Czech Republic: Whether new laws or government programs have been implemented since December 2007 that provide protection or assistance to Roma with regard to claims of mistreatment; statistics on and outcome of complaints made by Roma to the authorities
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||16 December 2008|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CZE102961.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Czech Republic: Whether new laws or government programs have been implemented since December 2007 that provide protection or assistance to Roma with regard to claims of mistreatment; statistics on and outcome of complaints made by Roma to the authorities, 16 December 2008, CZE102961.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49b92b5214.html [accessed 25 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Legislation and government programs
Regarding whether laws have been introduced since December 2007 that provide protection to Roma, the DecadeWatch 2007 update on government efforts to improve the Romani people's situation within Europe reports the following for the Czech Republic:
In July 2007, a draft anti-discrimination law was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies for discussion. The Chamber of Deputies gave its assent to the proposal in March 2008 and the Senate approved it on April 24, 2008. On May 16, 2008 President Vaclav Klaus vetoed the law on the grounds that it was "unnecessary, counterproductive and poor, and its implications are very problematic". The President returned the draft to the Chamber of Deputies, which scheduled its discussion for the Chamber's 32nd meeting on June 3, 2008, which was subsequently cancelled. (2008, 29)
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) also indicates that President Klaus vetoed an anti-discrimination bill (ERRC 16 Oct. 2008) and adds that the Czech Republic is the only European Union (EU) member state that has not implemented a European Commission (EC) directive regarding anti-discrimination legislation (ibid.; CTK 2 Oct. 2008). Citing Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas, the Czech News Agency (Ceske tiskova kancelar, CTK) reports that the EC was planning to file a complaint against the Czech Republic for its failure to comply with the anti-discrimination directive (CTK 2 Oct. 2008). As of 4 December 2008, the government had yet to comply with the anti-discrimination directive, according to CTK.
In January 2008, the Czech government established an agency for social inclusion in Romani communities, which has a mandate to combat social exclusion and the formation of ghettos (ROMEA/CTK 23 Jan. 2008) and to "promote local-level partnerships and innovative and complex social inclusion policies in marginalized Roma localities" (Decade Watch 2008, 16; see also ROMEA/CTK 29 Jan. 2008). According to a report published by the Czech government before the agency was created, a stated aim of the agency was "to create essential human and institutional resources for realizing programmes and projects, which will fundamentally improve the socioeconomic conditions of Roma people, increase their standard of living and improve their access to the labour market and to mainstream education" (Czech Republic Nov. 2007, 4). The agency will work with stakeholders at the local level (ROMEA/CTK 23 Jan. 2008; World Bank n.d.; Radio Prague 22 Apr. 2008). The Czech government report notes that quantitative and qualitative indicators of the success of the agency, such as the number of children in preschool, have been identified and that programs will be evaluated (Czech Republic Nov. 2007, 26-28).
According to the government report, the agency will be in a pilot phase from January 2008 to December 2010, with operations starting in ten selected communities and gradually expanding to others during the pilot phase and beyond (Czech Republic Nov. 2007, 20). An August 2008 news article by CTK and ROMEA, a Czech-based non-profit association which promotes tolerance and human rights, reports that declarations establishing local partnerships between the agency and eleven of twelve designated municipalities had been signed (ROMEA/CTK 18 Aug. 2008). The agency has a program budget of 13 million Czech crowns for 2008, 50 million crowns for 2009 and 60 million crowns for 2010 (Czech Republic Nov. 2007, 32-34) [1 Czech crown = 0.06 Canadian dollars (Canada 8 Oct. 2008)].
In 2007, the Czech Ministry of the Interior (Ministerstvo Vnitra) released its annual report on crimes committed by "extremists" (far-right- and far-left-wing groups) in the Czech Republic, which also outlined government initiatives to improve police relations with minorities (Czech Republic 2007b, 19). For example, the police set up an information campaign for recruiting minorities into the police force (ibid.). According to the report, the recruitment campaign took place in Prague, Usti nad Labem and Brno and involved the distribution of posters and leaflets to associations and schools, as well as the use of posters and radio spots inviting minorities to attend presentations by the police (ibid.). While information on the results of the campaign was not included, the government report indicates that "an evaluation carried out by the Czech police shows that interest in the campaign was quite extensive" (ibid.).
Statistics on police complaints
Statistical data specifically related to police treatment of Roma could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. A representative of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) stated in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate that statistics related to police treatment of Roma were unavailable (ERRC 16 Oct. 2008). In particular, the Representative stated that
[t]here is no hard data or statistics on the interaction between the police and courts and the Roma community as citizens attempting to access the justice system because the Czech authorities do not capture information disaggregated by ethnicity. When asked by numerous international bodies to provide such data, they consistently argue that it would violate privacy protections to retrieve this information. (ERRC 16 Oct. 2008)
In 24 September 2008 correspondence with the Research Directorate, an official with the Czech Republic's Office of the Public Defender of Rights (Verejny Ochrance Prav) noted that
[i]nformation we can provide is entirely based on complaints the Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsman) has dealt with and it is necessary to explain that the Ombudsman acts to protect persons from wrong conduct or inactivity of offices and institutions undertaking state administration. From this point of view, all citizens are equal and the Ombudsman does not make any differences between claimants. The Ombudsman even does not check and file [the] origin of claimants as this information is irrelevant for dealing with complaints. On this account the Ombudsman does not dispose of any statistics concerning Roma.
The Official, however, noted that the Ombudsman has addressed two cases that were specific to Roma (Czech Republic 24 Sept. 2008). The first case was an inquiry in 2004 about the issue of sterilizations, and the second case in 2007 concerned an eviction of Romani inhabitants in Vsetin (ibid).
An article co-authored by the Czech Minister of Human Rights and Minorities, Dzamila Stehlikova, indicates that monitoring Roma progress in, for example, social programs, is limited by the "woefully inadequate" data available to evaluate their situation (World Bank n.d.). The DecadeWatch 2007 update notes that statistics do not identify how many of the "socially excluded" are Roma (DecadeWatch 2008, 28). DecadeWatch indicates that "there is unwillingness among many Roma to give information about their ethnic background, due to persisting anti-Gypsyism" (ibid.).
Although there are few statistics available regarding police treatment of Roma, Freedom House's Nations in Transit 2008 report for the Czech Republic indicates that "[v]iolent attacks on foreigners and the Roma minority have declined since the 1990s and remain largely out of the headlines" (2008). A Czech Ministry of the Interior report entitled Information on the Issue of Extremism in the Czech Republic in 2006 notes that "Romas, as the most visible minority, prevailed among victims of verbal and physical assaults, followed by foreigners of dark skin, persons of Asian origin, or other foreign nationals" (Czech Republic 2007b, 42). The same report also states the following:
When assessing criminal activities it may be said that 2006, in comparison with 2005, recorded a moderate decline in detected criminal offences having an extremist context, which accounted approximately for 2% (248 crimes in 2006; 253 crimes in 2005). 196 criminal offences were solved i.e. 79%. The number of offenders saw also a decrease by 20% (242 persons in 2006; 269 persons in 2005). As regards division according to regions, most crimes of this type were recorded in the North Moravian Region (63, i.e. 25.4%) and the North Bohemian Region (53, i.e. 21.4%), followed by the capital city of Prague (43, i.e. 17.3%) and the South Bohemian Region (29, i.e. 11.7%). Police investigations of offenders of crimes with an extremist context were most frequently closed by a motion to press a charge. As regards the composition of criminal offences, crimes under Sections 260 and 261 of the Criminal Code (support and propagation of movements suppressing human rights and freedoms) and under Sec. 198 of the Criminal Code (defamation of a nation, ethnic group, race or conviction) prevailed. In 2006, as in 2005, no murder with a racial context or serious injury to health was committed. (ibid.)
The report concluded that in 2006 "the situation in the Czech Republic concerning extremism remained comparable with that of other EU Member States" (ibid.).
Citing 2007 court statistics that do not specifically mention Roma, the Czech Ministry of the Interior reports that of the 75,728 people convicted for criminal acts, 72 were convicted for 155 crimes with "an extremist or racist context," representing 0.1 percent of all criminal convictions (Czech Republic 2008, 29). Statistics from 2007 indicate a decrease in convictions in comparison to 2006, when 96 people were convicted for 217 such crimes, and 2005, when 159 people were convicted (ibid.).
