The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is hearing arguments today (video here) in Catan and Others v. Republic of Moldova and Russia (nos. 43370/04, 43370/04, 8252/05 and 18454/06). The Court’s press release describes the applicants as “Moldovan nationals who live in the ‘Moldovan Republic of Transdnistria’ (‘MRT’), a non-recognised separatist entity which split from the Republic of Moldova in September 1990”, who are challenging the legal prohibition on using Latin, rather than Cyrillic, script for writing in Moldovian in schools.
Beginning in 1994, the MRT authorities prohibited the traditional use of Latin script in the Moldovan language and began shutting down schools that used Latin script. The applicants, school children and their parents and educators, alleged that they had been harassed because of their support for continued instruction “in the Moldovan language, using the Latin script, and in accordance with the Moldovan curriculum.”
As summarized by INTERIGHTS, the London-based non-governmental organization that advised the applicants’ attorneys, the application concerns:
linguistic and ethnic discrimination (Article 14 of the ECHR) taken together with the right to education (Protocol 1, Article 2), respect for private and family life (Article Eight) access to an effective domestic remedy in the de facto Moldovan Republic of Transdniestria.
The applicants are Moldovan nationals, children of school age, their parents, and teachers, who attend or work at three of the seven schools in the Moldovan Republic of Transdniestria which use the Moldovan/ Romanian language with Latin script. The schools refused to register with the self-proclaimed, unrecognized authorities of the Republic, since registration would demand the use of the Cyrillic script in schools. In July 2004 the authorities used military and police forces to stormed the schools and closed them down. Some parents and teachers were arrested and subsequently sentenced to administrative imprisonment. Parents were threatened with loss of their jobs and even removal of their parental rights if they failed to send their children to schools registered with the regime. The applicants have filed a number of unsuccessful petitions and complaints with the authorities of the Russian Federation as well as with the Moldovan authorities. The case was granted priority treatment.
The applications, lodged in 2004, were seen by a chamber and declared partly admissible in 2010. As explained by INTERIGHTS:
On 15 June 2010. the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights declared the case admissible under Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education), taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination). The issue of jurisdiction was joined to the determination of the merits of the case. The threshold for Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment) was not met.
[INTERIGHTS] The chamber relinquished jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber, pursuant to Article 30 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which allows such transfer where a case “raises a serious question affecting the interpretation of the Convention…or where the resolution of a question before the Chamber might have a result inconsistent with a judgment previously delivered by the Court…”
See video of the hearing here.