ECHR finds Turkey guilty of discrimination for denying music education to blind student

ECHR finds Turkey guilty of discrimination for denying music education to blind student

ECHR finds Turkey guilty of discrimination for denying music education to blind student The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has determined that Turkey violated the article on the prohibition of discrimination when it denied music education to a blind student, solely due to her physical disability, “without objective and reasonable justification.”

The case of Ceyda Evrim Çam, a Turkish national who was denied an education at Istanbul Technical University’s Turkish National Music Academy, despite being completely qualified for admission, was brought before the ECHR on Oct. 22, 2008.

 “The court considered that by passing the entrance examination, which was a prerequisite for any request for enrolment, Ms. Çam had demonstrated that she was fully qualified for enrolment at the National Music Academy,” the ECHR said in its Feb. 23 press release, concluding that refusing entry to the plaintiff “had been based solely on her blindness.”

After successfully passing the academy entrance examination on 2004, Çam was asked to bring a medical certificate of physical fitness to attend lessons, in accordance with the academy’s rules of procedure. 

A commission at a local Istanbul hospital prepared a medical report concluding Çam could only attend lessons in certain sections of the academy where eyesight was not required. This report was later updated, upon a request by the music academy, to conclude that all sections of the academy required eyesight, rendering Çam unfit to attend lessons. 

Çam’s parents fought legal battles against the decision, first at the Istanbul Administrative Court and later at the Turkish Supreme Administrative Court, which dismissed their appeal in 2008. Their complaints against Bakırköy Hospital, the hospital in Istanbul which provided the unfit report, also failed. 

In its decision, the ECHR underlined that at the time of Çam’s rejection, Turkish legislation entitled children with disabilities to education without any discrimination. However, there existed a lack of infrastructure necessary for students with disabilities and no attempts were made to provide accommodation to meet the needs of disabled students. 

“The court found that the national authorities had made no attempt to identify Ms. Çam’s needs and had failed to explain how her blindness could prevent her from attending music lessons. It also noted that the academy had made no attempt to tailor its lessons to blind students,” the ECHR said. 

“The court consequently considered that Ms. Çam had been denied, without objective and reasonable justification, the benefit of a musical education, and therefore found a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1,” the decision said. 

According to the ruling of the ECHR, Turkey will pay 10,000 euros in pecuniary damages to Çam, in addition to 3,000 euros for costs and expenses.