Slovak Municipality Treated Roma Settlement as Communal Waste - Rights Defender Condemns Evictions
31 July 2013
Budapest, Bratislava, 31 July, 2013: The Slovak Public Defender of Rights has ruled that the Municipality of Košice acted illegally when it demolished a Roma settlement under environmental law last year. The Municipality evicted more than 150 Roma, treating the settlement as ‘communal waste’. The Public Defender’s report ruled that there was no valid legal basis to evict the settlement, and that under no circumstance can housing be defined as communal waste.
Roma families were evicted from their settlement in Nižné Kapustníky, Košice, on 30 October 2012. Public authorities in Košice declared that the living conditions were not adequate, were dangerous and did not meet public health and safety standards. The Municipality announced the eviction and demolition orders on 26 October, with just four days notice, with no written documents, no consultation and no offer of alternative accommodation for majority of the affected Roma. The eviction and demolition orders were issued under the Košice Municipal Council’s decision no. 237 (from 21 Feb 2012) on communal waste removal.
Only four families were offered alternative accommodation and the majority of those evicted became homeless, losing their homes and belongings. The ruling means that the Roma may be more likely to receive compensation for their losses.
The Public Defender’s report found that health and safety concerns could not serve as a legal basis for the evictions and demolition of the houses. The Košice Municipality only referred to the decisions of public authorities, which have no legal grounds, as they were apparently unable to declare any official legal basis for the evictions and the demolition of houses. The Public Defender of Rights concluded that the city did not provide any legal decision that was valid for evicting people and demolishing houses.
Slovak authorities have been using environmental law to try and demolish Roma settlements across the country. The Košice Municipality evicted another Roma settlement in the city district of Ťahanovce in April 2013; it is likely that they used the same municipality council decision on communal waste removal.
The Košice municipality is one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2013, as well as a partner to several projects focused on Roma inclusion supported by the Council of Europe and the European Union (Urbact Roma Net, Romed, and the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion). The eviction and demolition orders are completely incompatible with running European programmes focused on the social inclusion of Roma.
The Public Defender’s report found that the city of Košice violated Article 21 of the Slovak Constitution – (the right to housing) and Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights – (the right to respect for private and family life). The report concluded that the evictions and demolitions also violated the Slovak Act on Waste, and the internal decision on communal waste (no. 237) of the municipality council itself.
For more information contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre