Romania to punish anti-Roma acts with tough prison sentences

Romania’s Parliament has passed a law that will punish “verbal or physical” actions against the large Roma community with prison sentences up 10 years.

The law is considered a landmark in the EU member state where anti-Roma prejudice is rife.

It comes after a far-right party, which had flown under the radar, won 9% of the votes in recent parliamentary elections. The new Parliament will meet for the first time on Dec. 21.

A total of 244 deputies voted for the law on Tuesday, with one vote against. Some 20 lawmakers abstained. The law needs to be signed off by President Klaus Iohannis before becoming legislation.

Once this happens, those found guilty of “initiating or constituting an organization of anti-Gypsy character” are liable to face prison sentences between three months and 10 years.

Officially, there are more than half a million Roma in Romania, although the population is believed to be much higher. Many don’t declare they are Roma due to discrimination.

Some 25,000 Roma from Romania were deported during World War II to Trans-Dniester. About 11,000 died there in harsh labor camps, where hunger and disease were rife,

Anti-Roma comments are fairly common in Romania on social media and in everyday life. Roma complain of discrimination on the job market.

Under the new law, distributing anti-Roma material or content carries a prison sentence of up to five years, while “promoting in public … anti-Gypsy ideas, concepts or doctrines” can lead to a three-year prison sentence.

The law “to prevent and combat anti-Gypsy perception surrounding the Roma … expressed as hatred against them”, as well as “verbal or physical manifestations motivated by hatred against Roma” that is directed against members of this ethnic group, their property, their institutions and leaders or their traditions and culture. 


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