DH and Others v Czech Republic

Forum: European Court of Human Rights
Third party intervention
Education, children, equality

The case was brought by 18 Czech nationals of Roma origin living in the Ostrava region of the Czech Republic. Between 1996 and 1999 all of the applicants were assigned to special schools for children with learning difficulties where they received education from a more basic curriculum.

In 2000 the applicants complained to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that their treatment amounted to a discriminatory denial of their right to education in breach of Article 14 taken together with Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In their submissions before the court they drew on extensive research indicating that Roma children were systematically assigned to segregated schools based on their racial or ethnic identity rather than their intellectual capacities.

A first decision was handed down in the case by a chamber of the court in February 2006. In this judgment the court found that although the applicants had raised serious arguments, the convention had not been violated. The case was then referred to the Grand Chamber which subsequently agreed to hear the case afresh.

INTERIGHTS together with Human Rights Watch intervened at both stages in the case with third-party submissions focusing on the concept of indirect discrimination and the relevance of statistics and overall context in establishing such discrimination before the court. The intervention was extensively reflected in the court’s analysis of these issues.

The applicants were represented by the European Roma Rights Centre and the Open Society Justice Initiative.

INTERIGHTS Contact: Andrea Coomber, Senior Lawyer, Equality Programme

Related links

Amnesty International report: End injustice: Elementary schools still fail Romani children in the Czech Republic (January 2010)

Press Release: [14 November 2007] European Court: Roma Children Denied Right to Education

European Court of Human Rights Decision (full text)

Third party intervention by INTERIGHTS and Human Rights Watch (legal brief)

Open Society Justice Initiative's resource page

European Roma Rights Centre

INTERIGHTS Bulletin 15.4: Right to Education

BBC News: Roma welcome anti-segregation ruling

The Guardian: Apartheid in the heart of Europe: how Roma children lose out on education