60 years of the European Convention on Human Rights: Roma Rights

Up to 12 million Roma live across the countries of the Council of Europe and continue to face difficulties in their daily lives simply because they belong to a minority. Roma victims of discrimination have been able to turn to the Council of Europe‘s European Court of Human Rights, relying mainly on Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination in relation to the other rights and freedoms protected by the Convention. As we look back on 60 years of the Convention, some of the cases which the Court has had to decide provide telling examples of the challenges faced by Roma. Behind each case were individual applicants who persevered in their fight to assert their rights and were ultimately rewarded by a judgment in Strasbourg in their favour. 

In order to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe is, throughout the year 2010, highlighting the Court‘s case-law and its impact on legislative developments in Europe.

Article 14 of the Convention guarantees the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

In D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic [GC] (no. 57325/00, 13 November 2007) – Placement of Roma children into “special” schools – the applicants were schoolchildren of Roma origin who were placed in “special schools” intended for pupils with learning disabilities. They submitted that they had been treated differently in the education sphere to children who were not of Roma origin in that, by being placed in special schools without justification, they received a substantially inferior education to that provided in ordinary primary schools, with the result that they were denied access to secondary education other than in vocational training centres. The Grand Chamber found a violation of Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1. In an interview for this press release, Darina Balazova, mother of pupil and applicant Krystina Racova, said that the judgment “felt great”.

“It was a long struggle, but I would do it again and fight even if it takes 20 years. I am happy that other children can get a chance to education on equal terms with others,” Balazova said. “There has been a slight change in teachers’ attitudes towards Romani pupils [since the judgment]. In the past, they would not care about the children. Nowadays, they treat them nicely and talk to them, even though the teachers and the director are the same. What hasn’t changed is the quality of the education”.