Interlocutory ruling on admissibility Foundation in proceedings over caravan sites in The Hague

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September 26, 2023
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On September 6, 2023, the District Court of The Hague issued an interlocutory judgment in the case of the Sinti, Roma and Travelers Foundation against the municipality of The Hague. The main goal has been achieved: the Foundation has been admitted to the proceedings and at the next hearing the case will be dealt with substantively. It is now up to the municipality to present its substantive defense.

At this stage of the proceedings it is not yet about the substance, but about whether the Foundation may conduct the proceedings (is admissible). This is a technical legal assessment by the court. Below we explain the court’s ruling step by step, because there are many questions from the community.

But first, what happens now after this interlocutory judgment? The main goal has been achieved: the Foundation has been admitted to the proceedings and at the next hearing the case will be dealt with substantively. It is now up to the municipality to present its substantive defense.

Now to the explanation of the interlocutory judgment.

Admissibility
To be allowed to act in the public interest for travellers in The Hague, the Foundation must meet specific legal criteria. The municipality had said that the Foundation should be declared inadmissible (that it may not participate in the proceedings) because it does not meet these legal requirements.

To determine whether the Foundation may participate in the proceedings, the court reviewed the following legal requirements for collective actions:

Statutory interests

According to the court, the Foundation is allowed to stand up for travellers because the Foundation’s bylaws state as its purpose that the Foundation represents the interests of all Sinti, Roma and (other) travellers in the Netherlands.

Representativeness

The Foundation stands up for the public interest that the human rights of travellers are respected by the municipality of The Hague. The Foundation has also filed specific demands (claims) on behalf of three groups of travellers and has collected statements of support to show that these groups support it. These groups are:

  1. Woonwagenbewoners who live in a caravan in The Hague.
  2. Household travellers who do not (or no longer) live in a house trailer in The Hague, but want to and are not on the waiting list.
  3. Residential travellers who do not (or no longer) live in a caravan in The Hague and are on the waiting list for a caravan in The Hague.

The court seems to attach great importance to the amount of support per group. After investigation, the court has unfortunately concluded that there are insufficient statements of support from groups B and C. The court gives the reason that groups B and C in principle represent all travellers in the Netherlands, while only 36 statements of support from group B and 6 statements of support from group C have been submitted. The court therefore finds that the Foundation is not sufficiently representative of these groups and may not act on their behalf in the proceedings.

As a result, the court concludes that the Foundation is inadmissible for claims IV and V in the proceedings, which order the municipality to make policy for sufficient sites for groups B and C and to construct trailer sites for group C.

For group A, however, the court allowed the Foundation to sue.

Similar interests

According to the court, the interests of group A are sufficiently similar. By this the court means that they can be decided in one collective action, and that it is not necessary to look at the special circumstances of individuals and conduct different proceedings for them.

Therefore, the Foundation may act on behalf of Group A for the following claims (summarized here):

I: Declaration that the municipality violates the prohibition of discrimination and the right to private, family and family life.

III: Injunction to the municipality to stop discriminatory housing policy.

VI: Injunction to the municipality to reduce the waiting time to the level of a social rental house in The Hague.

The light admissibility regime.

An organization standing up for the public interest need not follow as strict legal requirements as an organization claiming class action damages or seeking to do so in follow-up proceedings.

The court concluded that claim II, which concerns a declaration that the municipality acted unlawfully against several groups of travellers , was phrased in a way that Group A could use in future proceedings to seek damages. Therefore, the court states that the Foundation must meet stricter legal requirements for this claim. The Foundation does not meet these requirements. Therefore, the Foundation may not proceed with claim II.

Conclusion and how to proceed

The main goal for this phase has been achieved: the Foundation has been admitted to the proceedings, and the case will now be substantively adjudicated by the court. If claims I, III and VI are granted, this will lead to recognition of the rights of travellers and possibly a change in the municipality’s policy, especially claim VI.

The Foundation now wants to move quickly to the substance so that human rights can be addressed.

It is now up to the municipality to present its substantive defense. The Foundation expects the substantive hearing to take place in late 2023, with a final ruling in 2024. This may take longer due to busy times at the court.

Watch the item from EenVandaag:

Read more about the dossier here.

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