Strasbourg Application by Roma Challenges Racial Segregation


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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 19:49:58 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: Strasbourg Application by Roma Challenges Racial Segregation

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

Strasbourg Application by Roma Challenges Racial Segregation


ERRC Press Release: Strasbourg Application by Roma Challenges Racial
Segregation in Czech Schools
April 18, 2000
 
Representing 18 Romani children from the Czech city of Ostrava, the
European Roma Rights Center and local counsel today filed an
application with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, to
challenge systematic racial segregation and discrimination in Czech
schools. Dimitrina Petrova, ERRC's Executive Director, observed, "The
Czech Republic's aspirations for integration with Europe cannot be
reconciled with continued racial segregation in education. We are
asking Strasbourg to declare what the Czech courts have not that these
Roma, like so many others in the Czech Republic, have suffered racial
discrimination in violation of their human rights."
 
Each Applicant, ranging from almost 9 to 15 years of age, was
initially assigned to a special school for the mentally deficient on
the basis of tests which have not been validated for Czech Roma,
pursuant to procedures which give free rein to conscious and
unconscious racial prejudice on the part of teachers, psychologists
and school administrators. For decades, despite ample evidence of
disparate racial impact, Czech officials have knowingly perpetuated a
system which routinely brands disproportionate numbers of Roma
children as mentally retarded. As a result, tens of thousands of Roma
have been deprived from an early age of equal educational
opportunities essential to future life success.
 
The Strasbourg application contains abundant evidence showing that, in
the district of Ostrava, Romani children outnumber non-Roma in special
schools by a proportion of more than twenty-seven to one. Although
Roma represent fewer than 5% of all primary school-age students in
Ostrava, they constitute 50% of the special school population.
Nationwide, as the Czech government itself concedes, approximately 75%
of Romani children attend special schools, and more than half of all
special school students are Roma.
 
As a result of their segregation in dead-end schools for the mentally
retarded, the applicants, like many other Romani children in Ostrava
and around the nation, have suffered severe educational, psychological
and emotional harm, including the following:
- they have been subjected to a curriculum far inferior to that in
basic schools;
- they have been prohibited by practice from entrance to
non-vocational secondary educational institutions, with attendant
damage to their opportunities to secure adequate employment;
- they have been stigmatised as stupid or retarded with effects that
will brand them for life, including diminished self-esteem and
feelings of humiliation, alienation and lack of self-worth;
- they have been forced to study in racially segregated classrooms and
hence denied the benefits of a multi-cultural educational environment.
 
In June of 1999, the present applicants unsuccessfully pursued
administrative remedies and sought redress from the Constitutional
Court of the Czech Republic. Their lawsuits charged the Czech Ministry
of Education and local school authorities with segregating the
plaintiffs and numerous other Romani children into special schools for
the mentally deficient because they are Roma. The complaints noted
that racial segregation and discrimination in education violate the
Constitution of the Czech Republic, the Czech Charter of Fundamental
Rights and Freedoms, other provisions of domestic law, and numerous
binding international treaties including the European Convention on
Human Rights.
 
The Constitutional Court, acknowledging the "persuasiveness" of the
Applicants' arguments, nonetheless rejected the complaints, ruling
that it had no authority to consider evidence demonstrating a pattern
and practice of racial discrimination in Ostrava or the Czech
Republic. The Court effectively refused to apply applicable
international legal standards for proving racial discrimination.
 
Having exhausted domestic remedies, the applicants are now turning to
the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Their Application
contends that their assignment to special schools constitutes
"degrading treatment" in violation of Article 3 of the European
Convention of Human Rights. In so doing, it relies on the legal
authority of the Strasbourg organs, which have made clear that "a
special importance should be attached to discrimination based on
race." The submission further argues that the Applicants have been
denied their right to education, in breach of Article 2 of Protocol 1
of the Convention; that they have suffered racial discrimination in
the enjoyment of the right to education, in violation of Article 14;
and that the procedure which resulted in their assignment to special
school did not afford the minimal requisites of due process required
by Article 6(1).
 
The Application asks the European Court of Human Rights to find
violation of the above-noted Convention provisions and to award just
satisfaction.
 
For further information, please contact:
 
Markus Pape, Prague: (4202) 5732-7871, markus.pape@ecn.cz
David Strupek, Prague: (420) 603-815-445, (4202) 2422-7845
James Goldston, Budapest: (361) 327-3828, jgoldston@osi.hu
 
*****************
 
The European Roma Rights Center 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 Center, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://errc.org.
 
European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
 
Telephone: (36 1) 42 82 351
Fax: (36 1) 42 82 356
 
*****************
 
SUPPORT THE ERRC!
 
The European Roma Rights Center is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:
 
European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary

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