Horizontal Rule

Europe’s Highest Court Rules Roma School Segregation by Language Illegal

16 March 2010

Budapest/New York/Strasbourg/Zagreb: The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held today in the case Oršuš and Others v. Croatia that the segregation of Romani children into separate classes based on language is unlawful discrimination, violating the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Oršuš case involved 14 children attending mainstream primary schools in three different Croatian villages who were placed in segregated Roma-only classes due to alleged language difficulties. The applicants argued that actually, placement in these Roma-only classes stemmed from blatant discrimination based on ethnicity. The schools’ policies were reinforced by the local majority population’s anti-Romani sentiments.

Represented by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Croatian Helsinki Committee and local attorney Lovorka Kusan, the case went to the European Court in 2004. After a negative judgement in 2008, it reached the Grand Chamber upon appeal.

“The Grand Chamber’s decision is of great importance to the applicants and other Romani children in Croatia, as it acknowledges that they have suffered unlawful discrimination,” said Ms Kusan. “It is now up to the government to ensure that these illegal practices stop and that remedies are offered to affected Romani children.”

The Court awarded the applicants 4,500 Euros each in non-pecuniary damages, plus a total of 10,000 Euros for costs and expenses.

“Today’s judgment rounds out the European Court’s jurisprudence concerning the most common grounds of segregation experienced by Romani children in education across Europe,” said ERRC Managing Director Robert Kushen. “National governments must now take decisive action to end segregated education in all its forms and truly integrate their school systems.”

The Grand Chamber decision builds on the Court’s groundbreaking judgments in D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic and Sampanis v Greece, which rejected the segregation of Romani students into special schools for children with mental disabilities or within mainstream schools on the basis of ethnicity.

“Oršuš makes clear that language deficiency cannot serve as a pretext for racial segregation,” said ERRC board member and Open Society Justice Initiative Executive Director James A. Goldston, who helped argue the case. “Segregation remains all too common in Europe, and it is time to end this deeply degrading practice.”

The positive judgment by the Grand Chamber marks great progress for the advancement of Roma rights in general, as well as the right to quality education on equal terms for Roma and other marginalised groups.

The full text of the decision is available HERE.

Najviši europski sud ocijenio segregaciju romskih učenika na jezičnoj osnovi protuzakonitom Hrvatski

For further information, please contact:  

Catherine Twigg, catherine.twigg@errc.org, +36.1.413.2200  (w), +36.30.500.1289  (m) Luis Montero, luis.montero@osf-eu.org, +44-20-70311704  (w), +44-7798737516  (m)

Horizontal Rule

ERRC submission to UN HRC on Hungary (February 2018)

14 February 2018

Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre concerning Hungary to the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration at its 122nd session (12 Narch - 6 April 2018).

more ...

horizontal rule

The Fragility of Professional Competence: A Preliminary Account of Child Protection Practice with Romani and Traveller Children in England

24 January 2018

Romani and Traveller children in England are much more likely to be taken into state care than the majority population, and the numbers are rising. Between 2009 and 2016 the number of Irish Travellers in care has risen by 400% and the number of Romani children has risen 933%. The increases are not consistent with national trends, and when compared to population data, suggest that Romani and Traveller children living in the UK could be 3 times more likely be taken into public care than any other child. 

more ...

horizontal rule

Families Divided: Romani and Egyptian Children in Albanian Institutions

21 November 2017

There’s a high percentage of Romani and Egyptian children in children’s homes in Albania – a disproportionate number. These children are often put into institutions because of poverty, and then find it impossible ever to return to their families. Because of centuries of discrimination Roma and Egyptians in Albania are less likely to live in adequate housing, less likely to be employed and more likely to feel the effects of extreme poverty.

more ...

horizontal rule