PRAGUE—The Czech Republic has failed to comply with European law and integrate Romani children into mainstream schools, said the Open Society Justice Initiative, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), and the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) in a complaint filed this week with the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg.
November 13 marks the three-year anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights decision in the case of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, which first declared school segregation illegal.
“Each year since the Grand Chamber issued its judgment, Romani children in the Czech Republic have continued to be shunted into sub-standard schools and classes for the mentally disabled,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “The Committee of Ministers should demand an immediate halt to segregation of Romani children and adoption within six months of the legal and budgetary measures essential to secure equal opportunity.”
The Committee of Ministers is charged with overseeing implementation of European Court of Human Rights rulings and will meet on November 30 to consider the case against the Czech Republic and two other cases involving the illegal segregation of Romani children in schools in Greece and Croatia. Despite the court’s decision and numerous subsequent complaints, the Czech government has taken no concrete steps to desegregate schools. It has produced a lengthy and vague action plan which has no funding, no monitoring, and a timetable for implementation that ensures no meaningful change for many years, if ever.
As a result, the situation in the Czech Republic has not improved. On average, Romani children are 12 times more likely than non-Romani children to be sent to schools for the learning disabled. In some areas, they are 27 times more likely; this figure is unchanged from 1999 when the case started. In Ostrava itself, where the case began, schools remain almost completely segregated.
“Romani children in a number of European countries face systematic discrimination,” said Rob Kushen, executive director of the European Roma Rights Centre. “Every year that goes by without reform, thousands of Romani children are robbed of a future, and we sow the seeds of poverty and discontent.”
The complaint submitted by the Justice Initiative, the ERRC, and GHM also examines the cases of Sampanis and Others v. Greece (segregation in mainstream schools) and Oršuš and Others v. Croatia (segregation based on language).
“In Greece, recent research found that in 21 of 50 communities studied, Romani children are out of school altogether, and in another 7 communities they attend segregated schools,” said GHM spokesperson Panayote Dimitras. “Greek authorities have ignored our calls for students’ immediate enrolment and desegregation.”
In all three countries discussed in the complaint, the court’s judgments have not been executed, and Romani children continue to be denied an education in inferior, segregated classes.