Legal assistance for Roma: preliminary results

Throughout 2003, at our North-Western Centre for the Social and Legal Protection of Roma (Gypsies), our lawyer M.N. Nosova provided legal assistance free of charge on all manner of issues linked to infringements of the rights and the legal interests of Gypsies: this includes housing laws, as well as problems connected with obtaining Russian citizenship, and discrimination against the Gypsy people. M.N. Nosova held a reception at the premises of the voluntary organisation “Memorial”, and on many occasions travelled out to where Gypsies were living in order to solve urgent legal problems. 

We know from experience that the need for legal assistance and for the protection of the rights of Gypsies in our region is acute, which is why our lawyer has had to travel a lot around the Leningrad, Pskov and Novgorod regions. Furthermore, M.N. Nosova held a reception at the premises of the voluntary organisation “Memorial” to answer queries both in writing and over the telephone.

Here we would like to draw attention to a number of cases which were dealt with by our Centre’s legal service. In February 2003, we were approached by a family of Gypsies from Gorelovo. For three months, these young parents had been illegally refused registration and a birth certificate for their newborn daughter by the registry office. Our lawyer needed just a few days to solve the problem once and for all, so that the parents could have their birth certificate.

In May 2003, the Centre was visited by some residents of Tosno who were not able to exchange their old Soviet passports for new Russian ones. They had previously been living in Estonia, and now they were without citizenship. They faced a complex legal process, as well as having numerous bureaucratic obstacles to overcome. With the assistance of the Centre’s lawyer, the struggle to receive citizenship of the Russian Federation was over after 4 months. By October 2003, they had their new passports.

Since July 2003, the Centre’s lawyer has been working together with lawyer G.O. Petrosyan to solve a criminal case involving the unfair prosecution of an inhabitant of Kirishi for the possession of drugs. A retrial of the case by the Regional Bar on Criminal Issues of the Leningrad Regional Court was secured. We are hoping that the case will be concluded fairly, and we will fight for fairness right up to the point of submitting a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

A victory was achieved in a case in Novorzhev in the Pskov Region, where an elderly Gypsy had been run over by a car and went to hospital with serious injuries. Doctors did not provide him with effective medical care and sent him home, where his state of health started to deteriorate rapidly. The lawyer V.G. Novorzhev travelled out there, which resulted in the victim being treated and operated on in the Pskov Regional Hospital, and financial compensation was obtained from the guilty party in the road accident.

M.N. Nosova travelled out to Pskov to see a citizen living in emergency accommodation with her family – 26 people in all. After negotiations with the Pskov administration, running repairs were carried out, and new stoves were fitted.

For five years, a family from Volodarskii in the Krasnoselskii district were refused authorisation for a flat. The Centre’s lawyer intervened and the case was taken to court, which meant that the problem could be solved in a very short time. This family are now legally permitted to reside in their flat, are registered as residents of that place, and can make full use of their constitutional rights.

Problems such as these, faced by those Gypsy people who turn to our Centre for assistance, require the qualified assistance of a lawyer. Experience gained over the course of our work has shown that Gypsies have a poor understanding of their rights, and that the authorities often take advantage of this fact. Our Centre is always ready to provide qualified legal assistance free of charge. Legal problems can make people’s lives a misery for years, while with the assistance of a lawyer they can be solved in a matter of days. To make an appointment with Marina Nikolaevna Nosova or to ask her a question, contact her on (812) 966-29-82. Alternatively, write to her at: 191002 Saint Petersburg, Ulitsa Razeszhaya, 9, Voluntary organisation “Memorial”.

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