MINELRES: ECtHR rules against CzechRep for discrimination of Romanies; statement by ERRC and Justice Initiative

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Wed Nov 14 18:19:59 2007

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ECtHR rules against CzechRep for discrimination of Romanies 

Prague, 13.11.2007, 17:05, (ROMEA/CTK) - The Czech Republic violated the
ban on discrimination contained in the European Convention on Human
Rights when it sent 18 children of Romany origin to special schools
designed for children with learning difficulties, the Grand Chamber of
the European Court of Human Rights ruled today. 

Strasbourgh, 13.11.2007, 17:05, (ROMEA) - The European court of human
rights has today delivered at a public hearing its Grand Chamber
judgment1 in the case of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic
(application no. 57325/00). 

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European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>
Open Society Justice Initiative <info@mail.justiceinitiative.org>

Landmark Victory in Roma Segregation Case 

Strasbourg, 14 November 2007
In a momentous decision for Roma across Europe, the Grand Chamber of the
European Court of Human Rights, by a vote of 13 to four, ruled today
that segregating Roma students into special schools is a form of
unlawful discrimination that violates fundamental human rights. 

The ruling came in D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, a case in
which 18 Roma children sought legal redress for the practice—widespread
in Central and Eastern Europe—of shunting Roma students into “special”
schools for children with learning disabilities.  

“The court has made clear that racial discrimination has no place in
21st century Europe,” said James A. Goldston, counsel for the plaintiffs
and executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “Roma
children must have the same access to quality education as everyone

The decision is the culmination of an eight-year legal battle during
which the plaintiffs challenged the practice of forcing Roma
students—regardless of their intellectual abilities—into schools for
children with learning disabilities. Research by the European Roma
Rights Center (ERRC) showed that Roma students were 27 times more likely
than similarly situated non-Roma to be placed in special schools. 
“This is a major step forward in Europe’s fight against discrimination,”
said Vera Egenberger, executive director of the ERRC, which supported
the plaintiffs in the case. “It is now unlawful for Roma students to be
forced into substandard schools.” 
The Court found that the practice of racial segregation in education
violated Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which
prohibits discrimination, taken together with Article 2 of Protocol 1,
which secures the right to education. The Court noted that the Czech
Republic is not alone in this practice and that discriminatory barriers
to education for Roma children are present in a number of European
Representatives of the victorious plaintiffs vowed to focus on ensuring
the implications of the ruling are implemented quickly and fully. “We
look forward to working with the Czech authorities and those of other
countries to guarantee that this decision leads to better education
opportunities for all children,” said Egenberger. 

This case originated with the unsuccessful filing of complaints in the
Czech courts in 1999 on behalf of eighteen children represented by the
ERRC and local attorneys. In 2000, the applicants turned to the European
Court of Human Rights, alleging that their assignment to “special
schools” for children with learning disabilities contravened the
European Convention. Tests used to assess the children’s mental ability
were culturally biased against Czech Roma, and placement procedures
allowed for the influence of racial prejudice on the part of educational

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

- Over half of the Romani child population is educated 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 learning 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 schools. 

Racial segregation in education remains widespread throughout the Czech
Republic and in neighbouring countries.  ERRC field research in five
countries has consistently documented the separate and discriminatory
education of Roma, as well as additional practices by educational
authorities that result in the segregation of Roma in schools. 
An ERRC report describes the most common practices of segregating Romani
children in education based on their ethnicity. These includes
segregation in so-called "special schools" for children with
developmental disabilities, segregation in Romani ghetto schools,
segregation in all-Romani classes, denial of Romani enrolment in
mainstream schools, as well as other phenomena. Whatever the particular
form of separate schooling, the quality of education provided to Roma is
invariably inferior to the mainstream educational standards in each
For the full text of the Court’s judgment (in English): 

For the major conclusions of the judgment (in English): 

More information on the case is available at www.errc.org and

The URL for this document is:

Sinan Gokcen, European Roma Rights Centre, sinan@errc.org (+36 1 413
David Berry, Open Society Justice Initiative,
dberry@justiceinitiative.org, (+1 212 548 0385) 

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.


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation 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 http://www.errc.org 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200
Fax: +36.1.413.2201

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