Roma Evicted from Long-time Residences in Serbia and Montenegro
29 October 2003
In a press release dated April 1, 2003, the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) announced that authorities in the city of Belgrade had begun evicting Roma living in homes and buildings without legal permission while failing to provide any sort of alternative accommodation. The HLC reported that on March 26, 2003, the home in which the 5-member Memišević Romani family and the 7-member Demirović Romani family were living in the Žarkovo district of Belgrade, was destroyed by order of the Municipality of Čukarica, rendering the twelve Roma, including a disabled 7-year-old, two children under the age of 5 and a baby, homeless. Local police and bailiffs reportedly forced the families out of the home and left them on the street with their personal belongings. According to the HLC, the municipality had temporarily allocated the home, situated on land owned by the privately-owned Stankom Corporation, to Mr Zoran Memišević.
Forced evictions are prohibited under international law, and in failing to provide alternative accommodation to forcibly evicted Romani families, the government of Serbia and Montenegro violates additional provisions of international law to which Serbia and Montenegro is a party. Article 7 of the newly adopted Charter on Human and Minority Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Serbia and Montenegro sets out that "Human and minority rights guaranteed by universally accepted rules of international law, as well as by international treaties in force in the state union are guaranteed by this charter and are directly applicable (emphasis added)." Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent." In its General Comment 7 on "The right to adequate housing", the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights further stated that forced evictions are prima facie incompatible with the provision of the Covenant and "Evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available."