The European Court of Human Rights temporarily stops the eviction of an apartment block near Girona
The Court based in Strasbourg has answered the appeal of the lawyer representing the Mortgage Platform (PAH), which had occupied an entire apartment block in Salt, near the Catalan city of Girona. 16 families occupied the block in order to get a house, but 3 left fearing eviction. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has temporarily delayed the eviction of the entire apartment block as a precautionary measure until it has fully studied the case, arguing that evicting the families would go against international law on housing rights. The ECHR has given the Spanish Government 8 days to prove it has adopted the measures to guarantee such rights. The decision comes the day the eviction was planned. Families and a thousand supporters received the news crying of joy and shouting the PAH’s motto: “Yes, it can be done; yes, it can be done”.
Salt (ACN).- The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has temporarily delayed the eviction of an apartment block in Salt, near the Catalan city of Girona. The Court based in Strasbourg answered the appeal of the lawyer representing the families supported by the Mortgage Platform (PAH). 16 families occupied the block months ago in order to get a house, but 3 left fearing eviction. The families have been receiving the support of the PAH as well as many other people. The ECHR has taken the decision to postpone the eviction as a precautionary measure until it has fully studied the case, arguing that evicting the thirteen families would go against international law on housing rights. In addition, it has given the Spanish Government 8 days to prove it has adopted the measures to guarantee such rights. On the same day the news was announced, the Girona judge in charge of the case decided to temporarily suspend the eviction until the ECHR has issued a definitive sentence. The decision comes the day the eviction was planned. The families and a thousand supporters, including PAH members, fire-fighters, union members and politicians, received the news crying with joy and shouting the PAH’s motto: “Yes, it can be done; yes, it can be done”.
The Mortgage Platform (‘Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca’) was founded in 2009 in Barcelona and has been carrying out a ceaseless fight throughout Spain to stop as many house evictions as possible. In addition, it has undertaken manifold protest actions in front of bank branches and offices. Furthermore, the PAH raised signatures throughout the country and presented a popular initiative to the Spanish Parliament in the spring proposing to totally change the Mortgage Law. The initiative was debated but the absolute majority held by the People’s Party (PP) prevented the law from being changed in the way the PAH would have wanted.
In Spain “there is a systematic violation of human rights”
Also today, the PAH received the 2013 European Citizen Award, given by the European Parliament. A PAH Spokesperson, Sara Vazquez, stated that the platform is receiving “much more support” from Europe than from the Spanish authorities. In addition, she stated that Europe is starting to realise that in Spain “there is a systematic violation of human rights”.
The European Court’s decision is received with joyful tears in Salt
Emotion, euphoria, tears and joyful shouts welcomed the news from Strasbourg. About a thousand people coming from throughout Catalonia and the rest of Spain had gathered in the apartment block in Salt to support the thirteen families about to be evicted. They were members of the PAH and neighbours, but also representatives from political parties, MPs, union members and even fire-fighters. The thirteen families (18 adults and 18 children) received the news in the yard of the building. However, the decision comes too late for 3 other families that had already left the building fearing the eviction. The European decision comes the day the eviction was scheduled.
Spanish courts did not answer the appeals on time
The race against the clock to stop the eviction of the block occupied by the PAH was successful, although they needed to go to European level. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) answered the appeal presented by Benet Salellas, the lawyer representing the PAH. The third Court of Girona had ruled against all the appeals. On top of this, neither Girona’s Provincial Court nor the Spanish Constitutional Court had said anything at all on the appeals presented before the eviction day. Since the eviction was imminent and they feared the Spanish courts would not answer on time, the PAH took the issue to Strasbourg two weeks ago.
The decision from Strasbourg arrives the day the eviction was planned
On Thursday morning at 8 am, the lawyer came with an urgent fax: the ECHR had reacted to the appeal and temporarily suspended the eviction as a precautionary measure. The appeal was based on two families living in the block initially occupied by 16 families. PAH members have been present for the last few weeks as an action of protest against the situation and to support the families. The ECHR believed that the families’ housing rights, with a particular emphasis on the rights of the families’ children, cannot be violated and since there might be a risk, it decided to order the temporary suspension of the eviction. The Court will now study whether the eviction might be an attack against fundamental rights recognised at an international level. As a direct consequence, Girona’s third Court – in charge of the eviction – ordered the suspension of the process, until the ECHR has reached a final decision.
The European Court demands detailed information about social protection measures for evicted people
The ECHR has sent a series of questions to the Spanish Government, which now have to be answered before the 24th of October. The Court requests information about the specific measures the Spanish Government will adopt to guarantee the housing rights of the families affected by the eviction and particularly the rights of the minors involved. The ECHR particularly mentions Article 3 and Article 8 of the European Council Convention on Human Rights. In addition, it specifically requests detailed information about the housing and social assistance measures foreseen by national authorities regarding this case. The building is owned by the Sareb, the ‘bad bank’ owned by the Spanish Government which bought toxic real estate assets from private and savings banks in order to protect those banks. This real estate is now being sold by the Sareb and, on many occasions, at a lower price than it was bought.