the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Path to Peace symposium an "anti-Semitic conference" and says the Fatima Centre is "part of the 'radical traditionalist Catholic' movement, perhaps the single largest group of hard-core anti-Semites in North America." Coralie Graham, a conference convenor and one of the Fatima Centre's directors, said her organization has been the victim of smear campaigns and guilt by association, which have deterred a number of dignitaries from attending. "Politicians have to be careful with their image. It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong; they don't want to be tarnished with someone else' s brush," she said Wednesday. She added that Nicholson "knows what we're about and who we are, but if he doesn't come for that reason, it's because of the media, of the libels."

Politicians said to be attending
The Fatima Centre had stated in literature for its conference that Nicholson and several legislators from various U.S. states "have already announced that they will attend." A separate press release said, "We have already received the endorsement of the Minister of Defence for Canada, the Hon. Rob Nicholson." But Nicholson's communications director, Genevieve Breton, said in emails to CBC News that the minister "was never scheduled to attend this event." "No indication was ever given to the conference organizers that the minister would participate," she said. "The minister never endorsed this conference and we never agreed to have his name referenced in literature," she added. "We will be taking steps to have his name removed." The Fatima Centre, a dissident Catholic group that believes the Pope has an as-yet unfulfilled duty to consecrate Russia to bring about world peace, ardently denies any anti-Semitism. On one of its websites, it says "hatred of the Jews as a race" is "detestable." Those same publications also have references, though, to "the duty incumbent upon Catholics of combating valiantly for the integral rights of Christ the King and opposing Jewish Naturalism" and to "Satan's plans against the Church," among which is "the granting of full citizenship to the Jews."

Conspiracy theorists, extremists
Speakers named in the schedule for the conference next month in Niagara Falls include the president of the U.S.-based John Birch Society, a right-wing American group that campaigns against the U.S. Federal Reserve, says the UN is trying to control "all human activity" and claims Nelson Mandela is "carrying forward a communist program of terrorism and genocide." Others listed in the program are a pair of Italian politicians from radical right-wing movements. One, Mario Borghezio, belongs to a party striving to preserve Italy's "Christian culture," and said earlier this year that Italy's first black cabinet minister "wants to impose her tribal conditions from the Congo." He later apologized. British and Italian newspapers have reported he was convicted of arson for his role in a 2001 incident where some people set fire to a makeshift camp set up by immigrants living beneath a Turin bridge.

The other, Roberto Fiore, co-founded Italy's extremist Forza Nuova party, which has campaigned for the expulsion of immigrants and has been widely characterized as neo-fascist. The European press has reported he was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to nine years in prison (commuted on appeal to 5½) for his ties to a political faction associated with a fascist militant group. The Fatima Centre recently posted a statement online saying that "Mr. Fiore is concerned about the loss of national identity in Italy and other European countries as a result of the influx of immigrants from Islamic nations. There is nothing uncharitable about loving one's heritage and desiring to preserve and protect it." It has since been taken down, and Fiore has pulled out of the conference, Graham said.

The conference's website and brochures state its keynote speaker is Ron Paul, the former U.S. congressman and three-time candidate for president. Photos of Paul and Senator Dallaire featured in ads for the conference on the internet and on a billboard near the Peace Bridge to the U.S. The Fatima Centre is now rejigging those ads to remove Dallaire. The Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said in a statement that it was "concerned by anti-Jewish content" on some websites affiliated with the Fatima Centre and that "it’s important that people of good will — particularly public officeholders — distance themselves from such extremism."
CBC News


Serbian Govt Urged to Back Gay Pride

Amnesty International has urged the Belgrade government to fully support the march on September 28, and condemn any threats aimed at participants.

30/8/2013- The human rights organisation Amnesty International on Thursday said it was “deeply concerned at the Serbian government’s silence on this year’s Belgrade Pride march”, scheduled for September 28. “With only one month to go, the authorities have yet to give their permission for the Pride to go ahead, and the organisers have not received any guarantee that the Pride march will not be banned again this year,” the statement said, adding that the organisation fears that the authorities may refuse permission for the march. Amnesty called on Ivica Dacic, Serbia's Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to ensure that the government gives full support to the march. It also urged officials to publicly condemn all threats, harassment and violence directed towards organisers and participants.

Serbia's first Pride march was brought to a halt in Belgrade in June 2001 as protestors clashed with police. In 2009, 2011 and 2012, the authorities banned the parade altogether after police declared they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence. The Pride march went ahead in 2010, but several thousand youngsters, including football fans and members of rightist organisations, threw stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire. Amnesty said it was “not aware of any investigations into the threats made in 2012, or of any subsequent prosecutions” and called the state to investigate any attacks or threats made against LGBTI people ahead of this year’s march. “Amnesty International acknowledges that Serbia, on the brink of EU accession talks, has many issues to address. But the government cannot ignore its human rights obligations,” the statement said.


