Defending civil and liberties rights

ROME and criminal justice system

ROMA | Fighting unconscious bias and discrimination of Roma people in the criminal justice system


Rights International Spain together with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria), Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Hungary), and APADOR-CH (Rumania) have started a pioneer investigation project in Europe coordinated by Fair Trials International to fight discrimination against Roma. The project is entitled: “Fighting unconscious bias and discrimination of Roma people in the criminal justice system” and is supported by the European Union’s Justice Program and is currently implemented in four EU countries


There is considerable evidence that Roma people are more likely to be drawn into the criminal justice systems of EU Member States than other ethnic groups. Although data is again incomplete, the over-representation of Roma people cannot be fully explained by higher levels of criminality.

There is growing evidence that unconscious bias in criminal justice actors does have an impact on criminal justice outcomes. The greater the discretion a professional exercises, the greater the risk that unconscious bias will result in unfair outcomes. In every criminal justice system professional exercise enormous discretion: they determine whether a person is arrested, detained pre-trial, prosecuted and how a person is sentenced.


The overall aim of this project is to fight the risk of unconscious bias contributing to discrimination against Roma people in the criminal justice systems of the EU thereby reducing risks of consequential discrimination, deprivation and/or social rights violations including access to employment, housing and education.

The specific objectives are:

  1. Increase recognition of how negative stereotypes and social attitudes contribute to overrepresentation of Roma in criminal justice systems.
  2. Engage criminal justice professionals (police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers) and victims in order to identify the principal risks of discrimination against Roma, and strategies to improve the fairness of decision-making.
  3. Identify and exchange best practice

For this purpose, we will interview Roma people that have suffered any kind of discrimination in the Spanish criminal justice system, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and police; as well as carry out other activities designed to gather all necessary information to elaborate a national report. We will organize roundtables to involve key actors in the development of the report recommendations. Finally, a comparative regional report will be produced.

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