French Roma policy violates European Social Charter

In a decision of 28 June (COHRE v. France, no. 63/2010), which was only recently made public, the European Committee of Social Rights has found the French zero tolerance policy towards East European Roma living in illegal camps to be in violation of the European Social Charter. The case, which was lodged by the NGO Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), concerns the eviction and expulsion measures announced by French president Sarkozy in the summer of 2010. Hundreds of illegal camps were dismantled and thousands of Roma were expelled to Romania and Bulgaria. Most expulsions took place on a “voluntary” basis, in exchange for the payment of 300 euro per adult and 100 euro per child. Continue reading

“Living Together” and Diversity in Europe

The Council of Europe recently released a report on diversity in Europe, entitled “Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe”, drawn up by the ‘Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe’. The report aims to  negotiate “the challenges arising from the resurgence of intolerance and discrimination in Europe”. It “assesses the seriousness of the risks, identifies their sources and makes a series of proposals for “living together” in open European societies”. The findings and recommendations are based “firmly on the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, especially individual freedom and equality before the law.” What makes this report particularly interesting is the impressive list of persons that have worked on it. Among the drafters are not only academics from some of the most reputable universities in Europe, but also former high level politicians, including Emma Bonino, Javier Solana and Joschka Fischer.

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Gypsy Way of Life “By Birth” or “By Choice”

This post is co-authored by Lourdes Peroni and Alexandra Timmer

In an inadmissibility decision that might have gone unnoticed by many, the Court has recently ruled in an interesting case, Horie v UK. The case involves a “New Age Traveler” who complained of an impediment on her ability to pursue a nomadic way of life. The case’s issue was a rather technical legal one – the question was whether a quia timet order which prevented a group of travelers to occupy any land by the Forestry Commission in the Dorset-region was justified – but en passant the Court makes some potentially important remarks about what sort of lifestyle deserves recognition. The purpose of this post is to flag this case and briefly discuss the disquieting remarks the Court makes about what kind of cultural minority-groups deserve protection and which groups don’t. Continue reading

Konstantin Markin: One more applause to the Court. This time from a perspective of religious minority rights

The case Konstantin Markin v. Russia was already discussed in a previous post written by my colleague Alexandra who, from a gender perspective, found it a very interesting case, worth applauding on several points.

I want to add an additional point from the perspective of religious minority rights. When reading the case I was surprised by the irony of the following statement made by the Court in paragraph 58: Continue reading

In a school ALL pupils should be king! An example of segregation in a Belgian school.

From a minority perspective, this week was not a good week in Belgium. On Wednesday, a television broadcast proved that employment agencies cooperate actively with employers who don’t want to hire people with a foreign background (in Belgium the so-called “allochtonen”). An undercover journalist who posed as an employer searching for new employees, asked the agencies not to select people from a foreign background. Out of the 8 agencies, 6 admitted not having any problem with this question, even if it is unlawful. One of them literally said: “the client is king”!
Today was another sad day. A Belgian school, in the city of Lokeren, divides its children depending of their being “autochtoon” or “allochtoon” (this is how persons from respectively Belgian and immigrant roots are named in Belgium ). Continue reading

Expulsion or mustard grass, the message is the same: “Roma, you are not welcome”

We have all read about the utterly unacceptable treatment of Roma by Sarkozy’s government. And while France holds firm to its “return policy”, thankfully the EU has not turned a blind eye to this discriminatory practice, violating both the freedom of movement within the EU and the prohibition of collective expulsions. First, the European Parliament sent a clear message, issuing a resolution in which the French government was explicitly named and shamed. Now, after a revealed official document clearly demonstrates how the French government is targetting Roma specifically, the European Commission is also going on the offensive. Through the voice of its Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, the European Commission has said “enough is enough” and threatens France with the initiation of a so-called “fast-track” infringement procedure which could eventually lead to France being held in violation of EU law and fined by the European Court of Justice.

While the above case will be well known to all readers of this blog, other cases pass underneath the radar of the international media. The primary reason for this is that they are less directly shocking. Nonetheless, these ‘minor’ cases also reveal what can only be termed a poisonous attitude towards Roma. And that attitude sends a not to be misunderstood message: “you are not welcome here”. One such ‘minor’ case is currently taking place in Brussels.

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Judge ≠ mathematician

Note: following a helpful comment, this post has been edited to correct a mistake on my behalf.

In this blog entry I would like to focus on the Court’s interpretation of the concept ’statistically relevant’. In Oršuš and others v. Croatia, the Court held the following regarding the statistical evidence adduced by the applicants:

“These statistics demonstrate that only in the Macinec Primary School did a majority of Roma pupils attend a Roma-only class, while in the Podturen Primary School the percentage was below 50%. This confirms that it was not a general policy to automatically place Roma pupils in separate classes in both schools at issue. Therefore, the statistics submitted do not suffice to establish that there is prima facie evidence that the effect of a measure or practice was discriminatory.” (§ 152, emphasis added)

The use of statistics to prove the existence of indirect discrimination was introduced in D.H. and others v. The Czech Republic (app. no. 57325/00) and used afterwards in Sampanis and others v. Greece (app. no. 32526/05). This introduction can only be applauded and was a major step forward for the protection of minorities, since it made proving indirect discrimination more feasible.

What is regrettable is the simple conception of statistical evidence the Court uses in Oršuš .

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