MINELRES: ERRC: Action to Stop Forced Evictions in Romania

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri Nov 3 20:01:26 2006


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


Prime Minister Urged to Intervene to Prevent Serious Human Rights Abuses

Budapest, Bucharest, 31 October 2006. The 
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the 
Romanian Helsinki Committee have sent a letter to 
Romanian Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu, urging 
him to intervene to prevent serial human rights 
abuses as a result of the actions of the Tulcea 
municipality. The case concerns the forced 
eviction of a large number of Romani families in 
Tulcea, as well as durable and credible threats 
to carry out further forced evictions in the next 
days. The letter was copied to a number of other 
agencies, including Romanian government 
officials, as well as relevant United Nations, 
European Union and Council of Europe desks.

The full text of the letter concerning the Tulcea evictions follows
here:

Honourable Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu,

We write to you to express our deep concern in 
relation to the recent forced eviction of around 
110 Romani individuals in Tulcea, Romania. This 
action is the latest and the most grave in a 
series of similar racially tainted incidents, 
with the eviction of another Romani family from 
social housing owned by local authorities in Tulcea being imminent.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an 
international public interest law organization 
aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human 
rights violations against Roma. The Association 
for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania - the 
Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) is a 
non-governmental not-for-profit organization, 
affiliated with the International Helsinki 
Federation for Human Rights and aimed at changing 
the society and its institutions towards a 
democratic culture, based on the respect of human rights.

The 25 families, comprising approximately 110 
individuals, were evicted just before noon on 11 
October from a building situated in Tulcea at 5 
Alunisului Street, a building they had occupied 
for the previous seven years. The eviction took 
place after the Tulcea Tribunal handed down a 
judgment in August this year allowing the request 
of the building's present owner to have the occupants evicted.

Eighteen of the families (approximately 80 
people) evicted from Alunisului Street had no 
alternative but to accept the lease contracts 
offered by the Municipality for rooms in two 
derelict buildings situated four kilometers away 
from the town, in an enclave inside the Tulcea 
industrial port. These highly inadequate 
structures were the sole arrangements made for 
alternate shelter. A number of heavy industries 
are located in that area. Notably, right next to 
the buildings occupied by the Roma, ships 
carrying bauxite ore are unloaded and the ore is 
transported to a nearby storage facility with 
heavy open trucks. As a result everything in the 
area is covered with red dust that makes 
breathing difficult. Three people were already 
taken by ambulances to the hospital, complaining 
of skin problems, lung pain, and other ailments. 
Besides the imminent danger to health for any 
people forced to live there, the new location is 
far from all communal facilities such as schools, 
hospitals, churches, shops, etc. After their 
relocation, the children in the 'colony' stopped 
going to school because of the distance and 
because their parents feared for their safety. 
The two buildings are in an advanced state of 
disrepair, with no access to electricity, hot 
water, sanitation and only limited access to 
drinking water, from a tap located outside.

The rest of the people evicted from Alunisului 
Street, for whom there was not enough room in the 
buildings in the industrial port or who refused 
to move there, were left sleeping rough in the 
streets outside the building on Alunisului 
Street. Seven families, comprising approximately 
thirty people, including infants and old people 
have had to sleep outside for the last two weeks 
in temperatures that went as low as 0C during 
nighttime. As a result of efforts by local 
activists and a representative of the ERRC, a 
tent was provided by the Red Cross for these people, as a
temporary solution.

Despite this humanitarian crisis, the local 
authorities have refused to respond to the pleas 
for help launched by the Roma and their 
representatives. The solution they offered with 
regard to those people rendered homeless by the 
eviction was to move them to mobile housing 
located outside Tulcea, also in a heavily 
industrialized area. However, as the authorities 
themselves have acknowledged, these structures 
offer little more than very limited shelter since 
they cannot be connected to any utilities. Given 
the coming winter, these cabins are uninhabitable.

Furthermore, other forced evictions are slated to 
take place in the coming days in Tulcea, with a 
Romani family of three due to be evicted from 
social housing without adequate alternative 
accommodation. While authorities invoke the 
shortage of available social housing at their 
disposal, there is considerable evidence 
indicating numerous abuses in the way in which 
social houses were distributed, with the Roma 
being the most obvious victims in the process.

The eviction that took place on 11 October is the 
high point of a cycle of neglect and deprivation 
lasting for more than seven years. Most of the 
families evicted last week used to live in 
informal housing on Plugarilor Street in Tulcea. 
When their houses burnt down due to a faulty 
electrical installation in August 1999, they were 
left to sleep under the open sky among the 
charred ruins for months on end. Under pressure 
to find a solution, the municipality identified 
an empty building on Alunisului No. 5, abandoned 
at the time by its owner, and reportedly 
explicitly encouraged the homeless Roma to occupy 
it until a more permanent arrangement could be 
found. At the same time, the Roma made numerous 
requests for social housing, most of which remained unresolved to this
day.

The Roma from Plugarilor moved to the building on 
Alunisului in 1999. Over the years, other Romani 
families left homeless for a variety of reasons 
moved in the building sometimes with the explicit 
involvement of the Municipality. The Roma never 
had security of tenure over the rooms in the 
building on Alunisului, although they paid 
utilities regularly. Over the years, the living 
conditions in the building deteriorated markedly, 
under pressure from overcrowding and lack of 
maintenance. The local authorities were aware of 
the unsustainable situation in Alunisului, but 
generally refused to undertake any actions aimed 
at regularizing the Roma's situation in the 
building. The former owner of the building even 
offered to donate the building to the 
authorities, but this offer was turned down for 
unknown reasons. Eventually, the owner sold the 
building for a derisory sum to another company based in Tulcea.

