Czech Republic: Four Years After Landmark Judgment, Urgent Action Needed to Stop Illegal Segregation of Romani Children into Special Education
14 November 2011
Budapest, New York, 14 November 2011: The Council of Europe must take action now to stop continuing illegal discrimination against Romani school children in the Czech Republic, two leading rights groups said today.
The European Roma Rights Centre and the Open Society Justice Initiative note that four years have now gone by since a landmark judgment found that Romani children were being disproportionately channeled into “special schools” where they, along with children with disabilities, were segregated from other students and taught to a limited curriculum. The European Court of Human Rights ruled on 13 November 2007 that this practice violated the children’s right to education and to be free from discrimination.
Today, the Czech education system remains broken, even though the European Court had told the Czech government to fix the problem and redress the effects of discrimination.
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers – the body charged with making sure European Court judgments are respected – must ramp up the pressure on the Czech government to deliver changes on the ground, according to the European Roma Rights Centre and the Open Society Justice Initiative.
“With every year that passes – and this is number four – another group of Romani children are being shunted towards dead end futures,” James Goldston, the Justice Initiative’s Executive Director said. “All children deserve a decent chance in life and in Czech Republic they are not getting it.”
No evidence exists that anything has changed for Romani children since the D.H. and others v Czech Republic judgment, according to an ERRC and Justice Initiative report issued this week. The only official data on the number of Romani children in special education, published in 2010, showed that in some parts of the country, Romani children were still 27 times more likely to be herded into segregated “practical schools” - the same levels as when the case was first taken to the European Court in 1999. Czech government proposals for reform remain unfunded. Implementation of inclusive education plans has effectively stalled. Last week, the Czech Minister of Education proclaimed his support for the discriminatory system of special education.
“It is unacceptable that segregation is still the norm in Czech education,” said Dezideriu Gergely, Executive Director of the ERRC. “The Czech government should adopt effective measures to explicitly mandate desegregation for all children languishing in segregated classes.”
The two groups urged the Committee of Ministers to visit the Czech Republic to see for itself how little has changed on the ground for Romani children. It also asked that the Committee demand fresh statistics from the Czech government to confirm the extent to which Romani children, along with other marginalized groups, are still being channeled into separate schools with substandard curriculum. The Committee should also ask for detailed information on how inclusive education measures are being funded and implemented.
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RRC Media and Communications Officer
Senior Communications Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative