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Romanian Government Acknowledges Responsibility for Anti-Romani Pogroms

27 April 2007

European Court of Human Rights Delivers Justice to Romani Victims after Seventeen Years

Budapest, Targu Mures, 27 April 2007

On 26 April 2007, the European Court of Human Rights delivered judgments in two cases concerning anti-Romani pogroms that took place in Romania at the beginning of the 1990s. The Romanian Government acknowledged responsibility for breaches of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, committed to paying considerable amounts of money as damages and costs to the applicants, and undertook to implement measures aimed at improving living conditions and interethnic relations in the aggrieved communities. These judgments emphasize the failure of the Romanian judicial system to provide adequate redress to the victims of widespread ethnically-motivated violence that took place in Romania at the beginning of the 1990s. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Liga Pro Europa (LPE) assisted the applicants during domestic and international proceedings.

Gergely v. Romania, the first of the two cases, concerns incidents that took place in 1990 in which a non-Romani mob set on fire or otherwise destroyed several Romani houses in the village of Casinu Nou, Harghita County, and forced the Romani families to leave the village. The second case, Kalanyos and Others v. Romania, concerned similar incidents that took place in June 1991 in the neighboring village of Plaiesii de Sus. It involved the brutal beating by a non-Romani mob of two Romani men who died subsequently because of the injuries sustained, and the systematic destruction of 28 Romani houses followed by the banishment of the Romani families from the village. In both cases, local authorities condoned or actively participated in the attacks. The official investigations into the incidents were superficial, failing to assign responsibility to the guilty individuals or provide relief to the victims. None of the victims ever received full compensation for the losses incurred.

In a rarely used procedure, the European Court of Human Rights struck the two cases out of its list of cases on the basis of unilateral statements made by the Romanian Government that contain a series of admissions and undertakings. Thus, the Romanian Government admitted that its agents were responsible for breaches of Article 3 (prohibition of torture), Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention. The Government stated that it "regret [ted] the failure of the criminal investigation to clarify fully the circumstances which led to the destruction of the applicants' home and possessions, which left them living in improper conditions, rendered difficult their possibility of filing a civil action for damages, as well as the exercise of their right to respect for home, private and family life. Furthermore, the Government expressed regret for the fact "that remedies for the enforcement of rights in the Convention generally lacked at the time when the applicants was seeking justice in domestic courts, and that certain remarks were made by some authorities as to the applicant's Roma origin."

In addition, the Government undertook to implement a series of measures aimed at improving interethnic relations as well as living conditions in the two communities. Finally, the Government committed to paying damages totaling 133,000 EUR to the four applicants in the two cases.

These judgments by the European Court of Human Rights deliver some reparation to four of the many victims of the pogroms in Casinu Nou and Plaiesii de Sus. Furthermore, these judgments confirm and strengthen the findings of the Court in a similar case, Moldovan and Others v. Romania, issued two years ago, which contained a damning indictment of the failure of the Romanian Government to investigate adequately another anti-Romani pogrom that took place in 1991. Indeed, official investigations of an estimated thirty anti-Romani pogroms that took place in post-communist Romania, which resulted in several Romani deaths, destruction of Romani properties and displacement of entire Romani communities were largely cosmetic endeavors. They failed utterly to elucidate the circumstances of the attacks, bring the perpetrators to justice or provide redress to the victims. Moreover, due to the prevailing climate of impunity, in which such lax law enforcement results, racially-motivated attacks against Roma continue to occur with concerning frequency to the present day.

The ERRC and LPE underline that the Romanian government is now under an obligation to proceed swiftly to complying with the judgments and in this context to reopen the criminal files concerning the above mentioned two pogroms and compensate the rest of the Romani victims not included in the original applications filed with the European Court of Human Rights.

The ERRC and LPE furthermore appeal to the Romanian Government to open the files concerning all pogroms of the 1990s, with a view to bringing all those responsible to justice, so that a dark chapter of Romania's recent history may be finally closed.

Read the full text of the judgments here:

 

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