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European Court ruling on Roma children in Croatia

WARSAW, 17 March 2010 - The OSCE's Roma adviser, Andrzej Mirga, welcomed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against segregation of Roma children in elementary schools.

In the case Orsus and Others v. Croatia, the Court's Grand Chamber said that the segregation of Roma children into separate classes based on language deficiencies violates the prohibition of discrimination set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The ruling is important for our efforts to end the segregation of Roma and Sinti children in education systems across the OSCE area," said Mirga, the head of the OSCE's Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues.

"Forcing Roma and Sinti children to go to special schools and classes condemns them to substandard education and reduces their life opportunities."

The goal must be that Roma and Sinti children are integrated into mainstream education, he said, stressing the importance of early education in this respect.

"Quality early education is a powerful tool to ensure a successful start in school for Roma and Sinti children and break the cycle of exclusion," Mirga said.

The 2003 OSCE Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti calls for educational policies that aim to integrate Roma and Sinti into mainstream education by providing full and equal access at all levels. The Action Plan requires that the OSCE's 56 participating States ensure that national legislation bans racial segregation and discrimination in education.

In 2008, OSCE participating States agreed to promote early education for Roma and Sinti children as an instrument to prevent social exclusion and marginalization and to create a long-term improvement in the situation of Roma and Sinti.

The Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues is located within the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

OSCE Press release