Ethnic Croatian Parents Protest in Favour of Segregation
29 October 2003
Around one hundred non-Romani residents of the Croatian village Držimurec-Strelec, about ten kilometres from the town of Čakovec in northwestern Croatia, adopted a declaration protesting the extension of the local school building with a separate section for Romani pupils, according to the Čakovec-based daily newspaper MeÄ‘imurje of March 4, 2003. Instead, the parents requested that a new school be built either in the nearby Romani village Piškorovac or in the town of Mala Subotica; they also accused the local authorities of keeping the school extension plans a secret. Together with representatives of the Držimurec-Strelec local community, the parents threatened that they would take all measures necessary to stop the municipality and MeÄ‘imurje County, to which they administratively belong, in the implementation of the plan. Previously, at the beginning of the school year in this village, nearly one hundred ethnic Croatian parents stopped Romani children from entering the school on September 9, 2002, where the parents protested the formation of integrated classes (for more information on this case, see "Croatian Parents Refuse Integrated Schooling", in the "Snapshots from around Europe" section of the Roma Rights 3 and 4, 2002, available on the Internet at: Croatian Parents Refuse Integrated Schooling.
Additionally, in the nearby town of Podturen, a group of ethnic Croatian parents of pupils from the local primary school sent an open letter to the relevant local and national authorities, in which they complained about the behaviour of Romani pupils at the school, according to Međimurje of February 18, 2003. In their letter, the parents reportedly claimed that some of the Romani children were aggressive towards other pupils and the teaching staff and that they were not interested in schoolwork. The letter also stated that the non-Romani children have "the right to education in a suitable environment". Additionally, the letter stated that the parents did not initially protest against the formation of integrated classes, but that the Romani children showed no progress and "disturb the children who want to study". The letter ended on the note that the parents were prepared to boycott the school until measures were taken to ensure the safety of their children. There is a history of racial segregation of Romani children at school in Podturen: On April 19, 2002, with the assistance of the ERRC and local council, a group of fifty-seven Romani parents filed a lawsuit with a Croatian court against the Croatian Ministry of Education, the local authorities and the primary schools in Podturen, Orehovica, Macinec and Kuršanec, on the grounds that the segregation of Romani children in separate classes in the local schools was illegal. In October 2002, the court rejected this claim. The plaintiffs appealed to the County Court in Čakovec and, on November 14 2002 the Court rejected the appeal. On December 19, 2002, a complaint was filed with the Croatian Constitutional Court which, as of September 16, 2003, was pending. On May 8, 2003, the ERRC and local council filed a pre-application letter with the European Court of Human Rights because, in the event that the Constitutional Court dismissed the case on the grounds that it does not have jurisdiction to rule in such a case, the six-month time limit for filing the pre-application letter would be counted from the November 14, 2002 rejection of the County Court in Čakovec. For further information on this case, including the provisions of both domestic and international laws on which the plaintiffs based their lawsuit, visit the ERRC's Internet website at: Racial Segregation in Croatian Primary Schools: Romani Students Take Legal Action.