LETTER : Czech oppression of gypsies

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Sir: On Human Rights Day, 10 December, Lubomir Zubak and other Czech Romanies held a protest in the centre of Prague against the rising persecution of their people. The protest continues against a background of pogroms and death threats while gypsies are being excluded from work and driven from their homes.

The Czech Republic is first in line of the Eastern European countries to apply for membership of the European Union. Yet since 1993 tens of thousands of Romanies have been excluded from Czech citizenship. The Czech government has taken no legal steps to counter the killing of gypsies, nor the open social apartheid which is banning the Roma from jobs and even from restaurants and public places.

All over Europe the Romanies, who lost more than half their number in the Holocaust, are being killed, beaten and denied a place to live. In London on Human Rights Day, launching its report "The Roma/Gypsies of Europe: A Persecuted People", the Institute of Jewish Policy Research called for war reparations for the Roma.

In the evening this statement was handed to the Czech ambassador in support of the Prague protest: "We request that the Czech government will do everything in its power to ensure equal citizenship, social justice and personal safety for the Roma of the Czech Republic. The United Nations has declared 1997 the Year of Tolerance and Understanding. Let its funds be used for this urgent task."

ANTHONY JULIUS

MAREK KOHN

Dr MARGARET BREARLY

(Institute for Jewish Policy Research)

Dr DONALD KENRICK

(Romany Institute)

PETER MERCER

(Gypsy Council for Education, Welfare and Human Rights)

MORIS FARHI

EVA EBERHARDT

(Phare)

and others

London W1

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