Strasbourg, 5 July 2016: The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) welcomes the decision of the Stockholm District Court of 10 June, 2016 condemning the Swedish state for ethnic discrimination in constituting a police register of Swedish Roma citizens.
The Police Administration in Southern Sweden kept a register of 4700 Roma individuals who had no connection whatsoever with any criminal activity. The case against the State was brought by 8 adults and 3 children, assisted by Civil Rights Defenders, a non-governmental organization.
This judgment of the Swedish Court is a landmark in the struggle against the discrimination of the Roma on the basis of their ethnicity. It is an eye-opener to all European countries where dubious police practices are frequent and directed at the Roma community: unjustified identity controls, unwarranted arrests and requisitions and other forms of harassment.
It is particularly interesting that the judgment specifically refers to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: a legally binding instrument which is signed and ratified by 47 Council of Europe member states. The judgment of the Swedish Court is a reminder to all European countries of their commitment to respect the articles of this Convention.
It is equally interesting that the Swedish judgment refers to the historic discrimination of the Roma in Sweden. Such a reference underlines the fact that the police registration of citizens was not dictated by security reasons but out of the belief that Roma should be under surveillance as potential criminals. In this respect the Swedish judgment can be seen not only as a condemnation of one particular act of discrimination – police registration of individuals belonging to an ethnic group – but of the criminalization of a whole ethnic group on the basis of age-old stereotypes and baseless suspicions. Once again, the Swedish judgment reminds all European countries to do some soul-searching into their historical prejudices and their tacit acceptance of groundless discrimination.
This judgment is a victory for Swedish democracy, for the victims and for the association that defended them. It is a wake-up call to all Roma throughout Europe to stand up and fight for their rights. It is a vindication of the value and power of non-governmental organisations in defending human rights.