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Czech Republic faces charges of discrimination against Roma children at EU court

17 January 2007

Strasbourg – At a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today the Czech Republic will face charges of systematically discriminating against Roma children by sending them to ‘special needs schools.’ A group of Roma organizations will argue that the common practice in the Czech educational system of sending Roma children to schools for children with special needs amounts to a violation of their right to education, and is discriminatory. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) will attend the hearing, having submitted evidence in the case showing the widespread and systematic practice across Europe of sending Roma children to “special schools” where they receive inferior education.

This latest hearing comes as a result of an appeal made by the Roma organizations against an earlier judgment by the ECHR. In the June 2006 judgment the ECHR held that the applicants of the case had not proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the decision to put the Roma children to special schools was because of their racial origin.

“This is a rare opportunity where a case about discrimination will be heard by the Grand Chamber, the highest court dealing with human rights in Europe. Thousands of Roma children suffer from the start of their lives by being sent to inferior schools, but the European Court has a chance to end this,” Clive Baldwin, MRG’s head of International Advocacy says. “It is a crucial case for the Roma people and for a more equal Europe.”