ERRC/Moscow Helsinki Group Action on Threats to Roma in Russia - NGOs Urge Lomonosov District Court of Arkhangelsk to Dismiss Mayors Office Claim for Demolition of Romani Homes

On November 19, 2004, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) sent a joint letter to Ms Nadezhda Kursova, Chair of the Lomonosov District Court of Arkhangelsk, to express concern about the threatened demolition of a number of wooden structures temporarily housing about one hundred Roma in Arkhangelsk. According to information provided by the non-governmental organisation Northwest Center for Social and Legal Protection of Roma, in September 2004, the Arkhangelsk mayor's office requested that the court order the demolition of the Romani homes. The ERRC and MHG urged the court to dismiss the demolition claim. The NGOs also requested that the court take into consideration the fact that the structures are reportedly the only homes the Roma have, and that their demolition would expose them to the hazards of homelessness during the harsh winter period in that region.

In the joint letter, the ERRC and MHG note that according to an order by Mr. Kalinin, First Deputy of the Mayor in Arkhangelsk, a site for construction was designated on July 2, 2004. In addition, the future settlement received an official postal address. Two months later, the city planning commission conducted official examination of the specified site, during which it was established that construction was already underway, despite the fact that permission documentation had not yet been obtained. Following this, the mayor's office requested that the court issue an order for the demolition of the unregulated structures.

Demolition of the structures now, during wintertime, would result in rendering the Romani families with young children exposed to serious harms as a result of exposure to the elements. Arkhangelsk has very harsh climatic conditions during winter.

In the letter, the MHG and ERRC request that the Lomonosov District Court of Arkhangelsk ensure that the housing rights of the Romani families be adequately protected. The ERRC and MHG letter notes domestic and international law provisions potentially breached should municipal authorities demolish the dwellings in question -- notably substantive provisions of the Russian Constitution, as well as Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), guaranteeing an adequate standard of living. The ERRC and MHG also bring several relevant pieces of commentary to the attention of the court, elaborating the meaning of ICESCR Article 11.

The letter was copied to Mr. Vladimir Lukin, Human Rights Commissioner in the Russian Federation, and to Mr. Oleg Nilov, Mayor of Arkhangelsk.

Further information on the case is available by contacting: Toni Tashev, tony@errc.org.

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