MINELRES: Europe's Highest Court to Hear Landmark Segregation Case

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Jul 22 10:02:42 2006

Original sender: Justice Initiative <info@justiceinitiative.org>

Open Society Justice Initiative 
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Fax: +12125484662

Phone: (+36-1) 413-2200
Fax: (+36-1) 413-2201
E-mail: office@errc.org

For immediate release

Contact: Dimitrina Petrova +36 1 413 2200 (Budapest)
Contact: James A. Goldston +1 212 548 0118 (New York)


Strasbourg, France, 20 July 2006 - The Grand Chamber of the European
Court of Human Rights announced last week that it has agreed to review
an appeal by eighteen Romani children forced to attend segregated
schools in the Czech Republic. The Grand Chamber traditionally reviews
only a small proportion of judgments by the Court's ordinary chambers
that are considered to have significant precedential value. The decision
to accept referral of the Czech case gives the continent's supreme
judicial body one last chance to make clear that racial segregation has
no place in 21st century Europe.

The case, D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, is the first challenge
at the European level to the practice of educational discrimination -
widespread throughout Central and South East Europe - in which Roma
children are routinely placed in schools for the mentally disabled
regardless of their actual intellectual abilities. The case was first
brought before the Strasbourg Court in 2000. In February 2006, the
Court's Second Section ruled that although the Roma children suffered
from a pattern of adverse treatment, they had not proved the Czech
government's intent to discriminate.

Last week's agreement to review the case will allow the Grand Chamber to
address several major issues concerning the prohibition against
discrimination in Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
This is particularly important now, when Europe is grappling with the
implications of rapidly growing ethnic, racial and religious diversity.

In their request for Grand Chamber referral, the applicants argued that
the Second Section's restrictive reading of the concept of
discrimination is inconsistent with the European Court's previous
jurisprudence and the dominant trends in other leading courts in Europe
and beyond. If allowed to stand, it would render the protection given by
Article 14 theoretical and illusory. The case of D.H. and Others v. the
Czech Republic presents a particularly compelling illustration of this
crabbed interpretation of the non-discrimination guarantee, since it
involved overwhelming evidence that Roma have been treated less
favourably than similarly situated non-Roma for no objective and
justifiable reason. The evidence included (i) actual admissions by the
Czech government that disproportionate numbers of Roma were sent to
special schools - on the basis of tests conceived for non-Roma - even
though they were average or above-average in development; (ii)
corroborating detailed and comprehensive statistical evidence that Roma
in the city of Ostrava are routinely subjected to educational
segregation and discrimination; and (iii) consistent findings by
numerous inter-governmental bodies concerning discriminatory patterns in
schools throughout the Czech Republic as a whole. In short, if this case
does not amount to racial discrimination and segregation, it is hard to
see what would.

Under the Rules of the Court, third parties who may wish to submit
written comments on issues relevant to the Court's consideration of this
case have until September 25 to submit a formal request to do so.

The request for Grand Chamber referral is available at:

Further information on these cases is available at www.errc.org and

The URL for this page is:

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute, 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 the following priority areas:
national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information
and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja,
Budapest, and New York. 


The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at
combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The
approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation,
international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of
Romani activists. The ERRC is a cooperating member of the International
Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and has consultative status with
the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council
of the United Nations.


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