Rights group says discrimination rising in Hungary

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Europe's leading human rights organization said Tuesday that discrimination against Gypsies, Jews, gays and other minorities in Hungary is getting worse and is urging authorities to fight racist violence and take other steps to protect the vulnerable.

The Council of Europe made its recommendations in a report that examines a wide range of human rights issues in the country. Its release comes as studies claim poverty is increasing in the country and as Prime Minister Viktor Orban faces accusations from many fronts of weakening democratic standards.

The findings are based on a July 1-4 visit to Hungary by Nils Muiznieks, the council's Commissioner for Human Rights. In a 44-page report of Muiznieks' findings, it notes a "deterioration of the general climate of tolerance in recent years" and says that the treatment of Gypsies, or Roma, is the "most blatant form of intolerance."

While the Hungarian government has not yet commented on the report, it has usually strongly disputed similar criticism.

The report cites as evidence violence against Roma and the rise of the far-right Jobbik party, as well as far-right paramilitary marches by right-wing groups that have taken place in recent years in Roma villages meant to sow fear.

"The Commissioner is deeply concerned at the widespread presence of racist and extremist organizations and movements in Hungary and extremism in the country's political arena," it says.

While it praises Orban's government for announcing a "zero tolerance" policy toward anti-Semitism in 2013, it also says that authorities "sometimes fail to deal with anti-Semitic incidents in a diligent manner."

It said it is also worried by a trend to rehabilitate, in the school curricula or in monuments, Hungarians known for anti-Semitism or for supporting the Nazis during World War II.

The report also takes a critical view of Hungary's treatment of a range of other matters, including media freedom and the treatment of refugees.

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