Negrea and others v Romania (pending)
01 August 2018
The case concerns the refusal of maternity benefits to six Romani women by the local administration on spurious grounds.
The applicants lived in a village in Transylvania. They gave birth out of wedlock between 2002 and 2003. According to the legislation in force at the time they were entitled to various social benefits, including a maternity benefit, child allowance and a supplementary benefit for families with children.
The applicants, who had limited literacy skills, orally requested these benefits from the local municipality. The public servant in charge refused to register their applications claiming that they needed to either be married or sue their children’s fathers for child support. These conditions were not required by the relevant domestic legislation.
After having married or instituted proceedings against the fathers, at great emotional cost, the applicants were again refused the maternity benefit as the statutory six-month delay for claiming it had expired.
The applicants, supported by the ERRC, unsuccessfully petitioned the Romanian National Council for Combating Discrimination. The Council’s unfavourable decision was later upheld by the domestic courts. While finding that refusal of the benefit had been illegal, the courts ruled that the allegation of discrimination allegation was not sufficiently made out, adding that the applicants should have pursued an alternative administrative law remedy against a refusal of the benefits. (This remedy was illusory in the absence of a registered claim for benefits and a formal refusal, as in the applicants’ case.)
The ERRC represented the applicants before the European Court of Human Rights where they claimed a violation of article 14 taken together with articles 8 and 1 of Protocol no. 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as they were victims of indirect discrimination by being refused the maternity benefit on facially neutral grounds that disproportionately, and unjustifiably, affected Roma. They also claimed that they were a victim of an unfair trial (article 6) because of how long it took the authorities to investigate their complaint.
On 24 July 2018, the Chamber delivered its judgment. The seven judges found that there was a violation of article 6 because the authorities unjustifiably took eleven years to deal with the complaint about the benefits officer’s behaviour. The judges also unanimously found that there was no discrimination, because of a lack of evidence.
The Court’s statement of facts in the case is available here (in French).
The “statement of violations” section of the application to the European Court can be found here.
The Court’s judgment (in French) can be found here.