Press release

Roma Children Pursue Final Appeal in Landmark School Segregation Case

May 04, 2006
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STRASBOURG—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 fewer occasions 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.


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