Austrian administration violates due process rights of Roma

The Vienna-based non-governmental organisation Romano Centro reported on June 10 to the ERRC that despite three years of lobbying efforts, two cases first brought to the attention of the ERRC in 1996 remain unresolved.

One of the two cases involves a Romani couple from Yugoslavia named Violeta and Nicola Jevremovic whose flat in Vienna was stormed by an Austrian riot squad in April 1996 after Nicola evaded arrest for a parking violation. In the course of the raid, officers beat Nicola and Violeta and detained them both, leaving their three children alone in the flat overnight (see ERRC country report Divide and Deport: Roma and Sinti in Austria, pp. 32-38). Nicola was later given a suspended sentence for resisting arrest and Violeta, who had not been present at the scene of the original incident, was given a suspended sentence for „suspicion of resisting arrest" (see „Snapshots from Around Europe", Roma Rights, Autumn 1996).

With the assistance of the ERRC, Romano Centro and local counsel, the couple filed complaints against the officers concerned for abuse of power. In November 1996, an Austrian administrative court rejected the complaint on a technicality. In October 1997, a higher instance administrative court returned the case to the lower court and ordered it to rule in the case, finding that in its original decision, the court had exercised „arbitrariness" (see „Snapshots from Around Europe", Roma Rights, Winter 1998). On November 4, 1998, local counsel filed a complaint at the higher instance administrative court, protesting the continued lack of a ruling by the court. On June 9, 1999, counsel received a decision of the higher instance court, ordering the lower court to rule „within three months". The lower court has reportedly conducted numerous hearings and has scheduled further hearings, including a reconstruction of the event at the Jevremovic flat. The presiding judge reportedly has a reputation for not issuing rulings against police officers.

A second outstanding case still without resolution concerns a Romani woman named Maria Pascher who was born in 1963 in Austria. Her mother was a Romani woman who fled Hungary in the wake of the 1956 uprising against the Communist regime and the subsequent Warsaw Pact invasion of Hungary. In 1990, Ms Pascher was stripped of legal status in Austria when authorities revoked the validity of the so-called „convention passports" issued to Hungarian refugees and their offspring. Ms Pascher was previously married to an Austrian citizen and has four children, all of whom are Austrian citizens.

The ERRC first reported the case in September 1996 (see ERRC Country Report Divide and Deport: Roma and Sinti in Austria, pp. 28-30). According to Romano Centro, however, Ms Pascher still has not been issued Austrian citizenship. Austrian authorities have reportedly told her that they cannot confirm that she is not a Hungarian citizen, and therefore are unable to issue her with Austrian citizenship. According to Romano Centro, Austrian authorities reported that Hungarian authorities not only could find no administrative trace of Ms Pascher, but were also unable to locate any records pertaining to her mother. Rather than issue citizenship at that point, however, Magistrate's Department 61, the office responsible for citizenship in Austria, decided to lodge a second request for records pertaining to Ms Pascher with Hungarian authorities. After Romano Centro protested the second request, officials at Magistrate's Department 61 agreed not to wait for a response from the Hungarian authorities, but proceed with her application. However, they have reportedly requested that Ms Pascher submit documents proving her income, suggesting that they regard Ms Pascher as a foreigner applying for citizenship through naturalisation and that the fact of her birth in Austria is entirely irrelevant to the case.

(ERRC, Romano Centro)

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