Access to justice is an inherent aspect of the rule of law and a fundamental requirement for any democratic society. The right of access to justice, to fair hearing and effective remedies are guaranteed under the European Convention on human Rights and must be secured for all without distinction (in accordance with Article 14 of the ECHR).
As such, the SRSG for Roma Issues wants member states to take all the necessary steps to strengthen access to justice for Roma and Travellers.
Under the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights has specifically noted on several occasions that Roma have become a specific type of disadvantaged and vulnerable minority who therefore require special protection as indicated by the relevant Court case-law. In response, the Committee of Minister’s adopted in March 2016 a Thematic Action Plan for the inclusion of Roma and Travellers that includes in its first priority the improvement of the access to justice of Roma and Travellers and highlights Roma women, youth and children as vulnerable groups that need particular attention.
It is therefore essential that the Council of Europe and its member states work together in order to take all necessary steps to improve the access to justice of Roma and Travellers. The Ad-Hoc Committee of Experts on Roma and Traveller Issues (CAHROM) is currently drafting a proposal for a Committee of Ministers Recommendation to member States on improving access to justice for Roma and Travellers in Europe. This text aims to provide further tools and guidelines to member States in eliminating discriminatory obstacles in the access to justice at all levels, including by recognising anti-Gypsyism as a specific form of racism.
The Support Team of the SRSG for Roma Issues is also implementing a pilot Joint Programme with the European Commission DG Justice, on Roma and Traveller Women’s Access to Justice in Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Romania. The JUSTROM programme will focus on empowering women from these communities to identify and report instances of discrimination but also on facilitating access to legal advice, primary legal aid and representation, through setting up legal clinics. The joint programme seeks broader cooperation and partnership with the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Labour and Social affairs, Councils of Ministers and Specialised Agencies for Roma Issues, Legal Aid Bureaus, bar associations, human rights institutions and equality bodies, NGOs and Roma and Traveller women themselves. The project will be running until March 2018. More information about the launch event of this joint programme in the five countries concerned can be found at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/roma-women.