We are writing to express our profound concern about the possible eviction of Roma inhabitants in the Batalova Vodenitsa neighborhood of Sofia. We have learned from a colleague organization that approximately 180 inhabitants from this area risk imminent eviction, and the demolition of their homes. We understand that eviction orders issued by your office in 2005 were upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court in 2006.

We are writing to express our profound concern about the possible eviction of Roma inhabitants in the Batalova Vodenitsa neighborhood of Sofia. We have learned from a colleague organization that approximately 180 inhabitants from this area risk imminent eviction, and the demolition of their homes. We understand that eviction orders issued by your office in 2005 were upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court in 2006.

The inhabitants of the neighborhood filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2006, claiming several violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. These violations include article 1, paragraph 1 of the first protocol (the right to property); article 3 (prohibition of torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment); article 8 (right to privacy); article 9 (freedom of religion); and article 14 (right to freedoms set forth in the Convention regardless of sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status). The application requested interim measures under article 39 of the Rules of the Court in order to stop the execution of the eviction orders.

The European Court of Human Rights initially declined to order interim measures, and instead informed the Bulgarian government of the complaint. We understand that your office subsequently halted the eviction just before the evictions were to occur and that the Roma inhabitants of the neighborhood were promised alternative accommodation. As far as we are aware, no alternative accommodation has been provided to date.

On June 27 of this year, the District Mayor of the Vuzrazhdane Region, Ms. Eva Seizova, ordered the Roma inhabitants of Batalova Vodenitsa to vacate their homes by 10 July, and warned that if they do not do so, they will be forcibly evicted on July 11, and their homes will be demolished.

On July 8, the European Court of Human Rights issued interim measures, ordering the evictions to be halted until July 23 and requiring the government of Bulgaria to explain to the court what arrangements have been made to provide alternative accommodation for vulnerable groups including children, the elderly, and disabled. The government is also requested to provide detailed information to the court, including the addresses of the housing to be provided and copies of decision guaranteeing its provision.

As a Council of Europe member state, Bulgaria is legally required to comply with orders for interim measures made by the European Court of Human Rights. We urge you to ensure that no action on evictions are taken before the Court has determined whether the eviction constitutes a violation, and ensure that suitable alternative accommodation is provided to all inhabitants of Batalova Vodenitsa.

We respectfully request to be apprised of the status of the implementation of the interim measures ordered by the European Court of Human Rights, and of the plight of the inhabitants of Batalova Vodenitsa.

Sincerely,

Holly Cartner
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

cc:
Sergei Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Morten Kjaerum, Director, European Union Fundamental Rights Agency
Nicolae Gheorghe, OSCE Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues