Bagdonavicius and others v Russia (third party intervention 2016)
The applicants were Romani families living in a Romani neighbourhood on the outskirts of Kaliningrad City (in the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea). The neighbourhood was created in 1956 following a Soviet decree “On Engaging Vagrant Gypsies in Labour” which required Roma to establish a fixed residence. In the early 2000s, the authorities worked with the community to help them secure legal recognition of their property rights and secure access to public services, but those efforts stopped. By the middle of the decade, the authorities had become hostile, and, following legal proceedings, the applicants’ homes were demolished and burned in 2006. They went on to live in makeshift accommodation and, without a registered address, lost access to a range of public services.
ERRC and Minority Rights Group International’s Intervention
The ERRC and Minority Rights Group International were jointly granted permission to intervene in the case.
We presented the Court with evidence of the crisis of forced evictions of Roma in Europe. We drew the Court’s attention in particular to the fact that forced evictions are not stand-alone incidents but rather reflect the extreme level of social exclusion of Roma and impact upon the full array of rights. We also set out the need for the Court to provide further specificity under its case law on Article 8 (right to respect for private life, family life, correspondence, and home) to ensure that States comply with their obligations in cases of forced evictions. We made comments on the applicability of Article 1 of Protocol 1 (right to property) to the forced eviction of Roma, on which, we explained, further guidance from the Court was needed. Lastly, we set out several principles on the applicability of Article 14 of the Convention (non-discrimination) in cases of forced evictions of Roma. In particular, we argued that when public authorities have explicitly treated a racial group such as Roma differently in relation to housing, it will be impossible to justify such discrimination unless it is based on positive measures.
The Court’s Judgment
The Court found that the applicants had suffered a violation of their right to respect for private life, family life, and home (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The basis of the Court’s finding was that the Russian authorities did not consider whether demolishing the applicants’ homes was proportionate before they went ahead with the demolition. The Court took into account that the applicants were Roma. In particular, the Court recalled its previous case law, according to which Roma should not be forcibly evicted from their homes without being rehoused.
The Court did not find a violation of the right to property, because they found that the applicants’ property interests were not sufficiently significant and had not been sufficiently recognised.
The Court did not find it necessary to deal separately with the Article 14 argument about discrimination, given the reasoning under Article 8.