The Council of Europe and the European Commission joint programme aims to improve the access to justice of Roma and Traveller women in Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Romania.
The specific objectives are:
- to facilitate access to court and court proceedings at national and international level, including when on probation or while in prison
- provide legal advice, aid and/or representation through setting up legal clinics
- enhance the capacities of legal professionals, law enforcement bodies to adequately respond to Roma and Traveller women’s needs through training on non-discrimination and gender equality
- strengthen partnerships with national state institutions, local authorities, human rights institutions, legal aid bureaus, bar associations, NGOs and Roma and Traveller communities
- improve synergy and co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Commission on improving the situation of Roma and Travellers with a focus on the particular situation of women.
- needs assessments in 5 pilot countries were conducted by the Council of Europe in May – June 2016, as an inception phase, before the project submission to the EC
- organise national launch events of the project (October-November 2016) together with national associated partners (normally NRCPs/CAHROM members), beneficiaries and relevant stakeholders. The first launch event took place in Dublin, Ireland, on 14 October; the 2nd one in Rome, Italy on 18 October; the 3rd one will be in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 8 November; the 4th one in Bucharest, Romania, on 10 November and the 5th and last one in Athens, Greece, on 22 November 2016
- non-discrimination training for lawyers and legal assistants (scheduled in November-December 2016. The venue for the training to train both lawyers and legal assistants will need to be further discussed with the associate partners to see who could provide it. A pool of lawyers and legal assistants will therefore be trained on non-discrimination and gender equality with a focus on Roma women, who could then apply for the position of lawyer and legal assistant under the project. A call for applications for lawyers and legal assistants will be prepared and circulated just after the training.
- select 1 national coordinator and 2 mediators/facilitators, 2 legal assistants and 2 lawyers (December 2016) per country. Call for applications will be sent. We encourage all stakeholders, including NGOs, to disseminate our calls as broadly as possible and to help translate the call in national languages, where relevant, especially for the members of the community interested to apply as mediators and who might not speak English). English is mandatory only for the position of national coordinator, because this person will need to monthly report to the Council of Europe
- establish legal clinics in venues provided by associate partners (for free). The services to be provided to those in the communities will be:
- organise in-site gatherings and awareness raising meetings with Roma women and other vulnerable groups, where relevant, in the target localities by the national coordinator together with the facilitators/mediators, legal assistants and lawyers, and, where relevant, with the participation of human rights and gender equality institutions, equality bodies and/or NGOs. The objective of these meetings will be to inform Roma women and those living in target communities about the project, its objectives and services to be delivered to them (information about human rights, discrimination, complaint and redress mechanisms, legal information, legal assistance and legal aid, possibility for representation for women and necessary contacts and referrals about relevant institutions) and the location and opening hours of the legal clinics to be set up under this project; the gatherings will therefore try to provide relevant information but also build confidence in institutions and in lawyers and legal assistants involved under this project, as well as bring human rights, equality and gender equality institutions closer to those vulnerable to discrimination. This will also encourage these institutions to be more proactive in reaching out their beneficiaries. How to distinguish between providing services to all those in the selected communities and Roma women?
- legal information, advice and counsel can be provided to everyone from that particular community
- free legal aid – is already regulated by national legislation, so all those that are eligible can be assisted to receive it through the regular venues
- seconded legal aid – can be provided just for Roma women, since it is paid from the project and not from the state budget
- legal representation – this is not obligatory, which means that the project can choose to target women. Here discussion should be held on what types of cases should be brought before the court in order to show that discrimination against Roma women is prevalent and that enabling their access to justice is essential. Maybe the discussion has to focus both on being able to determine the areas of discrimination where Roma women seem to be affected more and where the national jurisprudence lack important cases, such as cases on multiple grounds of discrimination, cases of discrimination in healthcare?!, etc. This can also be an incentive for lawyers to represent cases that have a good chance to bring about new national court decisions or be brought before the ECtHR
- provide legal information, legal assistance and or legal aid and representation to selected Roma/vulnerable communities with a focus on Roma women and girls. There will be one lawyer and one legal assistant per legal clinic/community in Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Romania (i.e. 2 legal clinics per country open throughout 2017)
- organise a mid-term monitoring meeting by the Project Steering Committee in Brussels (just before or just after the summer 2017). Participants will include CoE and EC representatives + a delegation of 3 representatives from each of the 5 pilot countries. The national delegation attending the Project Steering Committee meeting will include the national coordinator + the NRCP and/or CAHROM member both having a role of associate partners under this project (when the NRCP and the CAHROM members are the same institution, a 3rd associate partner will be invited). This mid-term steering committee meeting will be a good opportunity to see if changes or adjustments are needed and whether the CoE and the EC can do more to assist at national level. It will also be an opportunity to compare and share experience between the five pilot countries
- organise national training of trainers for judges and prosecutors at national level in cooperation with Ministries of Justice, national institutes of justice and human rights institutions in Ireland and Italy. Organising national training of trainers for police in Bulgaria, Greece and Romania. The ToTs are an additional contribution to the programme by the CoE and therefore activities fully funded by the CoE own budget
- develope online factsheets in English on the type of cases of discrimination - In order to be able to influence the change in law and policies where needed, the project will also try to collect data as much as possible. The project will be able to provide information on the number of people served and from those of women served (collection of data by gender being not just allowed but also an obligation for MS). Since most selected communities are populated by Roma, this will give us a pretty good idea of Roma women served by the project. It will also tell us more about the type of problems women seem to have and then the level and nature of discrimination they are confronted with
- commission an external evaluation of the project implementation (January – March 2018).
- Ms Isabela Mihalache
- Ms Sandra Veloy-Mateu