In Extraordinary Move, European Court of Human Rights Agrees to Hear Appeal in Important School Discrimination Case against Croatia

Budapest: The European Court of Human Rights has advised that it has agreed to hear an appeal in an important case of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity involving Romani children forced into segregated classes in Croatia. The case was originally submitted in December 2004 by the European Roma Rights Centre and the Croatian Helsinki Committee on behalf of fourteen Croatian children of Roma origin. All of the applicants at that time attended separate Roma-only classes in Croatian primary schools. Their placement in segregated classes stemmed from a blatant practice of discrimination based on race/ethnicity, the pervasive anti-Romani sentiment of the majority community, and the unwillingness of the Croatian authorities to remedy these illegal acts.

In addition, the children were subjected to a curriculum in the Roma-only classes that was significantly reduced in scope and volume as compared to the officially prescribed teaching plan, which resulted in lower quality education. Data provided by Croatian education officials confirmed this practice of segregation. In some communities, over 80% of the Romani children were confined to segregated classes.

Lawyers for the children praised the Court's action. Lovorka Kušan, representing the applicants, said: "With Croatia aspiring to join the European Union, it is important that the European Court expands its protection of Romani children from illegal discrimination. There should be no tolerance for ghetto classrooms, in Croatia or anywhere else in Europe." Andi Dobrushi, counsel for the ERRC, stated that "the Court has another opportunity to reinforce and further clarify its stance regarding equality and integration in education."

The Court has scheduled oral argument in the case for 1 April 2009.

The request for Grand Chamber referral is available at:

For further information, contact Andi Dobrushi, ERRC Staff Attorney, andi.dobrushi@errc.org, +36.1.413.2224


 

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