MINELRES: Roma Children Pursue Final Appeal in Landmark School Segregation Case

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat May 13 09:06:33 2006

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

Open Society Justice Initiative  
Phone: +1-212-548-0157
Fax:   +1-212-548-4662

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)

Applicants Seek Referral of "Ostrava" Case to European Court's Grand

Strasbourg, France, 4 May 2006

Eighteen Romani children forced to attend segregated schools in the
Czech Republic filed their final appeal today in a landmark case before
the European Court of Human Rights. The children asked the Court's
highest body - the Grand Chamber - to review the case because of its
potential to establish precedent and its broad significance for all of
Europe-s minority groups. 

The case, D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, seeks to end a
widespread practice of discrimination throughout Central and South East
Europe, whereby Roma children are routinely placed in schools for the
mentally disabled regardless of their actual intellectual abilities. 

In asking the Grand Chamber to accept referral of this case, the
applicants noted that it raises several major issues concerning the
prohibition against discrimination in Article 14 of the European
Convention of Human Rights. At a time when Europe is struggling to
address its growing racial and ethnic diversity, the capacity of law and
courts to ensure equal treatment is of the highest importance. 

The case was first brought before the European Court of Human Rights 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.

"This request affords the European Court of Human Rights one more
opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of the European Convention in
protecting all Europe's minorities from discrimination," said James A.
Goldston, Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative and
counsel to the applicants. "If this case does not amount to
discrimination under Article 14, it's hard to see what would."

In recent years, the European Court has decided several cases involving
Article 14 claims in the context of policing and criminal justice. The
Court has had less occasion to address claims of racial discrimination
arising in other fields of public life, including but not limited to
education. This case presents the Grand Chamber with its clearest and
most compelling opportunity to date to do so. 

The applicants argue that the Second Section's restrictive reading of
the concept of discrimination is inconsistent with the broad protection
against discrimination increasingly afforded by European law. If allowed
to stand, it would render Article 14 theoretical and illusory rather
than practical and effective. This would be particularly inappropriate
where, as in D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, there exists
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. 

Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the European Roma Rights
Center, which brought the case, stated, "Segregation of Roma in separate
schools and classes remains a widespread problem throughout Europe and
it must be addressed." 

The request for Grand Chamber referral is available at:

Additional information 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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