European Roma Rights Centre v. Italy, European Committee of Social Rights, Complaint No. 27/2004
This decision regards the lack of housing rights for the Roma population in Italy under Articles 31 and E of the Revised European Social Charter. The complaint was brought on the grounds that there is shortage of adequate living conditions in camping sites in Italy for the Roma; that the Roma are forcefully evicted without proper procedure or alternatives; and that social housing options are not available to the Roma.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) brought this case against Italy for violating Article 31 and Article E of the Revised European Social Charter in failing to protect the Roma population’s right to housing, as well as systematically discriminating against the Roma community. In 2005, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) reported its decision in the case to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to enforce Italy’s compliance with the judgment.
As a preliminary matter, the ECSR decided that Articles 31 and E of the Revised Charter extend to the Roma. Article 31 requires governments to promote access to adequate housing, seek to prevent homelessness, and ensure access to social housing. Article E prohibits discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional, based on race or social origin.
Article 31 § 1 guarantees access to adequate housing that has basic amenities and is not overcrowded. The ECSR found that the insufficient number and inadequate conditions of authorized campsites, the lack of access to social housing, and Italy’s failure to properly monitor local authorities in ensuring these requirements were met amounted to a violation of § 1.
Article 31 § 2 requires evictions by the state to be justified and “carried out in conditions that respect the dignity of the persons concerned.” The ECSR found that Italy’s evictions of Roma from campsites without giving proper notice, and its failure to provide alternate accommodation, were violations of § 2.
The ECSR also criticized Italy for not detailing the criteria required to access housing and for failing to provide any information to show that the right of access was protected. The ECSR stated that Italy failed to take appropriate measures to ensure the Roma’s access to social housing, as required by Article 31 § 3. The ECSR further noted that Italy was in violation of Article E’s prohibition against discrimination by failing to introduce specific measures to protect the Roma in securing social housing.
The Committee of Ministers unanimously agreed to the recommendations by the ECSR. Italy was charged with following up on the recommendations of the report by implementing the enforceable right to housing act and making regular progress reports to the Committee of Ministers. Italy’s efforts are assessed by the Committee of Ministers in its reports on the state’s implementation of provisions of the Revised European Social Charter.
The case is significant in that it holds that rights in the Revised European Social Charter may apply to persons who are not nationals of state parties to the Charter. The case emphasizes the ECSR’s inclination to look to the underlying social purposes of the Charter in determining its scope.
For their contributions, special thanks to ESCR-Net member: the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University.