Following up on our two recent posts on the rise of European racism, we bring you a collection of five diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks documenting violent Eastern European attacks on the Sinti, Roma, and other traveling peoples often grouped together as Gypsies.
A collection of earlier posts on the growing tide of violence against Europe’s wandering peoples may be found here.
WikiCable I: Sterilizing the Slovakian Roma
Earlier this month we reported on the persistence of the deplorable doctrine of eugenics, a practice largely born in the United States as the fruit of the noxious pseudoscience called Social Darwinism, in which human beings were treated as livestock —a herd to be culled of “bad stock” by a self-appointed elite of physicians and parlor philosophers.
The term, first popularized in England by Herbert Spencer, wasn’t reflective of the thinking of Charles Darwin, himself a passionate egalitarian and bitter foe of slavery, gave a scientific veneer to prejudice.
It was in the United States that eugenics first found roots as official practice, leading to mass sterilizations of those deemed unfit to reproduce, with California in the lead.
America’s eugenics laws were envied by a rising fringe German politician in the 1920s, and after he took office in 1933, Adolf Hitler quickly acted to created a sterilization program first targeting the children born to women of French African occupation troops in the Rhineland after the German defeat in World War I.
During the Soviet era, the government of Czechoslovakia adopted the practice to eliminate the nation’s Roma population, and the practice continued there into the 21st Century in Slovakia after breakup of the former Soviet satellite state.
Our first cable, an UNCLASSIFIED/FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 4 February 2004 dispatch from Ambassador Ronald Weiser at the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, is a partial extract of an unavailable longer cable on the U.S. response to revelations of the Slovakia sterilization program.
According to [Minister of Health Rudolf] Zajac, the MOH [ Ministry of Health] investigation found violations of the previous sterilization regulation that affected two minors. The Ministry was not able to find fault with hospitals or doctors, but admitted that laws in this area were ill-defined. He added that investigators lacked data on ethnicity. However, Health Ministry specialists believe that more non-Romany women underwent sterilizations than Roma. Zajac added the ministry had already responded to nearly 400 out of 1000 letters from concerned individuals and organizations about the allegations of coerced sterilizations and the subsequent investigation. He indicated that they intended to respond to all of them. He also said that specialists from the ministry participated in discussions with the Government Office for Human Rights and attended several conferences on the topic.
The document is posted online here.
UNCLAS BRATISLAVA 000144
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SMIG EIND ETRD LO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR URGES HEALTH MINISTER TO IMPROVE STERILIZATION REGULATIONS
Sensitive but Unclassified – protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) Summary. On January 29, Ambassador Weiser met with Health Minister [Rudolf] Zajac to discuss the new draft regulation on sterilization and overarching reforms in health care, particularly pertaining to the Roma minority. The Ambassador pressed Zajac to incorporate recommendations from international and domestic specialists into the sterilization law. The Health Ministry had been in the center of controversy after the January 2003 publication of “Body and Soul,” a report that alleged over one hundred Roma women were victims of coerced sterilizations. Zajac said the GOS [Government of Slovakia] had done its best to investigate allegations of coerced sterilization, find violations, and seek solutions. Discussions also included health care programs for returned victims of trafficking and the donation of medical supplies that had been arranged by the Ambassador. End Summary.
New Sterilization Regulations: Concrete Suggestions
2. (SBU) On January 29, Ambassador Weiser met Health Minister Zajac to discuss newly proposed regulations governing sterilization. The Health Ministry had been in the center of controversy after the January 2003 publication of “Body and Soul,” a report that alleged over one hundred Roma women were victims of coerced sterilizations. The Ambassador noted the ensuing investigation had revealed problems in the health care system that could be resolved to the benefit of everyone. Minister Zajac admitted mistakes had been made in minority policy. He said the GOS had done its best to investigate the allegations, find violations, and seek solutions. With regard to recent health reform and legal proposals, the ambassador expressed appreciation for GOS attention to international concerns.
3. (SBU) The Ambassador urged Zajac to include recommendations from numerous human rights and medical specialists in the new regulations on sterilization. (The Ambassador in a letter also encouraged Justice Minister Lipsic, as Chairman of the Legislative Council, to support the suggestions.) Specifically, the Ambassador asked that the new regulations:
– Incorporate a clear definition of “informed consent.” The absence of such a definition may result in the continuation of the very practices which have recently come under criticism.
– Institute a mandatory waiting period between the time the patient gives consent and the surgical procedure. This would allow a more cautious approach to sterilization, especially after repeat caesarians and for minors.
– Eliminate the list of medical indicators for sterilization. There is no internationally accepted norm, and such lists do not clearly define the procedure as elective.
– Elimination of sterilization committees. The committees are obstacles to better communication between practitioners and patients about reproductive health and do not ensure quality service to the patients.
