MINELRES: ERRC: European Human Rights Court to Hear Roma School Segregation

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu May 19 07:53:45 2005

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Strasbourg Judges Agree to Review European Roma Rights Centre Action to 
Challenge Racial Exclusion in the Czech School System

May 17, 2005, Strasbourg. Five years after the application was filed,
the European Court of Human Rights has agreed to hear the case of "D.H.
and Others v. the Czech Republic" - a landmark case involving racial
segregation in Czech schools. This is the first significant challenge to
systemic discriminatory education of Romani children to come before the
Court. The decision moves the litigation to its central stage:
consideration on the merits of whether assignment of disproportionate
numbers of Romani children to substandard, separate schools constitutes
racial discrimination in breach of the European Convention of Human

The case concerns eighteen children represented by the ERRC and local
counsel. The applicants allege that their assignment to "special
schools" for the mentally disabled contravened human rights law and was
tainted by racial animus. Tests used to assess the childrens mental
ability were culturally biased against Czech Roma, and placement
procedures allowed for the influence of racial prejudice on the part of
educational authorities.

Evidence before the Court based on ERRC research in the city of Ostrava
demonstrates that school selection processes do frequently discriminate
on the basis of race:

* Over half of the Romani child population is schooled in remedial
special schools;
* Over half of the population of remedial special schools is Romani;
* Any randomly chosen Romani child is more than 27 times more likely to
be placed in schools for the mentally disabled than a similarly situated
non-Romani child.
* Even where Romani children manage to avoid the trap of placement in
remedial special schooling, they are most often schooled in substandard
and predominantly Romani urban ghetto schools.

Once these children have been streamed into substandard education, they
have little chance of accessing higher education or steady employment

The applicants raised several arguments grounded in different provisions
of the European Convention. Thus, they argued that the assignment to
special schools constituted "degrading treatment" in violation of
Article 3, that the absence of adequate judicial review denied them due
process in breach of Article 6, that they were denied the right to
education in breach of Article 2 of the Conventions First Protocol, and,
finally, that they suffered racial discrimination in the enjoyment of
their right to education, in violation of Article 14.

In deciding to hear the case, the Court rejected the Czech Government's
claim that some of the children, who had been transferred to "regular"
schools after the application was lodged, were no longer "victims"
entitled to seek judicial relief. This "does not, in the eyes of the
Court, suffice to erase the consequences of the applicants' having
attended, for a substantial period of time, a school that could not
fully match their abilities."

While reserving final judgment, the Court unanimously declared
admissible the applicants' main complaint of racial discrimination in
the enjoyment of the right to education (Article 14 of the Convention
combined with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1). The other claims were
declared inadmissible.

Decision on the merits is pending.

For further information on the case, please contact Joelle Martin, ERRC
Legal Advisor, at joelle.martin@errc.org, or James A. Goldston,
Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, at: 

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201
E-mail: office@errc.org


The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute (OSI), pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines
litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination
of knowledge to secure advances in five priority areas: national
criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information and
expression, equality and citizenship, and anticorruption. Its offices
are in Abuja, Budapest, and New York.


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