The new owner initiated eviction proceedings, and 
obtained a favorable judgment. On 20 August 2005, 
the Romani families from Alunisului were 
forcefully evicted from their flats, and had to 
spend almost four months in the open air. Some of 
them returned to the remains of their houses in 
Plugarilor, others squatted in parks, gardens, 
and other public spaces. A small number of 
families built mud houses on a plot of private 
land outside Tulcea, where they live in extreme 
conditions to the present day, and could face 
eviction at any time, due to the lack of any 
title over their houses and the land on which they are built.

Following the decision of a higher court to 
reverse the lower court's judgment for procedural 
flaws, most of the Roma returned to the building 
in Alunisului in October 2005. However, their 
living was again disrupted by a new set of legal 
proceedings that resulted in the second forced eviction referred to
above.

Honourable Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu,

The actions and omissions of the local 
authorities in Tulcea over the last seven years 
amount to a gross violation of Romania's 
obligations under international human rights law.

Most notably, Romania is bound by the 
International Covenant on Economic, Social and 
Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which states, at 
Article 11(1), "The States Parties to the present 
Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an 
adequate standard of living for himself and his 
family, including adequate food, clothing and 
housing, and to the continuous improvement of 
living conditions. The States Parties will take 
appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of 
this right, recognising to this effect the 
essential importance of international 
co-operation based on free consent." The 
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 
has held that forced evictions constitute a 
primary harm in the context of Article 11. An 
eviction is "forced" and therefore illegal under 
international human rights law if: (i) due 
process is not observed; (ii) alternate 
accommodation is not provided; and/or (iii) any 
form of discrimination infects procedures or 
outcomes. In these terms, the Tulcea evictions are evidently illegal.

In addition, the Romanian authorities' actions 
run afoul of a number of provisions of the 
European Convention on Human Rights providing 
protections against forced evictions and other 
core elements of the right to adequate housing. 
Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human 
Rights sets forth the following guarantees: 
"Everyone has the right to respect for his 
private and family life, his home and his 
correspondence." Article 8's protection 
encompasses inter alia the following rights: the 
right of access, the right of occupation, and the 
right not to be expelled or evicted, and is thus 
intimately intertwined with the principle of 
legal security of tenure. Further, the European 
Court has developed extensively under its Article 
8 jurisprudence the concept of "positive 
obligations", under which a Contracting State 
must not only restrict its own interferences to 
what is compatible with Article 8, but may also 
be required to protect the enjoyment of those 
rights and secure the respect for those rights in 
its domestic law. In addition, protections 
available under Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the 
European Convention -- guaranteeing the peaceful 
enjoyment of one's possessions -- have been 
interpreted to include the protection of housing 
rights. In some circumstances, forced evictions 
and extreme housing conditions may rise to the 
level of cruel and degrading treatment or 
punishment, as banned under Article 3 of the Convention.

The Romanian Government was in fact recently 
found in breach of a number of articles of the 
European Convention of Human Rights in the 
Moldovan and Others v. Romania(1) case, which 
involved inter alia severely overcrowded and 
unsanitary environment and its detrimental effect 
on the health and well-being of the persons 
concerned, as well as evident racial animus on 
the part of authorities, both elements present in Tulcea.

Honourable Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu,

The ERRC and APADOR-CH urge you to exert your 
power to ensure that the urgent housing needs of 
these evicted families are addressed immediately, 
before forced evictions forthwith. It is 
imperative that these families are provided with an adequate
housing solution.

In particular, with regard to the families that 
presently live in the industrial port, it is 
vital that they be urgently provided with 
adequate alternative accommodation in a safe 
area. Until such solution is found, the two 
buildings in the industrial port should be 
brought to a level which would make possible 
human habitation. Moreover, public transport to 
this area should be urgently provided.

With regard to the persons rendered homeless by 
the eviction, it is urgent that they are provided 
with adequate accommodation. This should be the 
highest priority of local and central 
administration, given the impending winter, and 
their rapidly deteriorating health.

We also urge that your office initiates the 
necessary steps in accordance with the law to see 
that those responsible for the plight of the 
families evicted from Alunisului Street are 
brought to justice for their actions.

Finally, we would welcome discussion with your 
office on these matters. Thank you in advance for all efforts in
this regard.

Sincerely,

Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director
European Roma Rights Centre

Diana-Olivia Calinescu
Executive Director
Romanian Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH)

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:

Mr. Calin Popescu-Tariceanu
Prime Minister of Romania
Piata Victoriei, nr. 1, sector 1
Bucuresti
Romania
Fax: + 40-21-318 11 45

Cc.: Mr. Constantin Hogea
Mayor of Tulcea
Str. Pacii nr. 20
Tulcea, Romania
Fax +40 240 517736

NOTE

(1) Moldovan and others v. Romania, Applications 
Nos. 41138/98 and 64320/01, Judgment No. 2, 12 
July 2005. The Court found violations of Articles 
3, 61, 8, and 14 taken in conjunction with 
Articles 61 and 8, mainly on account of the 
State's failure to redress the consequences of 
those incidents and the numerous deficiencies of 
the internal legal proceedings undertaken in the case.
------

EUROPEAN ROMA RIGHTS CENTRE
Hungary, Budapest H-1016, Naphegy ter. 8; Tel.: 
+36/1/4132200; Fax: 4132201; errc@errc.org

ROMANIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE  (APADOR-CH)
Str. Nicolae Tonitza 8, Sector 3, Bucuresti, 
704012 Romania; Tel.: +40/21/3124528;
Fax: +40/21/3123711;
office@apador.org

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