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Lacatus v Switzerland (third-party intervention, pending)

22 August 2016

Facts

The case was brought by a Romani woman of Romanian nationality who has been convicted and fined under Geneva’s criminal code for begging.  

The ERRC’s Third-Party Intervention

The ERRC urged the Court to identify antigypsyism as the discriminatory motivation underlying the adoption and increasing enforcement of laws criminalising begging in Europe. According to the ERRC, the Court had to use that word to describe the significance, under the Convention, of legislative acts that may appear to be a response to legitimate public order concerns, but, in reality, are based on and/or reflect negative stereotypes of Roma. Legislation criminalising begging forms part of and perpetuates a pattern of exclusion that prevents the targets of antigypsyism from achieving full equality. The ERRC stressed that antigypsyism encompasses racist discourse as well as reliance on or perpetuation of racial stereotypes in legislation. The ERRC discussed the poverty in which many Roma live, providing extensive data about the situation of Roma in Bulgaria and Romania and describing Romani poverty as a consequence of antigypsyism. The ERRC surveyed the evidence – including racist discourse – that antigypsyism has contaminated the adoption and enforcement of anti-begging laws in Europe, including in Geneva. The ERRC surveyed judgments of national courts in Europe and North America and conclusions of Council of Europe bodies, UN bodies, and others finding that criminalising begging violates fundamental rights. The ERRC urged the Court to integrate the notion of antigypsyism into its analysis of whether enforcement of such legislation against Roma amounts to a violation of Article 14 read with other provisions of the Convention. According to the ERRC, it was insufficient for the Court to require an applicant to produce evidence that the authorities were motivated by racism in her individual case or were disproportionately targeting Roma under the law generally. Such an approach would ignore the discriminatory context in which the law was adopted and mischaracterise individual arrests as isolated occurrences, rather than as part of the pattern of discrimination that Roma have experienced and have turned to the Court to expose in full. The ERRC encouraged the Court to apply the notion of “harassment” as a form of discrimination in such cases. Under the ERRC’s proposed harassment-based approach, where there is evidence that the legislation being enforced is related to ethnic and racial origin (including stereotypes about Roma), the burden shifts to the Respondent Government to explain precisely why the legislation was adopted, to show that it successfully promoted a legitimate aim, and to produce evidence that it was not being used to target Roma.

The Court’s statement of facts can be found (in French) here.

The ERRC’s third-party intervention can be found here.

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ERRC submission to UN HRC on Hungary (February 2018)

14 February 2018

Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre concerning Hungary to the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration at its 122nd session (12 Narch - 6 April 2018).

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The Fragility of Professional Competence: A Preliminary Account of Child Protection Practice with Romani and Traveller Children in England

24 January 2018

Romani and Traveller children in England are much more likely to be taken into state care than the majority population, and the numbers are rising. Between 2009 and 2016 the number of Irish Travellers in care has risen by 400% and the number of Romani children has risen 933%. The increases are not consistent with national trends, and when compared to population data, suggest that Romani and Traveller children living in the UK could be 3 times more likely be taken into public care than any other child. 

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Families Divided: Romani and Egyptian Children in Albanian Institutions

21 November 2017

There’s a high percentage of Romani and Egyptian children in children’s homes in Albania – a disproportionate number. These children are often put into institutions because of poverty, and then find it impossible ever to return to their families. Because of centuries of discrimination Roma and Egyptians in Albania are less likely to live in adequate housing, less likely to be employed and more likely to feel the effects of extreme poverty.

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