Saturday, December 18, 2010


Czech Roma receive anti-discrimination prize in Berlin

Berlin, 16.12.2010 11:42, (ROMEA)

Today in Berlin, Roma organizations based in Germany gave awards to a group of young Roma from Ostrava, Czech Republic, who succeeded at the European Court for Human Rights in 2007 with a lawsuit against the Czech state over discrimination in education. The award was given for their courage in standing up against human rights violations. According to the German organizations, the Czech Roma created a precedent by bringing the case which will help reduce "the discriminatory practices of the authorities" vis-a-vis the Roma in other European countries.

The special prize of EUR 5 000 was awarded to the Czech Roma during a ceremony at the German Foreign Ministry as part of the European Sinti and Roma Prize for Human Rights. Former EP chair Simone Veil of France was the recipient of the prize. German Roma organizations gave another special award to the Hungarian Roma rights fighter Ágnes Daróczi.

"This means a lot to us. We are glad to receive this award and we are also glad we won the case," Katrin Dzurková, one of the Czech citizens receiving the award, told the Czech Press Agency. The Roma from Ostrava and their families objected to decisions by the Czech authorities to assign them into "special schools" during the second half of the 1990s. After their complaints to Czech courts were unsuccessful, they turned to the European Court for Human Rights. Three years ago, the Grand Senate decided the Czech Republic had violated both their right to education and the ban on discrimination. The verdict required the Czech state to pay them compensation for moral damages of CZK 4 000 in addition to court costs in the amount of EUR 10 000.

Seven of the original 18 Roma plaintiffs from Ostrava came to Berlin today, accompanied by Kumar Vishwanathan of the civic association Vzájemné soužití (Life Together), which helps the Roma minority in North Moravia. Vishwanathan regrets the fact that the Czech state views the verdict as a loss. "It was not a loss. If it is viewed as such, then all of the institutions will resist changing a situation which is illegal," Vishwanathan said. In his view, the educational situation in the Czech Republic has not changed for the better yet. "Unfortunately, we have not yet reached the 'happy ending'," he claims.

The European Sinti and Roma Prize for Human Rights is awarded every two years by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, its Heidelberg Documentation and Culture Center, and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. The prizewinner is awarded EUR 15 000. The prize was first awarded in 2008 to former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.

This year's prizewinner won the award for her efforts to see the Nazi extermination of the Roma recognized as a racial genocide no different from the Jewish Holocaust. Veil, who is Jewish, is herself a Holocaust survivor. She was imprisoned in concentration camps including the infamous death camp at Auschwitz. During the Second World War, Hitler's regime murdered as many as half a million Roma and Sinti (one of the groups of Roma) on Nazi-occupied territory.

Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert


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