MINELRES: ERRC: European Human Rights Court Moves to Redress Romanian 1993 Pogrom

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Jul 14 20:03:23 2005


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


Racial Discrimination and Other Humiliations Amount to "Degrading
Treatment"

Seven Victims Awarded Damages Totaling 238,000 Euro

Second Finding of Racial Discrimination in Relation to Roma within One
Week

Budapest, Strasbourg, 13 July 2005.

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday ruled that Romania violated
multiple provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights for
failing to provide justice in connection with a 1993 pogrom and its
aftermath. The case involves the killing by a mob of three Romani men
and the subsequent destruction of fourteen Romani houses in the village
of Hadareni in Mures County, northwestern Romania, as well as the
degrading circumstances in which the victims were forced to live after
the event.

The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition
of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 6(1) (right to a fair
hearing) on account of the length of the proceedings, Article 8 (right
to respect for private and family life), and Article 14 (prohibition of
discrimination) taken in conjunction with Articles 6(1) and 8.

Speaking on the occasion of the ruling, ERRC Legal Director Dianne Post
said, "This ruling cannot undo the crimes of the past. It will not bring
back to life people killed by mobs for the basest motives of racial
hatred. It importantly however finally brings recognition of the extreme
harms to which the families of the deceased have been subjected, and
compels the Romanian government to pay them for its failures. We call on
the Romanian government to take this opportunity publicly to express
regret for this dark chapter of post-1989 Romanian history, during which
Romani communities throughout the country were hounded from their homes
by organised racist mobs."

The facts of the case are as follows:

Following an altercation in which a non-Romani youth was killed, a mob
of non-Romani villagers hunted down the alleged perpetrators and set
fire to the house in which they were hiding. Two were brutally murdered
when they tried to escape, and the third burned to death in the house.
The mob, including members of the local police force, went on to destroy
14 additional houses of Romani families Ten months later, three
individuals were charged with the murders but later released and their
arrest warrants cancelled by the General Prosecutor. The complaints
against the police were referred to the Military Prosecutor's Office,
which issued a decision not to prosecute. That decision was upheld on
appeal. Nearly four years after the incidents, the Public Prosecutor in
Mures County finally issued an indictment against 11 civilians suspected
of committing the crimes, later expanded to include others. In a
judgment issued in July 1998, twelve individuals were convicted of
destruction of property and disturbance, including the Deputy Mayor of
Hadareni, and five were convicted of murder. The sentences, ranging from
one to seven years were later shortened on appeal. The Supreme Court
later acquitted two of the defendants and those remaining in custody
were pardoned by the Romanian president in June 2000.  A civil court
awarded limited pecuniary damages to some of the victims, while
rejecting all requests for non-pecuniary damages. That decision was made
final by the Court of Cassation (the former Supreme Court) in February
2005.

Following the events of 1993, the applicants were forced to live in hen 
houses, pigsties, windowless cellars, in extremely cold and overcrowded 
conditions. These conditions lasted for several years and in some cases
are still continuing. As a result, many applicants and their families
fell ill. Diseases contracted by the victims included hepatitis, a heart
condition (ultimately leading to fatal heart attack), diabetes, and
meningitis.

With regard to Article 3 of the Convention, the Court applied an
approach it first developed in the 1970s, namely that the racial
discrimination to which the applicants have been subjected constitutes a
factor giving rise to "degrading treatment" within the meaning of
Article 3. The Court noted that remarks concerning the applicants'
honesty and way of life made by some authorities dealing with the
applicants' grievances appeared to be, in the absence of any
substantiation on behalf of those authorities, "purely discriminatory",
and as such were regarded as an aggravating factor.

The Court went on to explain that the applicants' living conditions in
the ten years following ratification of the Convention by Romania, in
particular the severely overcrowded and unsanitary environment and its
detrimental effect on the applicants' health and well-being, combined
with the length of the period during which the applicants have had to
live in such conditions also contributed to the finding of a inhuman
treatment.

With regard to Article 8, the Court condemned the general attitude of
the Romanian authorities  prosecutors, criminal and civil courts,
Government and local authorities  which perpetuated the applicants'
feelings of insecurity and constituted in itself a hindrance to the
applicants' rights to respect for their private and family life and
their homes. In order to arrive at this conclusion, the Court relied on
a number of factors, such as:

- Despite the involvement of State agents in the burning of the
applicants' houses, the Public Prosecutors' Office failed to institute
criminal proceedings against them, and thus prevented the domestic
courts from establishing the responsibility of these officials and
punishing them;

- The domestic courts refused for many years to award pecuniary damages
for the destruction of the applicants' belongings and furniture and
justified this refusal by making racist assumptions;

- In the judgment in the criminal case against the accused villagers,
discriminatory remarks about the applicants' Roma origin were made;

- The applicants' requests for non-pecuniary damages were also rejected
at first instance, the civil courts considering that the events - the
burning of their houses and the killing of some of their family members
- were not of a nature to create any moral damage;

- Three houses have not to date been rebuilt and, as evident from the
photographs submitted by the applicants, the houses rebuilt by the
authorities are uninhabitable, with large gaps between the windows and
the walls and incomplete roofs; and

- Most of the applicants have not to date returned to their village, and
live scattered throughout Romania and Europe.

With regard to Article 14, the Court stated that the applicants' Romani
ethnicity played a decisive role in the incidents of 1993 as well as in
the subsequent failure of the authorities to investigate the events and
provide redress to the applicants.  The Court therefore found a
violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with
Articles 6(1) and 8.

With regard to Article 6, the Court found that the length of the civil
proceedings instituted by the applicants failed to satisfy the
reasonable-time requirement of Article 6(1) of the Convention.

The Court ordered that seven persons be provided with damages totaling
238,000 Euro. Individual awards ranged from 11,000 to 95,000 Euro.

Throughout the proceedings, the victims were represented by the ERRC.
The Targu-Mures-based organization Liga Pro Europa provided significant
assistance with the case and undertook representation of some of the
victims before domestic tribunals.

Eighteen of the twenty-five applicants agreed to enter a friendly
settlement with the Romanian government that was the subject of a
separate judgment, issued on 4 July 2005. In the earlier decision, the
Romanian Government also agreed to provide a number of other
ameliorative measures. The full text of the earlier decision is
available at:
http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?
item=1&portal=hbkm&action=html&highlight=MOLDOVAN&sessionid=3244661&skin=hudoc-
en

The decision follows last week's Grand Chamber ruling in the matter of
Nachova v. Bulgaria, another case in which the Court ordered damages
after finding the administration of justice in a Council of Europe
Member State infected with racial discrimination. Information about the
Court's decision in Nachova v. Bulgaria is available at:
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2279

Further information on the case is available from ERRC Legal Director 
Dianne Post: dianne.post@errc.org

_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law 
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201
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