• a day ago
They can't Putin will be angry. 

• a day ago

I respect anybody of the Orthodox faith and cannot tolerate this western virus infecting my beloved Serbia. This kind of behavior is better suited for Croatia where Americro and Kandit can parade for the crowd and demonstrate Croatian pride. 

Csmpltn miki
• 4 hours ago
A good place to start getting rid of this "western virus" would be the Orthodox Church itself, followed by Obraz, Nasi, Dveri, and every other religious-nationalist group full of uneducated, parochial, sexually repressed, male peasants who cannot keep their hands off of each other. I suspect you are one of them because your imbecility is seething out of my Mac screen, and that usually happens whenever I read one of their comments.

On a slightly different note, people such as yourself, are perhaps one of the biggest reasons Serbia is underdeveloped in every single area of it's society, with the exception of religious idiocy and nationalistic chest-thumping. Serbia would be better off without medieval throwbacks such as yourself who don't even have the intellectual capacity to find out (via the brilliant invention of the internet) that homosexuality is native EVERYWHERE.

Finally, it is not "your Serbia". You probably have contributed absolutely nothing to the progress of not only Serbs, but even mankind. You are a passenger on earth and the personification of disgrace.
Balkan Insight


Families of over 1,700 people still missing since the Kosovo war marked the International Day of the Disappeared by urging the authorities to do more to find their relatives’ remains.

30/8/2013- An electronic billboard which will constantly show the names and photographs of people who have been missing since the Kosovo war in the late 1990s was installed near the government building in Pristina on Friday as relatives commemorated the annual International Day of the Disappeared. “This will make us remember, so they won’t be forgotten. They must not be forgotten,” Sherife Koca, whose 22-year old son remains missing, told BIRN. Koca, who was holding a photo of her son as she stood with about 50 other people commemorating the event in front of the government building, criticised the authorities for not doing more to resolve the issue. “The government doesn’t want to know about this,” she said. A total of 1,726 people remain missing since the 1998-1999 war with Serbian forces. “The pain of these families will be gone once the last person who went missing is found. We call upon all people in the world to help us to ease this pain which has become unbearable for us,” said Haki Kasumi, head of Kosovo’s missing persons association. The families have urged the European Union to pressure Belgrade to help resolve the fate of those still missing, and also recently asked the government to raise the issue at the UN Security Council.

The issue was discussed once during EU-mediated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade but was not mentioned in their final agreement on the normalisation of relations. However Kosovo’s deputy prime minister, Edita Tahiri, who led the technical dialogue with Belgrade, insisted that “the issue was discussed continuously”. Tahiri said that “the solution for this problem is in Serbia” and urged the Belgrade authorities to open archives where information on the location of wartime graves could be found. Associations of families of missing persons from Kosovo and Serbia also marked the International Day of the Disappeared by holding joint conferences in both cities. “It is no small achievement to have families from Belgrade and Pristina jointly marking this day,” Ilber Morina from the International Commission for Missing Persons, which supported the initiative, told a press conference in Belgrade. “Here with us we have two families, one Serb and one Albanian, and in Pristina we also have families from both ethnic groups speaking about their problems,” Morina said.

Families of Serbs and Albanians from Kosovo wrote a joint letter urging officials from both countries to help solve their problems. “Every year we have fewer and fewer identifications [of missing people’s remains] and now we feel this process has completely stopped. That is why we have more than 1,700 people still missing,” said Natasa Scepanovic from the Serbian association of Kosovo victims. Ljus Krasnici from the association of victims from the Kosovo town of Pec/Peja said that they got together so they could resolve their problems on a humanitarian rather than a political level. “We managed to organise ourselves and realise that all victims are the same, despite their ethnicity. We removed politics from this issue; our only aim is to find our loved ones,” Krasnici said at the Belgrade conference.
Balkan Insight


New Church Sparks Ethnic Tension in Macedonia Village

Police have been deployed to ensure order in a Macedonian village after the Albanian Muslim majority there opposed the construction of a new Macedonian Orthodox church.

