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France: Court rejects Traveller complaint against caravan parking ban

Judges have rejected a human rights complaint against France from a Romanian Traveller stopped from parking his caravan in a cul-de-sac near a public road.

In its decision in the case of Balta v. France (application no. 19462/12) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

The case concerns the decision by the Prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis to serve formal notice on the applicant Puiu Balta and other caravan occupiers illegally parked in La Courneuve to leave the area.

The Court reiterated that Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement) was applicable only to a person lawfully within the territory of a State and observed that the applicant had not provided any evidence to show that he was entitled to remain in France beyond the statutory three-month period.

It concluded that Balta could not therefore rely on the freedom of movement guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 4, thus rendering Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) inapplicable as it could only be relied on in conjunction with another Article of the Convention.

In April 2009, Balta and others parked their caravans in a cul-de-sac near a public road in the municipality of La Courneuve. In November 2009 a Traveller park was opened locally.

As a result, the mayor issued an order prohibiting the parking of caravans in any public places except for the areas specifically catering for them.

In his pleadings, Balta argued that the impugned provisions were contrary to the principle of equality since they were intended to prohibit Travellers – and only them – from parking outside the special areas, thus restricting their freedom to come and go on an ethnic basis.

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