January 21, 2017

Hate Speech at Primary School Gjorgji Sugarev in Bitola

An informal citizens’ group ‒ representatives of the Roma community from Bitola and citizens’ associations representing Roma rights express their serious concerns about the drawings of swastikas and the inscribed graffiti “Death to Gypsies” and “Die Gypsies” on the walls of Gjorgji Sugarev School in Bitola.

Namely, the graffiti were noticed on 19.01.2017 and they call for the violence against the Roma community, i.e. they represent hate speech, which is a criminal act under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia.

Such graffiti inscribed on the primary school’s walls are particularly troubling given the fact that in this school, most of the students are from the Roma ethnic group (about 80%), who on Monday (01.23.2017) will begin attending classes and will be confronted with these messages.

Therefore, we urge the primary school Gjorgji Sugarev in Bitola to immediately remove the aforementioned graffiti from the walls of the school. At the same time, in the interest of preventing similar situations in the future, we require a stronger supervision over the school which would guarantee protection for students attending that school and identification of potential perpetrators of this type or similar types of activities.

Persons affected by this event and citizens’ associations will file criminal charges. At the same time, we call on the relevant state institutions, the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecutor’s Office to take urgent measures for prosecuting hate speech because impunity for spreading and promoting hate speech in public places is tolerance and justification of hate speech, which can result in hate crimes.

By writing the words, the perpetrator has committed the crimes of “Causing of hate, discord or intolerance on national, racial, religious and other discriminatory ground” under Article 319 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia, “Racial or other discrimination” under Article 417 of the Criminal Code Republic of Macedonia as well as “Endangering security” under Article 144 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia.

Despite hurting the dignity of the Roma people, wishing for their disappearance and the non-existence of such community, the perpetrator also endangers the security of many people and attempts to incite violence between communities in the society. With these messages, the perpetrator causes emotional and psychological pain to the Roma community, which has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of communities in the Republic of Macedonia.

Our interest is to build coexistence and mutual respect regardless of ethnicity of religion, and we require that every person be held responsible according to the legal norms for acting contrary to those norms.