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Continued Segregation in Czech Schools Devastates Lives of Roma Children

- Two Years after Landmark Discrimination Ruling, Government Statistics Confirm Roma Children Are Still Shunted into Separate Schools

STRASBOURG, France, November 11 /PRNewswire/ -- By following through on its commitment to integrate its educational system, the Czech Republic can set a much-needed example for the rest of Europe said human rights organizations today.

"The Czech government must take immediate steps-including adopting a time-bound plan with targeted goals-to desegregate its schools," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "Unless Roma are able to access quality education they will remain trapped in poverty and isolated at society's margins."

In a recent filing (http://www.soros.org/initiatives/justice/litigation/czechrepublic) before the Council of Europe, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the European Roma Rights Centre argued that the Czech Republic must do more to comply with a 2007 European Court of Human Rights ruling on school segregation. Despite ongoing efforts to address the problem, the government's own statistics confirm that in some parts of the country Roma children are still 26 or 27 times more likely than non-Roma to be placed in practical schools for children with mental disabilities.

Throughout parts of Europe, Roma children are routinely placed in schools for the mentally disabled regardless of their actual intellectual abilities. The European Court of Human Rights in 2007 ruled that the Czech Republic had violated the European Convention of Human Rights by segregating Roma children into schools for the mentally disabled. The court condemned segregation of Roma in Greek schools in 2008, and a challenge to the school segregation of Roma in Croatia is still pending.

"The court confirmed that the school segregation of Roma children is illegal in Europe. The Czech government has an opportunity to take a leadership role on the treatment of Roma children throughout Europe's schools," said Robert Kushen, managing director of the European Roma Rights Centre. "Racial discrimination has no place in today's Europe."

The filing calls for steps including passing legislation that would require the government to integrate schools, ensuring the provision of early childhood education for disadvantaged children that assists entry to standard primary schools, and continuing to provide educational support and take other measures such as language training for children whose home language is not Czech.

More information about D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic is available on the European Roma Rights Centre (http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2945&archiv=1) and Open Society Justice Initiative (http://www.soros.org/initiatives/justice/litigation/czechrepublic) websites.

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