4. (SBU) Zajac stated that these concerns would be addressed in the next ethics committee meeting, with due consideration given to the comments submitted by the Ambassador.
Aftermath of the MOH [Ministry of Health] Investigation
5. (SBU) According to Zajac, the MOH investigation found violations of the previous sterilization regulation that affected two minors. The Ministry was not able to find fault with hospitals or doctors, but admitted that laws in this area were ill-defined. He added that investigators lacked data on ethnicity. However, Health Ministry specialists believe that more non-Romany women underwent sterilizations than Roma. Zajac added the ministry had already responded to nearly 400 out of 1000 letters from concerned individuals and organizations about the allegations of coerced sterilizations and the subsequent investigation. He indicated that they intended to respond to all of them. He also said that specialists from the ministry participated in discussions with the Government Office for Human Rights and attended several conferences on the topic.
6. (SBU) Zajac noted Roma settlements have severe health concerns and reform is just beginning down a long road. Significant structural changes were needed to improve preventive health care and educational opportunities for marginalized groups. Specifically, he wants to encourage the insurance industry to support preventive health care and pressure practitioners to protect patients’ rights. He discussed current proposals for Roma health projects, which included two mobile emergency units and a possiblespecialized office for minority affairs. He promised that his ministry will continue to confront problems instead of avoiding them as in the past.
Health Care Reform and American Assistance
7. (U) Zajac gave the Ambassador a brief explanation of the health care reform package, loosely modeled on Oregon health care, and stated he intended to move these reforms through quickly while political will exists. The Ambassador suggested the Minister and his staff might visit the U.S. to discuss minority outreach programs and indigent care with American counterparts and to strengthen relationships between American and Slovak hospitals. Zajac stated this was a high priority. The Ambassador mentioned that he had arranged with the University of Michigan hospitals for the shipment of two pallets of medical supplies to the children’s hospital in Kosice. Two American corporations, U.S. Steel and Plastipak, were paying the cost of shipping. Zajac indicated his appreciation for the donations.
Trafficking in Persons
8. (U) The Ambassador urged the minister to develop assistance programs for victims of trafficking. He stated that while numbers of returned victims are not high compared to other countries in the region, the treatment of transmittable or life threatening diseases and psychological counseling should be provided for returning victims. He added that victim protection and prosecution of traffickers are not the only aspects to battle this global problem, and Slovakia could serve as a future model for other nations in providing medical treatment and health counseling. Zajac responded that this was an area that they were already examining and that he would look at ways to establish a program to meet the health needs of trafficking victims.
Policy on Pharmaceuticals
9. (U) Minister Zajac also mentioned concerns from the pharmaceutical industry about Slovakia’s recently adopted policy on medicines. He stated that while multi-national companies are concerned about limited access to non-generics, the ministry is battling serious corruption problems and the high cost of drugs. The Ambassador replied he believed there were some misconceptions and suggested Zajac meet with the companies for further discussion. Zajac said he planned to address drug companies at an American Chamber of Commerce event in the near future, which the Ambassador could attend.
WikiCable II: Fanning the flames of hatred in Bulgaria
Our second cable comes from another former Soviet ally, Bulgaria, which sustained — like other former satellite states — severe economic disruption in the wake of the Soviet collapse.
With the introduction of neoliberal policies pushed by Washington, the ensuing economic chaos brought a resurgence of scapegoating as Bulgarians sought to place blame for new hardships, and the nation’s Roma population was an easy target.
Our second cable, a 26 August 2005 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY missive from Charge d’Affaires Jeffrey D. Levine at the U.S. embassy in Sofia, describes the role played by media and politicians in fanning the flames of hatred.
Recent clashes between Roma and Bulgarians led members of Ataka and more moderate nationalists from the ethnic-Macedonian party VMRO to draft two separate laws providing for the creation of “self-defense groups” designed to take punitive action against “Roma criminals.” The MPs involved explain that the goal of the legislation is to find and punish “Roma criminals who are terrorizing the population but are beyond the reach of law enforcement and the judiciary.” It is unlikely the laws will pass, but the fact that such vigilante groups are being proposed is cause for concern.
The document, another partial extract, is posted online here.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 001504
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KTIA BU
SUBJECT: BULGARIA: MEDIA AND POLITICIANS FAN ANTI-ROMA SENTIMENT
REF: SOFIA 01134
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The emergence of the extreme nationalist party Ataka has paralleled a surge in anti-Roma reporting that is adding to a troubling increase in ethnic tension. Ataka won a surprisingly high nine percent of the national vote in June and continues to fan negative attitudes towards Roma and other minorities. The group’s success has coincided with a series of sometimes violent clashes involving Roma and ethnic Bulgarians. Sensational media coverage and inflammatory comments by Continue reading