ERRC Welcomes European Court Judgment on Segregated Education of Roma in Greece

ECHR Confirms that Segregated Education of Roma is Illegal

5 June 2008, Budapest: The ERRC welcomes a judgment issued today by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Sampanis and Others v. Greece (application no. 32526/05). The applicants, of Romani ethnic origin and residing in a settlement located in the "Psari" area of Aspropyrgos, Attica, were represented by Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), an Athens-based NGO. Their allegations concerned the refusal of education authorities to enroll their children in the local primary school during the school year 2004-2005 and their subsequent placement in an annex to the local primary school, attended only by Roma, located five kilometres from the primary school.

This judgment, adopted unanimously, comes in the wake of the D.H. and Others v. The Czech Republic judgment by the Grand Chamber, a case brought by the ERRC, and draws further attention to the issue of education afforded to Romani children. Today's judgment constitutes the most conclusive proof of the Court's statement in the D.H. and Others judgment that "[…] the Czech Republic is not alone in having encountered difficulties in providing schooling for Roma children: other European States have had similar difficulties" (paragraph 205).

The Court found a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in conjunction with Article 2 (right to education) of Protocol 1, regarding the applicants' claims that their children were placed in a segregated school following a short period of time when they attended classes at the local primary school, due to the reaction of local non-Romani parents who did not want their children to attend the same school with Romani children and had in fact staged numerous protests, including preventing their children from attending school. The Court held that it was necessary to take into account these "incidents of a racist character" that had taken place and concluded that these events had an impact on the authorities' decision to send the Romani children to the segregated annex, housing in prefabricated containers.

Considering domestic legislation and the vulnerable position of Roma in Greece which may require special measures to ensure the full enjoyment of their rights, the Court held that the failure of the state authorities to enroll the Romani children during the school year 2004-2005 was attributed to them and hence their responsibility was engaged.

Regarding the segregated school environment, the Court emphasized that the placement of the Romani pupils in the annex school was not the result of special and adequate testing; it emphasised the need to put in place an adequate system of assessment for children facing educational challenges which ensures the avoidance of ethnic minority children being placed in special preparatory classes based on discriminatory criteria.

Lastly, the Court reiterated principles espoused in the D.H and Others judgment regarding un-informed consent, and noted that one of the applicants had explicitly stated that he had effectively to choose between sending his children to the local primary school and jeopardising their physical integrity in the hands of "indignant" non-Romani persons and sending them to the "ghetto school".

The ERRC welcomes this judgment, which reinforces the position stemming from the D.H. and Others case that the segregation of Romani children in inferior schools and classes is illegal and that European governments must take responsibility for this.

The full text of the judgment is available in French on the Court’s website: Here

The GHM press release with a full analysis of the judgment is available at: http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/index.php?sec=194&cid=3304

Information on D.H. and Others v The Czech Republic is available on the ERRC website at: OSTRAVA CASE: D.H. and Others v. The Czech Republic

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