Europe’s highest court backs Roma in segregation case

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, Europe’s highest court, ruled today in a case involving 14 children in Croatia that the segregation of Roma children into separate classes based on language is unlawful discrimination, violating the European Convention on Human Rights, the Open Society Justice Initiative reports on its website.

In the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Reaching the marginalized, we focused on the depth of deprivation among Roma children in central and eastern Europe, no more than 20% to 25% of whom attend secondary school – and on the way rights organizations were successfully using the law to challenge state segregation of Roma children.

“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 marginalized groups,” the Open Society Justice Initiative comments in its report. The ruling in the Croatian case builds on a victory for Roma in an earlier case involving segregated children, D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic. In the 2010 GMR, however, we note that after that judgment, the European Roma Rights Centre (which represented the Roma in both cases) claimed the Czech authorities had done little since to address segregation. Recourse to the law offers marginalized groups an opportunity to contest discriminatory  practices, but it seems to be most successful when it is accompanied by the kind of political mobilization that has helped minorities in countries such as Bolivia, Bangladesh and New Zealand defend their rights.


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