SRSG for Roma highlights the importance of access to justice for Roma and Travellers

On this European Day of Justice, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for Roma Issues wishes to highlight the unequal access of Roma and Traveller people to judicial protection and the need to raise awareness on the situation of Roma and Travellers who continue to face widespread anti-Gypsyism.
Strasbourg 25 October 2016
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SRSG for Roma highlights the importance of access to justice for Roma and Travellers

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:

JUSTROM2 end of project JUSTROM2 end of project

JUSTROM2 comes to an end in March 2019. To illustrate the work achieved during its implementation, below there is an extract was taken from the final report submitted by one of the JUSTROM2 lawyers at the end of the project.

JUSTROM2 through a team member's eyes:

 Overall, this year we assisted 214 beneficiaries out of which 71% were women (63 men, 151 women) and a total of 281 cases out of which 79% concerned women (76 men and 205 women) in 353 sessions. In the Awareness Raising Gatherings we informed 261 people out of which 77% were women (60 men & 201 women).

The Legal Clinic was very successful in playing its important empowering and enabling role towards access to legal aid, access to courts and public services as well as increase awareness regarding discrimination. Our well-established modus operandi from the first year of implementation was put to function for the second year. 

It is a telling example of empowerment, at least for the area where the Clinic is situated, that the majority of beneficiaries that acquired assistance this year already knew on the boundaries of our services (i.e. not being able to represent them). The quantitative results of JUSTROM1 was one important factor of disseminating the functions of our Clinic to the community as a well as to other communities through word of mouth. Another important factor for the continuity and success of the Clinic was the probono provision of our services during the break between JUSTROM and JUSTROM2.

With regards to discrimination, Anti-Gypsyism and Gender Based Violence our efforts have provided the basic foundations for those crucial issues to be addressed. This reminds me of what a great Professor of Philosophy once told me, ‘’a problem cannot be solved if it is not identified as a problem first’’.  It is true that even now, after two years of implementation, many women (even young) consider violence and discrimination as normal and part of the culture. Our facilitator said it best, women encounter these struggles silently. On a positive note, a few cases of addressing these ongoing phenomena may bring about concrete change by having a multiplier effect and treat them holistically. Women as role models have the power to turn up the volume of ‘’silent’’ discrimination, racism, hatred and violence.

It is of outmost importance to point out once again that Roma women in our area of operation, although mostly uneducated, are active and can adopt to problems even of the most complicated legal nature if they have assistance and support.

In practical terms, from the moment they are informed about their rights and on how to enact them, they are willing to pursue them, even when the involve issues of complex legal nature. 

JUSTROM2 has provided the forums to active Roma women to promote civic engagement and civil discourse. These foundations lead by women need to be strengthened through increasing awareness and capacity through mentoring, communication with key governmental and non-governmental Stakeholders. This is the only way to ensure sustainability, address and collectively solve issues of discrimination, access to justice, gender equality and anti-gypsyism 

JUSTROM2 in brief JUSTROM2 in brief

JUSTROM2 is a joint programme of the Council of Europe and European Commission aiming to improve the access to justice of Roma women in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Romania.

The programme aims to empower Roma women to adequately address discrimination and other human rights violations committed against them, including early/forced marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, housing evictions, police abuse and hate crime by raising their awareness about discrimination, complaint mechanisms, the justice system and human rights institutions. The programme seeks Roma women empowerment inter alia through awareness-raising gatherings and info days, where active citizenship is promoted, and legal advice.

It also aims at strengthening links, exchanges and partnerships with and among actors at different levels, such as local, national, regional and European level. The actors involved include local and central government institutions, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, national human rights institutions, equality bodies, bar associations, legal aid bureaus, National Roma Contact Points (NRCP), CAHROM members, police, mediators and Roma NGOs. These will create an inclusive and enabling environment leading to accountability and sustainable change in Roma communities and the wider societies they live in.

In addition, it aims to enhance the capacity of the judiciary, law enforcement in the application of anti-discrimination standards with a focus on multiple discrimination, gender equality and Roma women.  Finally, this programme will further increase the synergy and coherence between the institutional frameworks of the EU and Council of Europe, national Roma integration strategies and civil society initiatives.

Events events

Italy, 19 March 2019

  • Training for legal professionals on statelessness, regularisation and related issues

Strasbourg, 12-14 March 2019

  • Study visit for Equality Bodies and National Human Rights Insitutions

Greece, 27-28 February 2019

  • Country exchange of practices on the topic of ID documents

Bulgaria, 12 February 2019

  • Training for lawyers of the legal aid in Sliven

Bulgaria, 11 February 2019

  • Training for lawyers of the legal aid in Plovdiv

Romania, 7-8 February 2019

  • Training for lawyers in Bucharest on combating discrimination

Bulgaria, 5 February 2019

  • Training for lawyers of the legal aid in Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria, 25 January 2019

  • Training for lawyers of the legal aid in Sofia

Italy, 4-6 December 2018

  • JUSTROM Monitoring visit in Rome and Naples

BULGARIA, 26-29 November 2018

  • JUSTROM2 Monitoring visits to Sofia, Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria, 19-21 November 2018

  • JUSTROM2 Training of Trainers for police officers, Sofia

Romania, 5-8 NOvember 2018

  • JUSTROM2 Monitoring visits to Bucharest and Calarasi County

Greece, 23-26 October 2018

  • JUSTROM2 Monitoring visit to Athens and Thessaloniki

STrasbourg, 26-28 september 2018

  • JUSTROM2 Training of Trainers for judges and prosecutors from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Romania