After 10 Years, Slovak Roma Whose Homes Were Destroyed As ‘Communal Waste’ Win Final Judgment on Appeal
13 September 2023
Brussels, Bratislava 13 September 2023: the Košice Regional Court has ruled in favour of nine Romani plaintiffs who were forcibly evicted from their homes in the district of Nižné Kapustníky, Košice in 2012. The Romani community was evicted under the pretext of waste removal by the city authorities. The inhabitants were offered no alternative accommodation after their homes were demolished, and as a result, they became homeless. The Court has upheld the previous judgment of the District Court Košice II that authorities had discriminated against the community on the basis of their ethnicity and that they violated the plaintiffs´ human dignity and right to private life. The decision is now final.
Managing Counsel Martin Mendel and Senior Associate Richard Marcinčin from Dentons law firm represented the displaced families on a pro bono basis, working in co-operation with the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) which acted as a third-party in the proceedings.
“Being removed from one´s home is one of the most severe intrusions into private life of a human being Even more so, if the home is removed without any legal basis and is treated like garbage.” said Michal Zálešák, a legal consultant for the ERRC. “We believe that instead of evicting the most marginalised Romani communities from their homes, municipalities should take concrete steps with the aim of improving their housing conditions so that they do not live on the margins of the society” he added.
Senior Associate Richard Marcinčin from Dentons commented: “It is a very important and unique decision in Slovakia, which will hopefully help prevent authorities from taking such arbitrary actions without any legal grounds towards other people in similar situations. We are delighted that Košice Regional Court has fully upheld the decision of the court of first instance and that our clients have finally received long-awaited justice.”
On October 30, 2012, the city of Košice forced a Romani community from their homes under the guise of environmental law, with 156 people (including 63 children) evicted from their homes in Nižné Kapustníky. The residents had been living there in informal housing for almost a decade. The eviction was carried out without a court order or decision from an administrative authority, and the affected people were not given prior written notice. The municipal police enforced the eviction, ordering the residents to leave the area and rendering them homeless. The homes of Romani families were demolished by excavators. Some of the displaced people were sent by bus to other parts of the country where their ID cards were registered. Representatives of the city of Košice described the Nižné Kapustníky eviction merely as the disposal of an illegal landfill where “inadaptable people” had built their dwellings. As the eviction was carried out illegally, the ERRC called on authorities to assist those already evicted and to stop any further forced evictions, which represented a clear violation of human rights.
In 2013, the then Slovak Public Defender of Rights Jana Dubovcová found that the City of Košice acted illegally when it demolished the homes belonging to Romani families, treating the community as ‘communal waste’. The Public Defender’s report ruled that there was no valid legal basis to evict the community and that housing cannot be defined as communal waste under any circumstance.
Last year, the District Court Košice II ruled in favour of nine members of the community in a case brought by Dentons and the ERRC. The court found that the City of Košice violated the plaintiffs' human dignity and right to privacy, and committed illegal discrimination based on their ethnic affiliation. The Košice Regional Court upheld the first instance decision stating that the actions of the city of Košice “reduced their [the plaintiffs] self-worth, accentuated their feelings of inferiority and helplessness as human beings and citizens”. The plaintiffs were awarded a total of €9000 in compensation. This decision is now final, barring an extraordinary appeal.
This press release is also available in Slovak.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Jonathan Lee (in English)
Advocacy & Communications Manager
European Roma Rights Centre
+32 49 288 7679
Michal Zálešák (in Slovak)
ERRC Legal Consultant
European Roma Rights Centre
+42 190 550 2785
Europe PR and Communications Director
+34 649 426 801