Our story

Founded in the mid 1990’s by activists inspired
by the legal victories of the civil rights movement
in the United States,we have come a long way in
the fight for equal rights for Roma. Though
the names and faces have changed,the
ERRC’s committment to fighting
discrimination has remained
constant.

Our story

European Roma Rights Centre is founded!

After a landmark victory involving a Romani man winning a police brutality case in Bulgaria, activists and human rights lawyers from the Open Society Foundation started the ERRC. The centre was the first strategic law organisation working on Roma Rights in Europe, and was partly inspired by the successes of the NAACP in the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

1996

We take our first ever case to the European Court of Human Rights…and lose.

In September 25, 1996, the ECHR in Strasbourg turned down the case of Buckley v. the United Kingdom. It was the first case ever initiated by a British Romani applicant and was to decide whether British authorities had violated the right to respect for the home and family life of the applicant, Ms. June Buckley, by refusing to give her permission to station permanently, on her own land, caravans in which she had been living together with her family.

1996

Our First Legal Victory!

The Czech Constitutional Court ruled that a Civil Court had failed to deliver justice to Roma who had requested their case involving forced eviction and deportation be heard before a judge.

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1996

First Case on Housing Rights at European Level

One year after we lodged this case with the European Committee of Social Rights, the Committee found Italy in violation of its human rights obligations, including by forcibly evicting Roma. The battle for housing rights for Roma has only intensified since.

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2004

ERRC vs. Immigration Officer at Prague Airport

Antigypsyism spans Europe. In the period just before the European Union’s eastward expansion, it was on full display when the United Kingdom sent border guards to Prague Airport, who then racially profiled Romani passengers and stopped them boarding flights to the UK. We took them to court in our own name. The case reached the UK’s highest judges, who found in our favour.

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2004

Grand Chamber Condemns Police Murder

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgment on the police killing of two Romani men, finding that the Bulgarian authorities were responsible for the deaths and failed to carry out an investigation capable of unmasking any racial motivation. The case set the standard for judging similar cases in the future and put States on notice that they would be held accountable for not taking murder and ill-treatment of Roma seriously.

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2005

Win Case Against Romania on Pogrom and Mob Killings.

Moldovan & Others vs. Romania

Romanian police were complicit in mob violence and, with the ERRC’s support, the victims got justice, in a case that concerned not only their right to be free from ill-treatment, but also their right to housing. The case remains a landmark for anti-discrimination law in Europe.

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2005

ERRC Wins Max van der Stoel Prize!

The European Roma Rights Centre was presented the award by Knut Vollebaek, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, in a ceremony at the Hague on October 16th 2007. The ERRC was praised for its “long-term commitment to combating discrimination against Roma and its laudable efforts to attract attention to this pressing problem facing Europe as a whole."

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2007

D.H. & Others vs. Czech Republic

Hailed as “Europe’s Brown v Board of Education”, this was the first legal victory at European level against segregation of Romani children in Europe, and paved the way for other desegregation cases across the continent. Most importantly, it changed the narrative about segregation and showed the world that this practice amounts to racial discrimination. The Czech Republic was condemned for widespread misdiagnosis of Romani children has having intellectual disabilities, leading to their segregation. The ERRC continues to combat school segregation and pushes for inclusive education for all children.

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2007

Hungary Forced to Compensate Romani Woman for Coerced Sterilisation

During preparation for a caesarean section, a Romani woman was asked to sign forms giving her consent to this operation as well as to her sterilisation. The doctors did not explain the procedure, its nature, possible risks, or what the consequences of being sterilised would be. Only after the operation did she learn that she had been sterilised.

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2009

Orsus & Others vs. Croatia

Schools in Croatia were segregating Romani kids who could not speak Croatian into separate classes and leaving them there for their whole education. The European Court’s Grand Chamber judgment found that this was segregation, exposing yet another perverse way States exclude Romani children.

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2010

First Ever Report on Trafficking of Romani People

This was the first research to show the disproportionate impact of trafficking on Romani communities in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.Romani women and children were found to be particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

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2011

ERRC Wins’ Stockholm Human Rights Prize

The ERRC won one of the most prestigious awards in human rights, in recognition of our work at European level to advance the rights of Romani people.

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2012

Horvath & Kiss vs. Hungary

After the Czech Republic, it was inevitable that Hungary too would be found in violation of the European Convention for misdiagnosing Romani children with intellectual disabilities and segregating them.

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2013 

Far-Right Paramilitary Dissolved with ERRC legal support (Vona vs. Hungary)

The Magyar Gárda was dissolved after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that its leader, Vona Gábor, had not had his right to free speech violated. The ERRC submitted a third party intervention which addressed attitudes towards racism in democratic society, discrimination against Roma, particularly in Hungary, and the obligation of states to protect their Romani minorities.

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2013

ERRC becomes Roma-led!

For the first time, in 2016 the ERRC appointed a Romani Board Chair and a Romani President, ensuring Romani leadership across the top of the organisation for the first time. The following year, ERRC staff became Roma-majority for the first time in the organisation’s history.

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2016

ERRC First Ever Report Documenting Disparities in Access to Water Across Europe

The report summarised research carried out by the ERRC, between 2014 – 2016, covering 93 Romani neighbourhoods and settlements in Albania, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovakia. It demonstrated that unequal access to water in Europe is an ethnic issue, rather than a geographic one.

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2017

Over 10,000 people sign petition for justice for Romani victims of UN lead poisoning.

We began the campaign following a damning report published by the Human Rights Advisory Panel in April 2016. This panel called on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to publicly acknowledge its abject failure to comply with applicable human rights standards and apologise to Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) placed in lead contaminated camps, and to compensate victims for material and moral damage.

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2017

ERRC Wins Raoul Wallenberg Prize!

The prize was awarded in a ceremony in Strasbourg on the date of Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest by Soviet forces in Budapest in 1945. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe praised the ERRC for being “unrelenting” in our efforts to fight for Roma rights across Europe in a time of increasing antigypsyism.

2018

Roma Rights Defenders Network Launched

The ERRC launched its volunteer section in June 2018 at Europe's largest gathering of Romani and Travelling people: Appleby Horse Fair, England. The network of Roma and non-Roma across Europe help the ERRC mobilise and challenge human rights violations throughout the continent. Join up here.

2018

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