28/8/2013- Police said on Wednesday that they were monitoring the situation in the village of Oktisi near Struga in the south-west where last weekend ethnic Albanian residents prevented a ground-breaking ceremony for a small Orthodox church built by ethnic Macedonians. “The situation is calm but our patrols are vigilant,” a police spokesperson told BIRN. Media reported that on Saturday evening, local Muslim clerics used evening prayers to call believers to protest the next morning against the construction of the church. One cleric used loudspeakers on his mosque’s minaret to amplify his call for his “Muslim brothers” to join the “peaceful” protest, video footage suggested. On Sunday, more than a hundred ethnic Albanians gathered at the construction site and prevented the first ground being broken for the construction of the small church dedicated to St Demetrius. A police cordon prevented occasional scuffles between villagers turning in to a major fight, MIA news agency reported.

“We have been deprived of our basic human right, to walk freely on this Macedonian land,” local Orthodox priest Zoran told media after the incident. BIRN was unable to get a comment from Macedonia’s Islamic Religious Community, the national Muslim body, about the allegations that its clerics called for the protest from the two village mosques. The incident has started to stir up renewed ethnic and religious tensions in the country. Macedonian-language media had reported minor altercations between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians in Oktisi even before the Saturday incident, although none of those stories have yet been substantiated.

In 2001, Macedonia went through a short armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. However, the ethnically mixed region around Struga was not involved. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of an agreement that gave greater rights to country’s Albanians who make one quarter of the population. Ethnically-motivated incidents have however occurred from time to time since then. The last major incident happened in March when Skopje was gripped by two days of violent protests and counter-protests over the controversial appointment of an ethnic Albanian ex-guerrilla, Talat Xhaferi, as defence minister. Fourteen people were jailed as a result. The majority of the population in the country are Macedonians who are Orthodox Christians. Most of the country’s Albanians, who make up a quarter of the population, are Muslims.
Balkan Insight


Eurosceptics snub Wilders' attempt to form European far-right party (Netherlands)

The controversial Dutch far-right leader wants to gather like-minded parties in a mass movement ahead of next year's European elections, but not all are ready to join. UKIP frontrunner Nigel Farage has rejected such an initiative.

28/8/2013- The controversial leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), Geert Wilders, has toured Europe over the past few weeks in an attempt to create a new movement of far-right parties ahead of the next European elections, scheduled to take place in May 2014. Wilders met with like-minded leaders from the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the French National Front (FN), the Swedish Democrats, the Italian Northern League and possibly also with the newly formed German Alternative for Germany. The PVV had until recently energetically rejected any possible collaboration with Le Pen’s FN or the Vlaams Belang. The Dutch nationalist leader clarified his European ambitions in the Dutch media. Wilders said he did not want to see “extremist and racist” parties joining his movement, citing Hungary’s Jobbik and the British National Party. His wish is to bring together those who are “against the European Union and against mass immigration,” he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

But so far, few have confirmed their participation in this new political platform, which is supposed to create a coalition of eurosceptic movements. “Our party has not joined the alliance,” says Martin Kinnunen, the spokesperson for the Swedish Eurosceptic Democrats. “We have met with different parties to get more information but it is hard to say anything at this stage as we don’t know which parties will participate.” A similar lukewarm response came from the Italian Northern League, while the rest of the parties were not immediately reachable for comment. This is not the first time that nationalist parties have sought to join forces inside the European Parliament. Many previous attempts were short-lived, as was the case in the late eighties with the Group of the European Right, chaired by FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Many nationalist and eurosceptic parties currently have a seat in Parliament, but the groups are rarely ideologically coherent. The most vocal is the “Europe of Freedom and Democracy” party, chaired by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader, Nigel Farage. In an e-mailed statement to EurActiv, UKIP made it clear that the party would not join Wilders’ initiative. "UKIP is not right-wing but a Libertarian party which believes in small government, low taxes, personal freedom and responsibility under a democratic national government, not under Brussels rule. UKIP are not involved in this initiative by Geert Wilders." The members of the European Parliament from Wilders’ PVV are currently not attached to a political group in the assembly. In April, Wilders claimed in an interview that a “political revolution” in Europe was underway, announcing a massive victory for right-wing parties.

At home, Wilders’ party has made inroads. Austerity measures have seriously damaged the reputation of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with mass demonstrations scheduled to take place in The Hague in September. According to the latest poll, Wilders’ PVV is set to reach high scores in his country. Whether he will have the same success on a European level is not certain.


Amsterdam's mayor calls for official complaint about Russian gay rights (Netherlands)

26/8/2013- Amsterdam's mayor Eberhard van der Laan on Sunday called on the Dutch government to make an official complaint about Russia, for breaking human rights treaties with its new anti-gay law. Van der Laan made the call during a rally and concert entitled 'To Russia with Love' on Amsterdam's Museumplein. The event, attended by some 2,500 people, was called to protest at Russia's new law which bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to the under-18s. According to the Parool, the mayor said it would be possible to make a complaint to the European Court in Strasburg and judges could determine if Russia's new legislation conflicts with human rights treaties.

