MINELRES: The European Roma Rights Centre Calls on the EU to Reaffirm Human Rights Standards in Policies on Roma

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Sep 17 19:56:02 2008

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

The European Roma Rights Centre Calls on the EU to Reaffirm Human Rights
Standards in Policies on Roma 

The European Roma Rights Centre [ERRC] issues a statement today to bring
to the attention of European Union and national policy-makers standards
for the protection of human rights established in recent years by
European and United Nations treaty bodies ruling on cases of human
rights violations against Roma. We look forward to the European Roma
Summit starting tomorrow to reaffirm these standards as fundamental in
policy-making on Roma.

Segregation of Roma in special remedial schools violates human rights
law: In its landmark judgement in the case D.H. and Others v the Czech
Republic (2007), the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the
prejudicial effect on Roma of general and neutrally termed policy
measures, leading to their segregation in special remedial schools, is a
form of unlawful discrimination. The Court noted with concern that
discriminatory barriers to education for Roma are present in other
European countries as well. The judgment has strengthened the doctrine
of indirect discrimination such that Governments, when formulating
policies and laws, can be found guilty of indirect discrimination where
such policies or laws have a discriminatory or unequal effect even if
they have not intentionally discriminated. In the later Sampanis v.
Greece, the Court equally highlighted the need for states to put in
place an adequate system of evaluation of Romani children’s abilities in
order to ensure non-discriminatory treatment in the education system.

Forced eviction without alternative accommodation violates human rights
law: The case law of the European Committee of Social Rights comprising
its rulings on the Collective Complaints ERRC v. Greece (2005), ERRC v.
Italy (2005) and ERRC v. Bulgaria (2006), condemns the practice of
forced eviction of Roma carried out in absence of satisfactory
protection and without the provision of adequate alternative
accommodation. The Committee affirmed that sanctions against persons or
groups of persons are not justified where the state had failed to secure
access to rights provided by law. A state is responsible for
discrimination by failing to take into account that Romani families run
a higher risk of eviction as a consequence of the precariousness of
their tenure.

Positive action to remedy discrimination: Ruling on the Collective
Complaint ERRC v. Bulgaria, the European Committee of Social Rights
formulated the positive duty of the state to undertake action to address
a particular situation of Roma. The Committee affirmed that “for the
integration of an ethnic minority as Roma into mainstream society
measures of positive action are needed” and held that indirect
discrimination may arise by failing to take adequate steps to ensure
that the rights and collective advantages that are open to all are
genuinely accessible by and to all. Government failure to undertake
specific action to address the particular situation of Roma constitutes
a breach of the state’s obligations under the European Social Charter.

State responsibility to implement official policy: Ruling on the
Collective Complaint ERRC v. Greece, the European Committee of Social
Rights established that the ultimate responsibility for implementation
of official policy lies with the state regardless of the fact that due
to the decentralised structure of government, local, regional or other
authorities are responsible for carrying out particular functions. 

Equally important, Governments must ensure that the implementation of
such policies should not result in further marginalisation and
discrimination of Roma. A ruling by the United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination against Slovakia (2005) clarified
unequivocally that policies aiming to keep Roma in substandard
conditions or resulting in such severe discrimination violate
international law, and tolerance of such acts by public officials cannot
stand:  “[T]aking initially an important policy and practical step
towards realization of the right to housing [of Roma] 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.”

State obligation to collect data disaggregated by ethnicity and gender:
In its ruling on the Collective Complaints ERRC v. Greece and ERRC v.
Italy, the European Committee of Social Rights established that, with
regard to collecting data, where it is generally acknowledged that a
particular group is or could be discriminated against, states have
responsibility to collect data, including data disaggregated by
ethnicity or other grounds, with due safeguards for privacy and against
other abuses. Such data is indispensable to the formulation of rational
policy for social inclusion.

State’s positive duty to investigate severe racial discrimination: The
judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in Nachova v. Bulgaria
(2005) established that failure by a state to investigate allegations of
severe discriminatory treatment and racist attacks may amount to a
violation of the prohibition of discrimination and set the standard for
a positive duty on authorities to investigate racially motivated
violence. The positive duty on authorities is to "do what is reasonable
in the circumstances to collect and secure the evidence, explore all
practical means of discovering the truth and deliver fully reasoned,
impartial and objective decisions, without omitting suspicious facts
that may be indicative of a racially induced violence." Ever since, an
increasing number of the Court’s judgements held states accountable for
acts of racist violence and failure to punish those involved, committed
either by state officials (Stoica v. Romania) or by third parties (Seeie
v. Croatia).

The human rights standards established by the above decisions are
crucial components of international human rights law and are binding on
EU and Council of Europe Member States. The European Roma Rights Centre
calls on European Union institutions to ensure that Member States give
effect to these standards by enacting and implementing relevant
legislation and policy.


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation 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 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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