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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)

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Roma Rights 1 2017: Roma and Conflict: Understanding the Impact of War and Political Violence

16 May 2017

The impact of conflict on minority populations merits special attention, especially if those minorities have long been marginalized, viewed by the warring parties with a mixture of ambivalence and contempt, and deemed to be communities of little consequence in the peace-building processes that follow the conclusion of hostilities. This issue of Roma Rights Journal takes a look at the fate of Roma during and after conflicts.

Sometimes Roma have been the direct targets of murderous aggression or subject to reprisals. Then there have been the many times where individual Roma actively took a side, but too often the roles played by Roma, Travellers and other minorities were elided from the dominant national narratives that followed.

In many conflicts, caught between warring groups with no foreign power or military alliance to champion their claims, Roma found themselves displaced, despised and declaimed as bogus refugees, nomads and “mere” economic migrants in the aftermath.

As long as Europe’s largest ethnic minority is written out and rendered invisible in the histories of Europe’s wars and conflicts; and excluded from the politics of reconstruction and peace-making, the continent’s self-understanding will remain fatally flawed.

Editors: Marek Szilvasi, Kieran O’Reilly, Bernard Rorke

Roma Rights 1 2017 (PDF)

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Macron Election Call Out

5 May 2017

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ERRC submission to UN CERD on Bulgaria (April 2017)

20 April 2017

Written Comments by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) concerning Bulgaria to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, for consideration at its 92nd session (24 April - 12 May 2017)

 

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