MINELRES: Justice Initiative: Legal Challenge Seeks Justice for Violently Evicted Roma in Russia

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Mon Nov 20 08:54:03 2006

Original sender: Justice Initiative <info@justiceinitiative.org>

Open Society Justice Initiative  
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For immediate release

Contact: David Berry +1 212 548 0385 (New York)
        Mirna Adjami +1-646-552-1322 (New York)


Racist Campaign by Government Destroys Kaliningrad Village, Leaves
Hundreds Homeless

Strasbourg, November 6, 2006—In a major legal challenge to human rights
violations against Roma in Russia, the Open Society Justice Initiative
submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights seeking
justice for victims of the violent and unlawful destruction of the Roma
village of Dorozhnoe, Kaliningrad.

The Justice Initiative is representing 33 individuals before the
European Court. During the week of May 29 through June 2, 2006, special
police forces and Russian government officials bulldozed the victims'
houses in Dorozhnoe village and set fire to the ruins and the
applicants' possessions. The authorities menaced the victims with
machine guns and shouted racist remarks, such as "You the Gypsies - get
out of our land," in the process of the forced evictions.

The court papers, filed Nov. 3, seek a declaration that the Russian
government has breached numerous provisions of the European Convention
of Human Rights. They also request monetary and non-monetary damages for
the victims, including restitution of legal ownership of their homes.
The displaced Roma, all of whom owned their homes, have lived legally in
them for years.

"The Roma of Dorozhnoe have had both their rights and their possessions
trampled," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open
Society Justice Initiative. "The families have been separated in
scattered, makeshift shelters as winter sets in. We are asking the court
to remedy this grievous situation as quickly as possible."

The segregated Roma community in Dorozhnoe was created in 1956 when
Soviet authorities forced them to settle on what was then unwanted land.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the local government began the
process of granting Roma residents full ownership of their homes. But in
2002, the government halted the process and began a concerted effort to
drive the Roma off their land.

A government propaganda campaign vilified the community as criminals and
drug dealers. At the same time, a series of sham legal proceedings
stripped residents of ownership of their homes. The May 29 through June
2 operation capped a series of demolition campaigns carried out by
Russian authorities in Kaliningrad in 2005 and 2006. By June 2006,
approximately 40 homes, comprising the entire Roma community of
Dorozhnoe, had been razed, effectively wiping out the whole village.

The application filed by the Justice Initiative accuses authorities of
demolishing the homes, separating families and forcing the victims to
find makeshift shelter, thereby violating their rights to
non-discrimination, life, protection against inhuman treatment, and
enjoyment of their home, private and family life, as well as freedom
from interference with their possessions.

Human rights organizations have documented an increasing trend of
housing evictions of Roma communities throughout the Russian Federation
and other Council of Europe states. "The European Court must ensure that
states do not discriminate against Roma through unlawful forced
evictions," said Goldston. "With this case, we hope not only to
vindicate our clients' rights, but also send a clear message to states
that they cannot evict Roma communities with impunity."

The full application is available at:

The URL for this page is:


The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute , pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines
litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination
of knowledge to secure advances in the following priority areas:
national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information
and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja,
Budapest, and New York. 


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