Hundreds of Roma Rendered Homeless in Russia's Kaliningrad Region

13 November 2006

According to information received by the ERRC, from 29 May to 2 June 2006, Russian authorities bulldozed 37 houses belonging to Roma families and set fire to the ruins in the village of Dorozhniy, in Russia's Kaliningrad region. The destruction reportedly followed flawed proceedings in the Russian courts that denied the Roma fundamental due process. Over 100 of the displaced Roma, who had lived legally for years in their homes, were, as of 5 July, living in tents and other temporary shelters, threatened with physical expulsion from their land. Others have fled elsewhere or been expelled from the area.

Regional authorities began their eviction campaign by initiating court proceedings to have the Roma families' ownership of their homes declared illegal. An attorney from the Open Society Institute's Justice Initiative and local counsel appeared before the local high court to assist the families in securing legal title to their properties. But in proceedings that reportedly violated fundamental standards of due process, the court issued decisions on 3 May rejecting the families' claims and opening the door to the forced evictions that would follow. The Justice Initiative then filed a request for interim measures with the European Court of Human Rights, which was denied.

On 5 July, the ERRC and the Justice Initiative condemned the forced eviction and destruction of the homes. The ERRC and the Justice Initiative also alerted the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner to the situation.

Earlier in the year, on 24 February, the ERRC sent a letter to the Governor of Kaliningrad region, Mr Georgiy Boos, urging him to intervene and stop the demolition of Romani houses in Dorozhniy after city authorities of Kaliningrad sent bulldozers to demolish houses of Romani families. The letter was copied to the Russian Ombudsman and the Regional Prosecutor. The forced evictions undertaken by the authorities exposed 4 Romani families, including children and women, to homelessness aggravated by severe weather conditions in the Kaliningrad region at that time of the year. The full text of the letter is available HERE. The Russian Ombudsman responded to the letter stating that, according to information from the Regional Prosecutor, no human rights violation had been found.

(ERRC, Open Society Justice Initiative)


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