MINELRES: Europe's Highest Court Hears Oral Arguments in Landmark Segregation Case

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Jan 17 18:24:16 2007

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


Contact: James A. Goldston +1 917 862 2937 (New York)
Contact: Claude Cahn +36 1 413 2200 (Budapest)

Strasbourg, France, 17 January 2007. The Grand Chamber of the European
Court of Human Rights heard oral arguments today in one of the most
important cases ever to come before the Court. Raising major issues
concerning the European Convention of Human Rights' prohibition against
discrimination in Article 14, the case gives the continent's highest
court one last chance to make clear that racial segregation has no place
in 21st century Europe.

The Grand Chamber, the supreme judicial body of Europe, will rule on a
case launched eight years ago by 18 Roma children forced to attend
racially segregated schools in the Czech Republic. Its ruling is
particularly significant now, as Europe grapples with the implications
of its rapidly growing ethnic, racial and religious diversity.

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 commenced in
the Czech court system in 1999, and 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, the applicants had not proved the Czech government's intent
to discriminate.

In their arguments before the Court, the applicants contended 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, because it involves overwhelming
evidence that Roma have been treated less favourably than similarly
situated non-Roma for no objective and justifiable reason. The evidence
includes: (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.

The Grand Chamber is expected to render its judgment later this year.

Documents related to the case, including the applicants' written
submission to the Grand Chamber, the applicants' request for Grand
Chamber referral, the Czech government's written observations before the
Grand Chamber, and the submissions of third party amici curae before the
Grand Chamber are available at:

The URL for this page
is: http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103596.


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.

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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