McCarthy Tétrault and the University of Toronto's
International Human Rights Program (IHRP) recently obtained an
important victory before the European Court of Human Rights. They
obtained an admission from the State of Romania that it had
violated the rights of their Roma citizens and compensation for
their 24 Roma clients.
The applicants in the Tănase case are Romanian
nationals of Roma origin, who in 1991 lived in the village of
Bolintin Deal. One evening in April 1991, a non-Roma member of the
village was killed by another Roma villager. This death led to
retaliation against the entire Roma community on a frightening
scale. A mob of two thousand non-Roma villagers destroyed the
applicants' houses. Amongst the mob were a local priest and the
village's mayor. When the Roma tried to return to their
village, more violence and burning of homes ensued.
The European Court of Human Rights' 26 May 2009 decision,
Tănase and Others v. Romania, was
terrific news. The Romanian government acknowledged its
responsibility for a series of breaches of human rights in this
case. The European Court of Human Rights accepted their admission
and awarded the applicants damages totalling approximately
$877,000. The Romanian government has also made a commitment to
implement policies to improve living conditions for the Roma
community. Romania has also committed to improve inter-ethnic
McCarthy Tétrault Notes:
McCarthy Tétrault has a long tradition of pro bono work.
It has long been part of the firm's culture for lawyers to get
involved in the various legal causes they believe in for the public
good. The firm now also has a policy to formalize its efforts and
to integrate pro bono as part of each of its lawyer's
practices. McCarthy Tétrault's Pro Bono Policy approves
up to fifty hours of associate and partner annual billing time to
Pro Bono activities. In addition, the firm is prepared to dedicate
resources and its administrative infrastructure to supporting pro
bono. The firm has acted pro bono in areas as diverse as civil
liberties, human rights, financial, business, labour and employment
McCarthy Tétrault partnered with the IHRP to bring its
litigation approach to the case, which was litigated in the same
manner that the firm would conduct any other case. This meant, for
example, that serious efforts were made to quantify the damages
suffered by the applicants. The European Court of Human Rights has
traditionally awarded quite modest damages. The firm retained Mark
Berenblut, the Senior Vice President of National Economic Research
Associates, Inc., to help set out a proper valuation of the
victim's financial loss. Mr. Berenblut also kindly agreed to
provide his services pro bono.
McCarthy Tétrault is very proud of the success it helped
achieve in this case, and of putting into practice its tradition of
making a difference, one case at a time.
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