Memet and others v Romania (2019)

13 December 2019


This was a case in which the ERRC represented ten Romani families living in Eforie Sud, Romania. Those families are known as “the applicants”, because they applied to the European Court of Human Rights to make a complaint against Romania. They were evicted from their homes, which were demolished, in September 2013; the mayor used awful language at the time, calling their homes an “infection” and called the families “dogs” – common tropes of antigypsyism. The families were then sheltered in an abandoned school. In July 2014, the applicants were evicted from the school and placed in small, uncomfortable modular containers. The families signed leases with the municipality to pay rent and utilities, but the amounts were clearly unaffordable and the families quickly ran up significant debts of hundreds of euros, despite having very low incomes. The authorities then decided to evict the families for failure to pay in March 2016.

The Case

The ERRC supported the families to litigate the first eviction and worked with the families to ask the European Court of Human Rights to stop the third eviction. The European Court agreed to the request, granting a so-called “Rule 39” interim measure (like an injunction) to stop the eviction. Although the imminent risk of eviction stopped, as the authorities withdrew the eviction decision, the ERRC worked with the community to continue the case in the European Court about the third eviction, as there is still a threat of a future eviction.

In the meantime, while the case was pending before the European Court, the ERRC supported the applicants to bring a separate case before the Romanian courts about the first eviction. They won that case, and the domestic courts awarded each family 500 euros and ordered the authorities to rehouse them. You can find an English translation of that judgment here.

The European Court’s Decision

On 1 October 2019, the European Court declared the case inadmissible. The Court ruled that the applicants had failed to exhaust domestic remedies. This means that the applicants should have taken further litigation before the courts in Romania before turning to the European Court of Human Rights. The reason for this is that by the time the case reached the European Court, there was no longer a threat of eviction. The case was now only about whether by threatening to evict the community, the authorities had violated their human rights. The European Court thought that the applicants could have brought a complaint about that using Romanian tort law. In other words, they thought the applicants could have made a separate complaint before the Romanian civil courts. 

The Court’s decision can be found here.

The relevant parts of the application that the ERRC submitted on behalf of the applicants can be found here.


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