Brussels (Brussels Morning)The death of the Romani man Stanislav Tomáš, on the 19th of June 2021 in the Czech Republic, at the hands of several police officers left many of us wondering how and when. How could it happen after all the awareness raised during the last years on the existence of structural and institutionalised racism in all parts of our society, including our public institutions. In addition, when will we put an end to people being deprived of their lives just because of their ethnicity, color or birth country?
When the video of the killing went viral on social media, many horrified viewers drew parallels between the case of Stanislav Tomáš and that of George Floyd. Just last month, Greek police shot and killed a young Romani man.
Police brutality against Romani people is not uncommon and while the violence affects mostly Romani men, children too can be the victims. Typical of this are the many police raids on Roma-majority neighbourhoods. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) receives countless reports of cases involving racially motivated violence perpetrated by police officers against Romani people. Furthermore, the ERRC says that in recent years it has witnessed far right groups colluding with police forces during raids and attacks on Romani people. Several cases of Romani people being beaten by police while in custody and reports of torture have been documented.
All over the world, malpractice by police is symptomatic of the deep-rooted racism that exists in our societies. Antigypsyism runs deep in our common institutions in several countries in Europe.
The indifference that EU member states have displayed about the issues Romani people are forced to contend with constitutes one of the most shameful failures in the history of our union. Moreover, the fact that future efforts are being jeopardised by right-wing forces serves to underscore a general disregard for victims of racism and their abiding hatred for those who are not part of the norm in their respective societies. This was clearly the case when the Czech Republic’s right-wing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš defended the police officer many believed was responsible for the death of Stanislav Tomáš.
We must not let the forces that seek to divide and separate keep us from addressing the antigypsyism in Europe. Through the EU Roma Strategic Framework 2020-2030, we have the opportunity to create a discussion about how to combat the racist structures of our societies and address the core issues facing the Romani people. We need to move away from victim blaming and pave the way for a more balanced discourse focusing on social inclusion, human rights and empowerment objectives.
Despite the many concrete goals provided in the EU Roma Strategic Framework specific measures need to be put in place in order to curtail rampant police violence. As co-chair in ARDI, I have proposed three specific measures with regard to police violence against Romani people.
First, the gap in the Racial Equality Directive needs to be covered. The European Commission should either develop a new law that covers the issue of discriminatory policing and police misconduct or amend the Race Equality Directive. ARDI has developed a study proposal to see which is the most feasible.
Secondly, there is a need to adopt good monitoring and implementation mechanisms We have to ensure that our common EU law makes a difference on the ground and that it is not reduced to nice words on a piece of paper.
Lastly, the reluctance to address issues of structural racism in Europe in the day-to-day public discourse must be acknowledged and confronted.
We politicians have a responsibility for calling out racism wherever it appears. By combining these specific measures, the first steps towards a society free from racially-motivated police violence could become a reality.