Erased Citizens Awarded Compensation

This case involves 6 applicants that were nationals of both the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (“SFRY”) and of one of its constituent republics, before Slovenia gained independence. As a result of being residents in SFRY, they also gained independence in Slovenia. When Slovenia gained independence on June 25, 1991, these applicants did not apply for Slovenian citizenship before the required deadline. They were eventually removed from the Slovenia Register of Permanent Citizens. As a result of this erasure, the applicants were evicted from their apartments, could not work or travel, lost their personal possessions, and lived in very poor conditions that were detrimental to their health.

During the course of the proceedings, the European Court of Human Rights granted the 6 applicants permanent resident permits. However, they complained that “under Article 8 that they had been arbitrarily deprived of their legal status as permanent residents.” The applicants claimed compensation for pecuniary damage under different heads for the whole period from the “erasure” on February 26, 1992 until the date when they had acquired permanent residence permits. The claims included loss of past income in respect of social, housing, spouse and children allowances and loss of future income in respect of pension rights. The government’s argument was that each of these applicants suffered different types of harm and that they should be entitled to compensation on the basis of different social allowances and/or child benefits.

The court claimed that it “was clear that the loss of legal status as such resulting from the “erasure” entailed significant material consequences for all the applicants, including the loss of access to a wide range of social and political rights and legal benefits, such as identity documents, driving licenses, health insurance and education, as well as the loss of job and other opportunities, until they were granted permanent residence permits.” They also agreed that a precise calculation of the pecuniary losses suffered by the applicants was not possible. The court claimed that all 6 applicants were entitled to compensation as a result of a loss of social allowance suffered as a result of the erasure. The court calculated this amount by figuring out the time spend as an erased person multiplied by a lump sum of 150 Euros. The court also ruled that families receiving social allowance were entitled under the relevant Slovenian legislation to claim child benefit. The amounts of compensation were to be based on the “varying length of time from the entry into force of the Convention in respect of Slovenia – or, as applicable, the children’s birth – until the children reached the age of majority or the respective applicant’s legal status was regulated, multiplied by a monthly lump sum of EUR 80.”

The court also determined that the Slovenian government failed to set up a compensation system for the erased by June 26, 2013, when the one-year period referred to in the judgment on the merits expired. However the government stated that “general measures at the national level were required in order to execute the judgment beyond the interests of the applicants in the case.” The court noted that the fact that an Act on the “setting up of an ad hoc compensation scheme, awarding compensation on the basis of a lump sum for each month of a person’s “erasure” as well as a possibility of claiming additional limited compensation under the general tort rules, had entered into force in December 2013, and will become applicable on 18 June 2014.”

The court unanimously ruled that that there had been violations of Article 8 (right to respect for private or family life or both); of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 8; and, of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Do you agree with the ruling of the ECHR? Does the compensation scheme seem appropriate, or should the applicants have been given more money? What other remedies, if any, should have been given to the applicants?

Source: ECHR

Picture: ICTY

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