Posted on September 22, 2010

Nationalists Would Outlaw Denial of ‘Gypsy Criminality’

Budapest Times, September 20, 2010

‘Politically correct public discourse in Hungary has for decades prevented the solution of problems’

The far-right party Jobbik has called for legislation that would make the denial of “inherent criminality” among the country’s Roma minority punishable by up to three years in jail, five for politicians and other public figures.

The draft proposal for an amendment to the Criminal Code was submitted to parliament last Monday. One of its three sponsors, Jobbik politician János Volner, told reporters last Wednesday that the aim was to ensure there is “honest debate” about certain issues, “for example about the question of Gypsy criminality, as is currently taking place in France and Italy”.

‘Sociological relationship’

The proposed amendment to criminalise “the denial of facts that are common knowledge” does not mention Roma or Gypsies explicitly: “Whoever should in front of the wider public deny, cast doubt on, or paint as insignificant any sociological relationship that is relevant to criminal law and is common knowledge–especially with relation to public safety, a type of crime, or characteristic criminal groups–is guilty of a criminal offence and punishable by three years’ imprisonment.”

It is in the “justification” section of the document that the Roma are name-checked: “The so-called politically correct public discourse in Hungary has for decades prevented the solution of problems, which are well known among the public but not recognised at the state level, such as Gypsy criminality, and investigation and research into causes.”

Other anti-Roma initiatives

Jobbik won 17 per cent of the vote in April general elections, following a campaign with promises to stamp out “Gypsy crime” through initiatives such as setting up local gendarmeries.

The party’s support was strongest in the poor rural northeast, where the proportion of Roma is in many places far higher than the national average of around seven per cent.

Jobbik spokeswoman Dóra Duró acknowledged in an interview in March–which can still be read on Jobbik’s website–that one of the reasons the far-right party enjoyed little support in Budapest’s District XI was that there was “no significant Gypsy crime” in the area.

Jobbik’s mayoral candidate for the eastern city of Miskolc, Márton Szegedi, called last month for ethnic Roma repeat offenders to be isolated in internment camps and stripped of their Hungarian citizenship. Local government elections will be held on 3 October.