Bekir and others v North Macedonia (pending)
08 November 2016
The applicants are members of a Romani community who have been living – in some cases for many years – on land located in Skopje (the capital of Macedonia). They are very poor and have been living on the site in informal housing, mostly in shacks they built themselves. From time to time over the years, they have had their homes destroyed by the authorities and they have rebuilt them. In June 2016, as part of our work on the right to water, the ERRC wrote to the municipality Centar, in Skopje, where the site is located, to ask about this community and others who do not have adequate access to water. About a month later, unbeknown to the ERRC or the community, the authorities made an order to “clean” the land. On the morning of 1 August 2016, the authorities destroyed the community’s one source of water – a water pump. They then bulldozed the applicants’ homes. The people evicted had nowhere to go, so remained on the site, but the authorities kept watch over them to prevent them from rebuilding. The authorities proposed to accommodate members of the community in a shelter, but in reality the shelter did not have enough space in it (and is already notorious for its cramped, degrading conditions and inter-ethnic violence). About 120 people were evicted, over half of whom were children.
The ERRC is representing 53 of the people evicted in a case before the European Court of Human Rights about the eviction; we are also representing two other people evicted – pregnant women – in a case before the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women.
The applicants took their case directly to the European Court of Human Rights, which is unusual: normally applicants are supposed to go through the national legal system first. The ERRC argued that there were no remedies available to the applicants, because of the way the authorities had behaved.
The ERRC tried to secure an “interim measure” from the Court, which is a kind of emergency order, to make the Macedonian authorities rehouse the applicants. After a lengthy back-and-forth, the Court decided not to grant the measure, but has decided to deal with the case urgently.
The Court’s statement of facts about the case can be found here.
The facts and arguments sections of the application that the ERRC lodged on behalf of the applicants (with their personal data taken out) can be found here.