Human rights court rules against Hungary on placement of Roma pupils

By • on February 1, 2013

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the placement of two Hungarian Roma in a school for the mentally disabled amounted to discrimination, the BBC reports. Judges at the Strasbourg court ruled that Istvan Horvath and Andras Kiss, from the town of Nyiregyhaza, were isolated from mainstream society because of their schooling.

Hungary was ordered to pay legal costs amounting to 4,500 euros ($6,100) for Kiss and Horvath, who were born in 1992 and 1994, respectively. The court also found deficiencies in tests administered by remedial schools for the assessment of mental abilities and drew attention to Hungarian authorities’ overall failure to “provide the necessary safeguards for a disadvantaged minority.”

Despite reforms initiated by the ruling Fidesz party aimed at improving the living standards of Roma, the community still struggles with unemployment and lack of access to proper education.

Hungary is far from the only country in Central Europe to be criticized for shunting Roma into remedial schools – or “special schools,” as they are known in the Czech Republic.  In a landmark decision in November 2007, the European court ruled that the Czech Republic’s practice of segregating Roma students into special schools is a form of unlawful discrimination.

However, a report published in November 2012 by Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Center concluded that very little progress had been made since the 2007 ruling. The two organizations said Roma were over-represented in schools and classes designed for children with mild disabilities (so-called practical schools).