MINELRES: ERRC: UN Concerned at Situation of Roma in Serbia and Montenegro

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Jun 7 18:38:41 2005

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

Social and Economic Rights Committee Highlights Broad Range of Extreme
Roma Rights Issues

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) welcomes the Concluding
Observations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights concerning Serbia and Montenegro's compliance with the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
published in recent days. The Concluding Observations of the UN
Committee constitute among the most comprehensive policy statements
issued to date by any authority with respect to the current state of
Roma rights in Serbia and Montenegro. As such, the ERRC provides a
summary of key finding with respect to Roma here:

The Committee noted its deep concern that, "despite the State party's
efforts to improve the economic and social situation of Roma through
National Plans of Action for the implementation of the Decade of Roma
Inclusion (2005-2015) in both Republics, widespread discrimination of
Roma persists with regard to employment, social security, housing,
health care and education". It also expressed "deep concern about
reported incidents of inter-ethnic violence and racially motivated acts
against ethnic minorities such as the Roma". The government of Serbia
and Montenegro was urged "to investigate such incidents, to bring
perpetrators to justice, and to take all necessary measures to raise
awareness of the dimensions of ethnic discrimination and intolerance
among local authorities and the general public" and "to adopt specific
anti-discrimination framework legislation and to increase awareness
about international anti-discrimination standards among judges and other
members of the legal profession". The Committee also "recommends to the
State party to ensure adequate participation of Roma representatives in
the implementation of the Plans of Action adopted or envisaged by both
Republics with regard to non-discrimination, gender equality,
employment, social protection, housing, health and education of Roma,
and to allocate sufficient funds to these and other relevant

Regarding the status of refugees, the Committee expressed its "deep
concern about the uncertain residence status and the limited access by
refugees, returnees from third countries and internally displaced
persons, including internally displaced Roma, to personal identification
documents which are a requirement for numerous entitlements, such as
eligibility to work, to apply for unemployment and other social security
benefits, or to register for school". In this respect, the Committee
called on the State party "to assist refugees, returnees and internally
displaced persons by facilitating the procedures necessary to obtain
personal documents including birth certificates, identity cards and work
booklets to enable them to enjoy their economic, social and cultural
rights". In this regard, the Committee requested the State party, "in
cooperation with and assistance from UNMIK [the United Nations
administration in Kosovo] and local civil authorities in Kosovo, to
submit the additional information with regard to the implementation of
the Covenant in Kosovo by 30 June 2006".

Further, the Committee expressed its concern "about the high
unemployment rate in Serbia and in Montenegro, especially among women,
persons with disabilities, Roma and internally displaced persons". It
also noted "that many persons, especially Roma, internally displaced
persons and refugees, work in the informal economy or in the low income
sector without adequate working conditions and social security
coverage". In particular, the Committee noted with concern that "the
poverty among Roma is between four and five times higher than among the
average population" and that "many Roma children below the minimum
working age of 15 years work in the informal economy without being
covered by the labour code's special provisions on protection of
minors". In this regard, the State party is requested to intensify its
efforts to reduce the unemployment rate, including through the
implementation of its National Strategy on Employment, to promote
employment of persons belonging to vulnerable groups through special
measures [&] and to report on the results of these measures in its next
report. The Committee also recommended to the State party "to increase
unemployment benefit coverage so as to ensure an adequate standard of
living for unemployed workers and their families and to include in its
next report detailed information on the extent of unemployment benefit
coverage, disaggregated by age, gender, residence status and national or
ethnic origin".

Further, the Committee stressed serious concern "about the poor
conditions in which thousands of Roma families live in sub-standard
informal settlements without access to basic services such as
electricity, running water, sewage facilities, medical care and
schools". In this regard, the Committee recommended that, "in applying
its Poverty Reduction Strategy and national plans of action for the
implementation of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, the State party take
special measures to alleviate the extent of poverty among Roma". The
State party was also urged "to ensure, by legalizing and improving the
infrastructure of existing settlements or through social housing
programmes, that Roma have access to adequate and affordable housing
with legal security of tenure, access to safe drinking water, adequate
sanitation, electricity and other essential services".

Regarding the right to the highest attainable standards of health, the
Committee noted its concern "about the limited access to primary health
care in rural areas, especially for refugees and other vulnerable
groups". In this regard, the Committee recommended to the State party
"to ensure universal access to affordable primary health care, i.e. by
increasing the number of family doctors and community health centres,
and to include all members of society, including refugees, internally
displaced persons and Roma, in the compulsory health insurance scheme".

Further, the Committee expressed its deep concern that "many refugees,
internally displaced persons and Roma are being evicted from illegal
collective centres and informal settlements which are being closed down
without sufficient provision of adequate alternative housing". In this
regard, the State party was urged "to ensure that adequate alternative
housing is provided whenever forced evictions take place [...] and to
include updated statistical data on an annual basis on the number of
forced evictions, arrangements for alternative housing and the extent of
homelessness in its next report".

Finally, the Committee stressed that it is "deeply concerned that a high
percentage of Roma children and children belonging to other minority
groups, as well as refugee and internally displaced children, are not
enrolled in school, drop out at an early stage, are being discriminated
against at school, or are placed in schools for children with special
needs". In this regard, the Committee urged the State party "to take
effective measures to promote school attendance by Roma children and
children belonging to other minority groups, as well as refugee and
internally displaced children, by increasing subsidies, scholarships and
the number of teachers instructing in minority languages". It also urged
the State party "to eradicate ethnically discriminatory attitudes, by
taking effective measures, in the fields of teaching, education, culture
and information, to promote understanding, tolerance and mutual respect
among all ethnic groups living on its territory". The Committee also
recommended to the State party "to intensify its efforts to promote
respect for the cultural values of ethnic communities in order to
enhance mutual tolerance and understanding. In this respect, the
Committee requested the State party to include information in its next
report about the measures taken to implement recommendations made by the
National Councils of Roma and other minorities in Serbia and about
similar measures in Montenegro".

The full text of the UN Committee's Concluding Observations is available
at: http://www.ohchr.org/tbru/cescr/Serbia_and_Montenegro.pdf

A Joint Memorandum on the human rights situation of Roma in Serbia and
Montenegro, prepared by the ERRC and the Belgrade office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, is available at: 

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

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

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



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