I have worked for years in an NGO using strategic litigation as a tool to protect women’s rights and I strongly believe that strategic litigation is a key tool for protecting Roma rights too. The strategic litigation I have most often taken was in the context of Albania’s struggle with the rule of law: it aimed at the implementation of international standards stemming from international acts ratified by the Albanian state, the implementation of standards found in the jurisprudence of international courts and other bodies, and the implementation of the rights foreseen in the law, but which are not used before and changes of the available judicial practices which affected women.
On 30 May 2015, the Court of Rome condemned the city for discriminating against Roma by forcibly relocating them to La Barbuta camp in the outskirts of the city. We waited for more than three years. It was worth it.
This short history of segregation and its challengers shows that there is nothing incidental or accidental about the practices that perpetuate school segregation and inequality in Hungary. It is deliberate, knowing and systemic. And that is why it’s time for the EU to intervene to challenge ethnic discrimination in this illiberal democracy.
I remember when I started the first grade in my home village in Transylvania. We were between twenty and thirty classmates, with six or seven Roma kids among us. They sat in the last row of benches and I myself had very little communication with them.
During a panel discussion last week at the PILnet European pro bono forum, the question was put to us whether there was a risk that those litigating Roma rights might lose touch with the wishes of Roma litigants. The concern was that complex and lengthy legal battles might become unrecognisable to those supposedly waging them.