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Belgian Linguistics v. Belgium , 6 Eur. Ct. H.R. (ser. A) (23 July 1968)

Facts: The applicants were the parents of families in Belgium who applied for schooling on their behalf and on behalf of their children. As French speakers, they wanted their children to be educated in French despite living in a region classified under Belgian law as Dutch-speaking. By law, schooling had to be conducted in the official language of the region.

Complaint: the Francophone applicants alleged that the state was discriminating against them by failing to provide schooling in their language in violation of Article 14 of the Convention and of article 2 of Protocol No. 1

Holding: The ECHR found no violation of article 14 or of article 2.

Reasoning: The court held that legal and administrative distinctions that are objective and reasonable are not violative of the ECHR's anti-discrimination clause. In addition, the justifications must be proportional to the purposes of maintaining such distinctions. As regards Article 2 of Protocol No. 1, the Court ruled that it contains no linguistic requirement and it leaves intact the freedom of States to subsidize private schools or to refrain from doing so. It does not require the Contracting States to establish educational establishments so the question is left to the evaluation of the competent national authorities. Article 2, therefore, concerns the freedom of education, not a social or cultural right to education. Furthermore, the Court concluded that it is not per se discrimination on the basis of ethnicity under Article 14 to limit the number of languages in which instruction is given in state sponsored schools.

 

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