Slovenia: ECHR judgment is a blow to Roma communities
The European Court of Human Rights’ judgment today that Slovenia did not violate the rights of two Roma families by failing to ensure access to basic services such as water and sanitation is a blow to Roma communities, and a missed opportunity to end a cycle of poverty and marginalization, said Amnesty International.
It is shameful that, in 2020, some Roma families in Slovenia do not have adequate access to toilets and are forced to travel long distances to fetch water, sometimes from polluted streams
The two families from Roma settlements in the municipalities of Škocjan and Ribnica claimed, in a case supported by Amnesty International, that access to water was consistently denied to their communities on the basis that they live in “informal” settlements. The Court today rejected their complaint.
“It is shameful that, in 2020, some Roma families in Slovenia do not have adequate access to toilets and are forced to travel long distances to fetch water, sometimes from polluted streams,” said Nataša Posel, Director of Amnesty International Slovenia, which supported the litigation.
"The right to water was included in the Slovenian Constitution in 2016, but in informal Roma settlements, this right is still not being respected in practice. Regardless of the European Court’s ruling, that provision must now be implemented to protect the rights of Slovenia’s most marginalized and vulnerable community”.
The right to water must now be implemented to protect the rights of Slovenia’s most marginalized and vulnerable community
Many Roma in Slovenia live in informal dwellings in rural areas that were built decades ago, but never regularised. Widespread discrimination often prevents Romani families from buying or renting housing in other areas. Under Slovenian law, a person can only obtain access to communal services, such as public water supply networks, if they own or hold a legal title to the land on which they live, together with a building permit. This requirement by default excludes many Roma communities. The complainants therefore alleged that the Slovenian authorities have not taken any steps aimed at eliminating this inequality in living conditions.
It is estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 Roma people live in Slovenia. Many of them live in isolated and segregated informal settlements in rural areas in poorly constructed homes lacking security of tenure. Inadequate living conditions in informal settlements are one of the key contributors to Roma having dramatically lower life expectancy than that of average Slovenians – 55 compared to 77 years, respectively. Children are particularly vulnerable, with the mortality rate of babies born in Roma communities four times higher than the Slovenian average, and children under the age of four, seven times higher.
Amnesty International has been working with the Roma community and documenting human rights violations committed against them since 2000.