400 years
Russia, the mayor told the rally, is the only country where human rights are being limited rather than expanded. Van der Laan, a lawyer by profession, said he had not been in touch with the cabinet about the idea. The foreign ministry did not comment on Sunday. The rally took place ahead of a gala concert on the Museumplein organised by Russia as part of the Netherlands-Russia year, which celebrates 400 years of ties between the two countries. Van der Laan and other city councillors attended both events.
The Dutch News


A young Swedish Muslim inspired by Wallenberg

Siavosh Derakhti, a young Muslim from Malmö who has emerged as a leading figure in the fight against anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Sweden, picked up the first-ever Raoul Wallenberg Prize on Tuesday, making him our choice for Swede of the Week.

29/8/2013- "Winning a prize dedicated to the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg is fantastic. To be compared with him is unreal; it's magical," Derakhti tells The Local after accepting his prize. The 22-year-old son of Azerbaijani-Turkish immigrants from Iran, Derakhti has lived in Malmö his entire life. For the last three years, he's been holding workshops for young people in Sweden's third-largest city in an attempt to breakdown what he sees as damaging stereotypes. "I saw that Jews, Muslims, and Roma in Malmö were all being oppressed in some way. There was also a lot of ignorance among young people in Malmö," he tells The Local. "I decided this should be one country for everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they believe, or the colour of their skin."

In 2010, as reports began emerging that members of Malmö's Jewish community were fleeing the city in the face of rising anti-Semitism, Derakhti helped organize and finance a trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp for his mostly Muslim classmates in hopes of getting them to think differently. "I think it's unacceptable for a rabbi to get harassed in Malmö because he's a symbol for Judaism," he explains. "It's unacceptable that anyone be subject to hateful comments on our streets. We're all people." He then founded Young Muslims Against Anti-Semitism (Unga Muslimer mot Antisemitism), an organization which has since broadened its mandate and is now called Young People Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia ('Unga mot Antisemitism & Främlingsfientlighet').

"One of the biggest problems today in Sweden is that there are too few people who care about each other and too many who have given up hope about the future," says Derakhti. "We have a xenophobic party in parliament and they may end up being the third largest party in the Riksdag after the next election and there's something wrong with that." Last year, Derakhti was honoured for his efforts with an award from the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism. Less than a year later, he finds himself as the first-ever recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Prize. "Wallenberg has been an important role model for me," he says. "He has also been a huge inspiration for me in my work because he showed that one individual can make a huge difference in society."

Derakhti plans to use the 100,000 kronor ($15,240) that accompanies the prize to finance more train-the-trainer workshops so that he can help equip more young people with the tools they need to help fight ignorance and intolerance. "We need more young leaders in Sweden who have the skills and courage to stand up against racism," he says. In addition to Wallenberg, Derakhti also counts fellow Malmö-native Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a member of Sweden's national football team, as an important role model. "He's the son of immigrants, like me; his dad is a Muslim, like mine is; he grew up in the suburbs, like me; and he had a hard time in school," Derakhti explains, admitting that he struggled in school and often cut class. "But he still ended up succeeding and becoming a great football player."

Derakhti hopes to mirror Zlatan's path to success, but within the sphere of youth organizing and the fight against racism. "We need to activate our young people, educate them, and give them the tools they need to make a difference themselves," he explains. Derakhti sees the battle against online racism and racist cyberbullying as another important challenge that Swedes need to tackle. "People foment hateful, racist campaigns online under false identities and say things they would probably never say in public," he explains. "We need to meet them head on and answer that hate with civil debate that is conducted with information, love, and respect. "I'm convinced we're going to win, and I'm going to keep fighting for it as long as I live."
The Local - Sweden


Gay Tourists Barred From Montenegro Churches

The two Serbian Orthodox churches in Kotor's old town suddenly closed their doors on Monday, as 2,500 gays on a cruise ship descended on the coastal resort.

27/8/2013- The churches of St Nicholas and St Luke's in the Montenegrin coastal town of Kotor were closed from 1pm to 5pm on Monday, as a group of 2,500 gays from all over the world visited Kotor on a Mediterranean cruise. Both churches belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which takes a firm line in opposing all public manifestations of homosexuality. On the doors of the church of St Nicholas visitors could only see a paper stating that the church would be “urgently closed between 1pm and 5pm”. The cruiser, the Celebrity Silhouette, reached Kotor from Dubrovnik in Croatia carrying 2,456 travellers who were taking part in an “all-gay cruise” trip from Venice to Corsica. Although the visitors could not see the Serbian churches in Kotor’s old town, they suffered no other reported inconveniences.

“Although we do not have any jurisdiction to take care of the passengers, I can say that Kotor and Montenegro have passed the test on respect for difference,” Vasilije Kusovac, director of the Port of Kotor, told the daily Blic. Montenegro has a mixed record on the issue of gay rights. An inaugural gay parade, named Seaside Pride, attended by an estimated 120 people, went ahead in Budva on July 23. However, anti-gay protesters threw stones and bottles and a few participants were injured. Police arrested around 20 people suspected of attacking the marchers. After the event, one of the organisers said he had received death threats. The pro-EU authorities want matters to improve. In May, Montenegro’s Anti-Discrimination Council supported a draft strategy aimed at improving life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals over the next five years.
Balkan Insight


New investigations, compensation for Roma murders in Hungary

The investigations into a series of murders against members of Hungary's Roma community in 2008 and 2009 have been re-opened, with a focus on investigators' failures and potential wrongdoing in the case.

27/8/2013- Pressure put on Hungary's government by human rights activists and lawyers has apparently worked. Hungary's National Bureau of Investigation (NNI), the country's central police investigation office primarily dealing with terrorism and other national security threats, is reopening its investigation into a series of Roma killings that took place in 2008 and 2009. One or more suspected conspirators remain free. During the two-year murder spree, right-wing extremists undertook nine arson attacks and other crimes, resulting in six deaths. In addition, 55 people, nearly all of whom were Roma, suffered life-threatening and other injuries. A handful of suspected murderers were apprehended in August 2009, and their trial began in early 2011. Recently, in early August, they were sentenced. Three received life in prison, and an accomplice was sent to prison for 13 years. Each of them has since appealed the rulings.

A gesture for the victims
Hungarian public prosecutors have demanded investigations into the military due to suspicions that Hungary's military intelligence service helped facilitate the Roma murders. Hungarian Roma activist Aladar Horvath and others say these announcements represent "late, but welcome gestures" from the government to the victims. Hungary's minister in charge of human resources, Zoltan Balog, had already announced his government intended to compensate survivors of the attacks and the families of the victims, explaining that the Hungarian state bore part of the responsibility for the series of murders. Balog also said government offices neglected their duties during the investigations. That marks a severe reprimand for the former Socialist-Liberal governing coalition. Balog's announcement is significant: It represents the first time that a minister has admitted the Hungarian state's complicity in a crime while concluding that such missteps demand some sort of restitution program.

Police failures
During and just after the conclusion of the series of murders, it became clear that the Hungarian government was responsible for many scandalous misdeeds during its follow-up on the crimes. For example, the investigation wasn't centralized until four Roma, including a four-year-old boy, had already been murdered. For months, authorities neglected to consider seriously that right-wing extremists could be behind the attacks, and police officers had a hand in intentionally destroying evidence at crime scenes. DNA analysis also went on to show that there were likely further culprits in addition to the four arrested suspects. If that's true, they continue to roam free today. The investigation has brought up further signals that there are numerous other confidantes and supporters involved in the murders. What's more, Hungary's domestic intelligence agency had surveilled two of the right-wing extremists later convicted of the murders, but ceased surveillance activities just before the series of murders began. It remains unclear how much the intelligence agency knew about the perpetrators thereafter, and whether its members intentionally withheld information from those investigating the crimes against the Roma. A case officer from the country's military intelligence service, on the other hand, even had contact with one of the accomplices during the crime. Just recently, it became known that the case officer in question was pressured by his superiors to give false testimony during the Roma trial.

Moved by an open letter
Liberal politician Jozsef Gulyas, who led parliament's 2009-2010 investigative committee into the string of murders, welcomed the reopening of the case and hopes "the authorities' misdeeds can finally be uncovered." Gulyas also expressed approval for the decision to compensate victims, noting that it "is not popular in Hungary" to show support for the Roma victims. The government announced its plans to compensate victims after human rights activists and attorneys repeatedly drew attention to the devastating living conditions faced by survivors and victims' families in recent months. Lawyer Laszlo Helmeczy, who represented the widow of a victim killed in 2009, Jenö Koka, wrote a moving open letter to Hungarian head of state Viktor Orban. Helmeczy described the anguish of several surviving victims and called upon Orban to quickly provide better support for those affected. "It seems like an honest gesture from the government to now provide compensation to the victims," said Roma activist Aladar Horvath. "In light of the election next year, it could offer a clear signal that this government wants to set itself apart from the right wing's discrimination toward Roma people."
The Deutsche Welle.


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