MINELRES: The ERRC is Ten Years Old

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Apr 17 08:48:42 2006


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


The European Roma Rights Centre Celebrates its Tenth Birthday

Budapest, 5 April 2006. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) today 
celebrates its tenth anniversary at an event hosted by the Budapest
embassy of the United Kingdom, and by Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky.

On the occasion of the ERRC's tenth anniversary, UK Ambassador to
Hungary Mr. John Nichols said, "The British government has been a proud
sponsor of ERRC activities, including its work in Russia, its
anti-discrimination legal work in southeastern Europe, its production
and distribution of a human rights training manual for Romani activists,
and its efforts in the field of housing rights in Hungary and Slovakia.
We believe the ERRC has been an exemplary force for good."

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky commented, "The ERRC has helped make
Budapest an important regional centre. We are proud to have been a home
to this important international initiative during its first decade."

The ERRC was founded in 1996 and opened offices in January of that year.
During 1996, the ERRC issued its first publications - Country Reports on
Austria, Romania and Slovakia. By the end of the year, the ERRC had
established its Legal Program. In 1997, the ERRC began its first Human
Rights Education activities, and by 1998 it had formalized its
International Advocacy work.

Ten years ago, there was no "Roma rights" - now this is a rich field of 
human rights advocacy, as well as an aspect of the Roma movement. The
ERRC has been the conceptualizer of Roma grievances, the translator of
these grievances into the powerful language of international human
rights, and the framer of issues in the struggle to empower Roma. Today,
although there are important other institutions involved in Roma rights,
ERRC remains a busy laboratory that continues to produce strategic tools
for the Roma rights movement. The service ERRC has provided to society
is that it put human rights and Roma issues in one house. And by doing
this, it has made a difference in both.

Ten years ago there were only a handful of lawsuits first in Bulgaria
and then in Hungary in which Roma had claimed their rights in court. In
1996, ERRC started building its litigation program, on an almost empty
space. Roma were at that time too weak to defend their rights in the
courts, and the legal, political and social ingredients for public
interest law were still missing in the region. Today, Roma have
prevailed in court in hundreds of cases.

Though many organizations take on cases today, the ERRC remains to date
the biggest and most successful litigator on behalf of Roma, and also
perhaps on behalf of any minority in Europe. In the course of its short
lifetime the ERRC has been involved, with Romani plaintiffs, in over 500
cases, of which over 300 have been completed. Of these, over 225 have
been won or otherwise settled positively. The ERRC has prevailed in 22
cases in international jurisdictions, including 15 cases won before
European Court of Human Rights. Some of these victories have been
trailblazing, and many go beyond established jurisprudence, as well as
beyond solely bringing just satisfaction to individual Roma. In seeking
to end the impunity of perpetrators of these extreme harms and to bring
justice to victims and surviving members of their families, we have
taken on some of the most extreme cases in Europe:
* The Hadareni pogrom, in which ethnic Hungarian and ethnic Romanian 
villagers in Romania tortured to death three men accused of a local 
killing, while police looked on;
* The killing of Mario Goral doused in gasoline by skinheads and burned
to death in Slovakia;
* The massive pogrom at Danilovgrad, Montenegro;
* The case of Anguel Zabchikov, killed in police custody in Bulgaria;
... to name only a few.
The current open case load of the ERRC includes 179 cases.

The ERRC has played a significant role in advancing the implementation
of anti-discrimination law in Europe. Beginning in 2000 with the
adoption of several standard setting European legal instruments, we have
engaged in advocating comprehensive anti-discrimination law and policy
as a core aspect of our work. Several countries have adopted excellent
legislation that we are now in the process of testing to see
implemented. Others have yet to bring comprehensive anti-discrimination
law into the domestic legal order. We plan to keep working on these
fronts in our second decade.

The ERRC has developed the largest and most authoritative information
resources on Roma rights, including in electronic formats. In its
ten-year existence, the ERRC has issued more than 580 publications,
including:
* 32 issues of the Roma Rights quarterly
* More than 20 comprehensive reports in 16 languages
* More than 500 press releases
* A comprehensive training manual in 6 languages

The ERRC has played a role not only in establishing Roma rights as a 
priority for human rights in Europe but also in the area of social
policy development. We have helped articulate directions for
rights-based policies in the sectors critical for Roma inclusion,
including education, healthcare, housing, and employment. Perhaps the
single most important issue we have addressed through research,
advocacy, litigation and training - is the issue of school segregation.
And perhaps the single most important priority for the ERRC in the next
years will be the struggle for desegregation. We are currently in the
process of reviewing our own role in this area, looking in particular at
the need to adopt legislation creating positive obligations to
desegregate.

The ERRC has been a school for Romani activists. The majority of the
younger generation of Roma who are active today in both governmental and
non-governmental settings have passed through the ERRC as Board members,
staff, interns, scholarship recipients, local monitors, participants in
joint projects, partners, and/or volunteers. Over one thousand Roma have
benefited from ERRC training programs as interns, externs, scholarship
recipients, or as a result of their participation in training workshops.

There are many challenges ahead for the ERRC's second decade. It is more 
difficult today than 10 years ago to play a strategic role in an 
increasingly complex human rights environment, and in an increasingly 
complex Roma movement. Work on legal cases generates a range of new 
obstacles. Equality of rights in practice for the Roma is still a far
away destination.

In some places, the tasks ahead are daunting. A few days ago, a
prominent human rights advocate in Russia, the 58-year-old Boris
Krendel, the leader of the major human rights group in Tomsk, Siberia,
was forced to go into hiding together with his young daughter, when the
city was flooded with leaflets telling the citizens of Tomsk that it is
intolerable to live in the same city with a man helping the Gypsies. His
assistance to Roma comprises, as a member of an ERRC partner
organization, filing a case challenging the impunity of powerful
criminal gangs who burned to the ground the Romani settlement in the
town of Iskitim. A 7-year-old girl died in the fire.

_____________________________________________

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
_____________________________________________

SUPPORT THE ERRC

The European Roma Rights Centre is dependent upon the generosity of 
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC 
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its 
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:

European Roma Rights Centre
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary

For correspondence, to subscribe and unsubscribe from this list, please
use:
office@errc.org.

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