Public officials in Ukraine must cease anti-Roma statements

29 May 2013 10:05
BUDAPEST (QHA) - European Roma Rights Centre and Chiricli urge Ukrainian authorities to refrain from anti-Roma statements and observe principles of equality and non-discrimination.
Today ERRC and Chiricli have sent a letter of concern to Secretary of Yalta City Council Serhii Ilash, who reportedly made a shocking statement concerning Roma minority in Yalta during a meeting with the representatives of Yalta military on 23 May 2013. The ERRC and Chiricli are deeply concerned with the tone and expressions used by the public official during his speech and have urged public officials to refrain from the statements that create an extremely negative image of Roma and have the potential to ignite social tensions. The ERRC and Chiricli remind Ukrainian authorities of their obligations under national and international law to ensure equality and protection from discrimination to everyone irrespective of race, ethnicity and other grounds.
The Roma organizations sent to the Ukraine's leadership their demand on 28 May 2013:

President of Ukraine
Viktor Fedorovich Yanukovich.

Human Rights Ombudsman
Valeriya Vladimirovna Lutkovskaya

Secretary of Yalta City Council
Sergei Fedorovich Ilash

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law
organisation, working to combat anti-Romani racism through strategic litigation,
monitoring, human rights education, research and advocacy.1 The ERRC has
consultative status with the Council of Europe and the Economic and Social Council of
the United Nations. International Charitable Organization “Roma Women Fund Chiricli”
is an international organization, working to address problems of Roma minority in
The ERRC and Chiricli monitor open statements by public officials in the media and
other public spheres which concern the Roma minority and touch upon their image and
their situation in the respective country.
Media reports that on 23 May 2013 Sergei Ilash, who currently serves as a Secretary of
Yalta City Council and is now running an election campaign to become a mayor of
Yalta, was addressing representatives of the Yalta military and stated that “all Roma
women who are fortune-tellers and do not have passports should be either detained or
evicted from the city and no one is going to cry over them…” Following that statement
Mr Ilash made a very offensive remark, equating Roma and homeless people with
The ERRC and Chiricli are deeply concerned by these statements and urge Mr Ilash to
refrain from using them in future. Apart from the general offensive character of this
statement, it is also manifestly discriminatory. All the international human rights treaties
that Ukraine has ratified contain provisions banning discrimination and obliging
Ukrainian Government to safeguard equality and provide protection from
discrimination, and these international treaties represent an integral part of national
legal order.3 Articles 21 and 24 of the Constitution of Ukraine provide that everyone
has equal status, irrespective of racial and ethnic origin, language, age, gender, etc.
Article 28 guarantees that everyone has the right to dignity and respect of his or her
It is even more disappointing and surprising that such a statement from public official
came after President of Ukraine, on 8 April 2013, signed the Strategy on Roma
Inclusion and the Ukrainian Government is currently elaborating its Action Plan based
on this Strategy. Underlying principles laid down in the Strategy are those of equality
and non-discrimination. It is acknowledged in the Strategy itself that in order to properly
address the wide range of problems Roma people are currently facing in Ukrainian
society, it is first necessary to deal with social exclusion as one of the root causes of
their difficult situation.5 Any statement such as the one made by Mr Ilash represents a
clear example of something that increases the perceived social gap between Roma
and non-Roma instead of bridging it.
Public officials should refrain from statements which have the potential to ignite social
unrest and create tensions in a multiethnic society. Furthermore, public officials as
representatives of the state should not only refrain from certain actions bearing
negative connotations for democratic values and principles, but should endorse and
promote the ones that are the cornerstone of the equal and free societies, where nondiscrimination
and equality undoubtedly comprise the essence of the democracy.
The ERRC and Chiricli urge Mr Ilash and all public officials of Ukraine to refrain from
using statements that undermine principles of equality and non-discrimination, create
negative image and negative implications for the peaceful existence of the Roma
minority in Ukraine.

Yours sincerely,
Dezideriu Gergely Zemfira Kondur
ERRC Executive Director Chiricli Vice-President