MINELRES: ERRC: European Committee of Social Rights Issues Landmark Ruling Against Bulgaria for Violating Rights of Roma to Adequate Housing

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sun Apr 8 11:15:23 2007

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

Bulgaria Found in Violation of European Social Charter as a Result of
Systematic Failure to Act on Positive Obligations  

The European Committee of Social Rights has ruled that Bulgaria is in
violation of the European Social Charter for systematically denying the
rights of Roma to adequate housing, in a decision made public on Friday.
The ruling has been welcomed by a coalition of non-governmental
organisations working on housing rights issues concerning Roma in

In the matter of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Bulgaria, the
European Committee of Social Rights held that Bulgaria’s policies with
respect to the housing and accommodation of Roma infringe Article 16
(right of the family to social, legal and economic protection) and
Article E (which focuses on non-discrimination) of the European Social
Charter due to:

- Romani families being disproportionately affected by legislation which
limits the possibility of legalising illegal dwellings; 
- The inadequate housing conditions and lack of amenities experienced by
Romani families; and 
- The systematic eviction of Roma from their homes without providing
them with adequate alternative housing. 
ERRC Executive Director Vera Egenberger welcomed the decision, noting
that "In its third decision on matters relating to the housing situation
of Roma in Europe, the Committee has made its strongest finding to date.
The text of this decision sets new standards of obligations by State
Parties in implementing the rights enshrined in the European Social
Charter. ERRC will closely monitor the implementation of this decision
by the Bulgarian Government." 
The Committee noted in regards to the adequacy of measures taken by the
Government on the housing situation of Roma in Bulgaria, that
“notwithstanding the clear political will expressed by the Government to
improve the housing situation of Roma families”, a number of government
programmes and implementing measures produced in the period 1999-2005
“have not yet yielded the expected results” and a “period of six
years…should have been enough to realise significant improvements”.

Krassimir Kanev, Chair of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said, “This
ruling vindicates our efforts – repeatedly frustrated – to ensure that
the Bulgarian government implements its own policies on Romani housing
and to secure equal treatment for Roma in Bulgaria. We hope the decision
will put an end to the long period of neglect by the Bulgarian
government of its commitments under the Framework Programme for Equal
Integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society and help revitalise efforts to
fulfil them.”

With regard to its finding of a violation of the prohibition of
discrimination at Article E, the Committee stressed that “Article E not
only prohibits direct discrimination but also all forms of indirect
discrimination”. The Committee further stated that “indirect
discrimination may arise by failing to take due and positive account of
all relevant differences or 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”.

Finally, for the first time in any judicial finding by any international
body, the Committee found that “in the case of Roma families, the simple
guarantee of equal treatment as the means of protection against any
discrimination does not suffice” and that “for the integration of an
ethnic minority as Roma into mainstream society measures of positive
action are needed”. 

Claude Cahn, Head of the Advocacy Unit of the Geneva-based Centre on
Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), said, “This decision is one of the
first in Roma rights to find an entire field of policy and practice by a
European government illegal. It therefore marks a key turning point in
our efforts to challenge the systemic human rights abuse of Roma in
Europe. There is an urgent need for proactive measures to improve the
appalling conditions under which a major segment of the Romani community
in Bulgaria lives.” 

European Roma Rights Centre: (36 1) 41 32 200, savelina.danova@errc.org
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions: (41 22) 734 1028,
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee: (359 2) 9434876, krassimir@bghelsinki.org
Equal Opportunities Initiative Association: equal_opportunities@abv.bg

Background information

The European Committee of Social Rights supervises implementation by
States of the European Social Charter and Revised European Social
Charter. Further information on the Committee and the Charters is
available at: http://www.coe.int/T/E/Human_Rights/Esc/.

The Complaint, brought by the European Roma Rights Centre in 2005,
alleged Charter violations as a result of the systemic frustration of
the fundamental rights of Roma to adequate housing in Bulgaria.  The
Complaint became Collective Complaint No. 31/2005 European Roma Rights
Centre v. Bulgaria. The petition was declared admissible by the
Committee in October 2005. The full text of the complaint is available
at: http://www.errc.org/db/02/20/m00000220.zip 

As a result of the decision, the Bulgarian government must report on
this issue to the Committee until such a time as the problems at issue
in the decision is resolved.

The full text of the European Committee of Social Rights decision in
Collective Complaint 31/2005, European Roma Rights Centre v. Bulgaria,
is available at: http://www.errc.org/db/02/22/m00000222.zip 

The European Roma Rights Centre (www.errc.org ), Centre on Housing
Rights and Evictions (www.cohre.org), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
(www.bghelsinki.org ), and Equal Opportunities Initiative Association
are all involved in legal and advocacy action to secure the fundamental
rights of Roma to adequate housing in Bulgaria.

The Centre on Housing Rights & Evictions (COHRE) is an international
human rights organisation committed to protecting and promoting the
right to housing. For more information on COHRE see www.cohre.org .


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

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

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