ECHR decision of 14 may 2020 in the case "Hirtu and Others v. France" (aplication N 24720/13).
In 2013, the applicants were assisted in preparing the aplication. The aplication was subsequently communicated to France.
The case successfully considered an aplication about the eviction of persons of Roma nationality who had been living in an illegal camp for six months without providing them with housing, as well as consideration, after their eviction, of the proportionality of this measure. The case violated the requirements of articles 8 and 13 of the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There were no violations of article 3 of the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The applicants, who were of Roma nationality and belonged to the Roma community, were forced to leave the camp where they had been living illegally for six months. The applicants unsuccessfully appealed their eviction.
POINT OF LAW
Regarding compliance with article 8 of the Convention. The concept of "housing" within the meaning of article 8 of the Convention is not limited to premises where a person is lawfully located or which are built in accordance with the law. This concept is Autonomous and does not depend on the classifications provided for by national legislation. The question of whether a room was a "dwelling" protected by article 8 of the Convention depends on the factual circumstances of the case, namely, whether there are sufficient and long-standing links to the place. In the present case, the applicants only lived in the camp for six months before the camp was demolished. Consequently, the applicants could not invoke the right to respect for their home in the absence of a sufficient and lasting connection with the place in question.
However, there was interference with the applicants ' right to respect for their private and family life. This intervention was provided for by law and had legitimate goals in the form of protecting the health of others and public safety, and protecting the rights and freedoms of others.
As for the eviction order, the French authorities had the right in principle to evict the applicants, since they were illegally occupying municipal land. Furthermore, since the applicants had no title to the land, they could not legally expect to remain resident in that location. This is all the more true since the applicants only lived in this place for six months.
As for the eviction measure itself, it was not based on a court decision, but on a formal notification procedure under article 9 of the Law of 5 July 2000, which had a number of consequences.
First, taking into account the short period of time that elapsed between the issuance of the prefect's decree (29 March), the notification of the applicants about this decree (2 April) and the actual eviction (12 April), none of the measures specified in the 2012 inter-Agency letter on measures taken before and during operations to demolish illegal settlements (assessment of the situations in which the families concerned live, as well as assistance in training, medical care, placement in another place of residence) were observed. Although the French authorities claimed that they had no obligation to relocate the applicants because they were living in vans, the applicants claimed that all their vans (with the exception of one belonging to a family) had been removed. Moreover, the measures listed in the interagency letter were applicable regardless of whether the evicted persons had vans or not. Consequently, the consequences of the applicants ' eviction or the special circumstances of their lives were not taken into account.
Secondly, since a formal notification procedure was applied, the remedy provided for in French law came into effect after the administrative authorities had taken a decision, while in other cases the courts assessed the proportionality of the measure in question before making a decision. None of the remedies used by the applicants, which were declared inadmissible, would have allowed them to present their arguments to the judicial authority afterwards. The first judicial body to consider the question of proportionality of intervention was the Administrative court of appeal, which did so 18 months after the applicants were evicted. However, the fact that the applicants belonged to a socially vulnerable group and that they therefore had special needs should have been taken into account in assessing the proportionality that the French authorities were required to implement, not only when considering approaches to solving the problem of illegal settlement, but also, if eviction was necessary, when deciding on the timing and method of eviction and, if possible, on the procedure for providing alternative housing. In addition, as part of the procedural guarantees of article 8 of the Convention, any person whose rights under this Convention provision have been violated should be able to submit the question of proportionality of interference with their rights to an independent court in the light of the relevant principles provided for in article 8 of the Convention.
The case violated the requirements of article 8 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
The court also held unanimously that there had been no violation of article 3 of the Convention in its substantive aspect, given that it had not been established that the applicants had been forcibly evicted and that it could not be assumed that the French authorities would have remained indifferent to the applicants ' situation and housing conditions after the eviction.
In addition, the European Court also held unanimously that there had been a violation of article 13 of the Convention, since neither the special remedy that had suspensive effect on the applicants ' eviction from the camp, nor the urgent appeal for the protection of fundamental freedoms, which was in fact effective but declared inadmissible, allowed the applicants to have their arguments under articles 3 and 8 of the Convention examined on the merits in either ordinary (at the first instance level) or urgent complaint proceedings.
In the application of article 41 of the Convention. The European Court awarded each of the applicants and one pair of applicants jointly 7,000 euros in compensation for non-pecuniary damage.