MINELRES: ERRC: Landmark Housing Rights Victory for Roma in Slovakia

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Mar 24 13:11:35 2005


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


United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
finds Slovakia in Violation of International Law for Failing to Remedy
Racial Exclusion of Roma; ERRC Urges Break with Policies of Extreme
Segregation

Budapest 22 March 2005.         
In a decision received 17 March 2005, the United Nations Committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that Slovakia had
violated three provisions in the International Convention on the
Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in a housing
discrimination case. The ruling clarifies unequivocally that policies
aiming to keep Roma in substandard slum settlements or resulting in such
severe discrimination violate international law, and tolerance of such
acts by public officials cannot stand.

On 20 March 2002 the councillors of the Dobsina municipality approved a
plan to construct low-cost housing for the Romani inhabitants of the
town.  About 1,800 Roma live in Dobsina, many in appalling conditions
without drinking water, raw sewage removal or drainage, and in very poor
quality huts.  The Dobsina chairman of the Real Slovak National Party,
one of several political parties in Slovakia with tacit or explicit
anti-Romani platforms, together with four other nationalists, organised
a petition aimed at stopping the housing plan as they did not want any
more Roma living in Dobsina.  They presented this petition to the
municipal council, which proceeded to vote to cancel the earlier
decision to build social housing and agreed a resolution that included
an explicit reference to the racist petition.

Roma from Dobsina asked the District Prosecutor to investigate the
legality of the municipal council’s actions.  The Prosecutor refused. 
They applied to the Slovak Constitutional Court, which also refused to
consider the merits of their claim.  A number of Romani individuals from
Dobsina, together with their legal representatives, the European Roma
Rights Centre and the Slovak NGO League of Human Rights Advocates, then
brought their claim before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination (CERD).

In its Opinion on the case, the CERD held that “in complex contemporary
societies the practical realization of, in particular, many economic,
social and cultural rights, including those related to housing, will
initially depend on and indeed require a series of administrative and
policy-making steps by the State party’s competent relevant authorities
... 
The Committee considers that the council resolutions in question, taking
initially an important policy and practical step towards realization of
the right to housing followed by its revocation and replacement with a
weaker measure, taken together, do indeed amount to the impairment of
the recognition or exercise on an equal basis of the human right to
housing”.

The Committee found Slovakia in breach of its obligations under
international law not to engage in any act of racial discrimination and
to ensure that all public authorities act in conformity with this
obligation.  It also found Slovakia in breach of its obligation to
guarantee the right to everyone of equality before the law in the
enjoyment of the right to housing. In addition, “…having established the
existence of an act of racial discrimination, it must follow that the
failure of the [Slovak] courts to provide an effective remedy discloses
a consequential violation of the Convention”.  The CERD held that
Slovakia must provide the Roma from Dobsina with an effective remedy, in
particular, it must take measures to ensure that the Roma from Dobsina
“are placed in the same position that they were in upon adoption of the
first resolution by the municipal council [to build low-cost housing].”

ERRC Acting Executive Director Claude Cahn said, "This decision
appropriately and importantly clarifies to the Slovak Government -- as
to all governments -- that breaches of international anti-discrimination
law in housing policy-making and planning cannot and will not stand. We
hope the Slovak government will hear the decision as a wake-up call to
finally act to the extent required to end the stone-age conditions in
which several tens of thousands of Roma currently live in Slovakia, and
once and for all to bring Slovak Roma with equal dignity into the 21st
century."

For further information on the case, please contact Alan Anstead at ERRC
(Alan.Anstead@errc.org) or Columbus Igboanusi at the League for Human
Rights Advocates (admin@lhra-icpr.org).

A comprehensive summary of racial exclusion issues facing Roma in
Slovakia is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=1999

Documentation and legal action in Dobsina were part of a comprehensive
housing rights project in Slovakia undertaken with the generous support
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Government.

_____________________________________________

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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