Date of the decision: 17/10/2013
Jurisdiction: Council of Europe –European Court of Human Rights
Subject: Violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).
The case concerned eviction proceedings brought against a number of traveller families who had been living in the same place for many years. The domestic courts issued orders for the families’ eviction, on pain of penalty for non-compliance. Although the orders were not enforced, many of the families moved out. Only four families were provided with alternative accommodation in social Housing; the so-called family sites where the remaining families were to be accommodated were not created.
The Court noted that the courts, despite acknowledging the lack of urgency and of any manifestly unlawful nuisance, had not taken into account the lengthy period for which the applicants had been settled, the municipal authorities’ toleration of the situation, the right to housing, the provisions of Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention and the Court’s case-law.
The Court pointed out in that connection that numerous international and Council of Europe instruments stressed the need, in cases of forced eviction of Roma or travellers, to provide the persons concerned with alternative accommodation. The national authorities had to take into account the fact that such applicants belonged to a vulnerable minority; this implied paying special consideration to their needs and their different way of life when it came to devising solutions to the unlawful occupation of land or deciding on possible alternative accommodation.
Relying in particular on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), the applicants complained that the order requiring them to vacate the land they had occupied for many years amounted to a violation of their right to respect for their private and family lives and their homes.
The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 8 in respect of all the applicants, in so far as they had not had the benefit, in the context of the eviction proceedings, of a proper examination of the proportionality of the interference with their right to respect for their private and family lives and their homes as required by that Article.
There had also been a violation of Article 8 in the case of those applicants who had requested alternative accommodation on family sites, as their needs had not been duly considered.
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The applicants claimed, through an application for just satisfaction, non-pecuniary and pecuniary damages, as well as a refund of the legal costs incurred.
In its assessment of pecuniary damages, the Court pointed out that the families who had had to leave the land suddenly or following the eviction had been forced to abandon their caravans, chalets, or bungalows together with the belongings left inside. The Court awarded the families damages ranging from EUR 600 to EUR 3,000, depending on the circumstances.
In its assessment of non-pecuniary damages, the Court approved the claims of the applicants and awarded the following amounts:
- EUR 7,500 for the applicants who remained on the land;
- EUR 15,000 for the individuals rehoused in social housing or who had found a relatively stable installation;
- EUR 20,000 for those still without long-term accommodation.
Finally, the Court granted the applicants EUR 5,000 in respect of legal costs.
AFFAIRE WINTERSTEIN ET AUTRES c. FRANCE 27013/07 Judgment (Just Satisfaction)