Outcome of police complaints
Information on the outcome of complaints by Roma against the police was limited among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. In 16 October 2008 correspondence, the ERRC Representative provided the following information:
If a Roma individual is able to access legal aid – which would have to be through the handful of Czech NGOs that offer such services free of charge – and if they are persistent, they may eventually see justice done in their case, but verdicts are not consistent. Even brutal violence is often met with suspended sentences, especially if the perpetrators are considered "juvenile" (a category which may include youths who have only recently achieved majority). For crimes alleged to have been committed by police, a key factor in such cases is the lack of independent oversight of criminal investigations of the police themselves. These investigations are handled by a special Inspectorate that answers to the Interior Minister, head of the same ministry that administers the police. While the Czech state argues that review of cases by the State Prosecutor should provide an adequate standard of overview, human rights advocates have criticized the existing system as inadequate for years, and international human rights treaty bodies agree with them.
According to Amnesty International's 2008 report for the Czech Republic,
[t]he CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture raised concerns about allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police officers, in particular against Roma and children, including their detention and coercion into confessing minor crimes. In July, the Supreme Court upheld a two-year prison sentence on a former Brno police officer for blackmail and misuse of power by law enforcement officials against a 14-year-old Romani boy. Reports of police misconduct continued, particularly against Roma and other marginalized groups, especially at the time of arrest and detention. (2008)
The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for investigating alleged criminal acts committed by police officers, while suspected non-criminal incidents are examined by internal control authorities within local-level police departments (Czech Republic 2007a). For acts of criminality, the case may be referred to a public prosecutor and the courts (ibid.). For a non-criminal incident, the presiding police internal control authority investigates complaints and the appropriate officials carry out any disciplinary measures in accordance with legislation relating to the employment of police officers (ibid.). Ministry of the Interior statistics for 2007 show that of the more than 1,000 pending criminal cases against police officers, 264 were referred to a public prosecutor to commence proceedings (ibid.). In 2007, the police force had 44,829 employees (ibid.).
The following three paragraphs outline uncorroborated information from Czech news articles about various incidents involving police response to complaints relating to Roma in 2008.
In June 2008, Radio Prague reported that the "right-wing", National Party set up a security patrol at an elementary school in the city of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), reportedly to protect white school children following alleged attacks by Roma living nearby (25 June 2008). Milan Kovac of the Roma Civic Group based in Karlovy Vary is cited in the article as saying that no complaints have been reported to city council against anyone living in the area and as speculating that the National Party was "'agitating'" (Radio Prague 25 June 2008). Kovac further stated that plain-clothed police officers were in place to monitor the situation (ibid.).
On 25 August 2008 ROMEA/CTK published a news article on the aftermath of a protest by Roma in the town of Rokycany complaining of a "racist atmosphere." In response, the deputy mayor stated that state and municipal police patrols would be stepped up to monitor the situation (ROMEA/CTK 25 Aug. 2008). The police chief also stated that Roma should "report all symptoms of possible racially motivated offences to the police" (ibid.). Furthermore, a police spokesperson stated that three racially motivated attacks had been investigated through August in 2008 and that there were no reported cases in 2007 (ibid.).
In October 2008, the CTK reported on an incident in which a "rally of rightist extremists" arrived at a Romani settlement in Litvinov (23 Oct. 2008). Police reportedly clashed with the "extremists" (CTK 23 Oct. 2008). Three police officers and one "extremist" were reportedly injured during the altercation (ibid.). While a Romani group named Romani Aliance criticized the effectiveness of the police response, the Czech Minister of Human Rights and Minorities Dzamila Stehlikova and local police countered that the police response was satisfactory (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Amnesty International (AI). 2008. "Czech Republic." Amnesty International Report 2008.
Canada. 8 October 2008. Bank of Canada. "Currency Conversion Results."
Ceske tiskova kancelar (CTK). 4 December 2008. "Czechs Face New Complaints over Anti-Discrimination Law – Minister."
_____. 23 October 2008. "Czech Romanies Call on Govt to Avert Further Clashes in Litvinov."
_____. 2 October 2008. "EC to Grill CR over Delayed Anti-discrimination Law." (Prague Monitor)
Czech Republic. 24 September 2008. Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsman). Correspondence received from an official.
_____. 2008. Ministry of the Interior. Information on the Issue of Extremism in the Czech Repulic in 2007.
_____. November 2007. Agency for Social Inclusion in Socially Excluded Roma Localities.
_____. 2007a. Ministry of the Interior. "Zprava o cinnosti inspekce ministra vnitra a o trestne cinnosti prislusniku Policie Ceske republiky za rok 2007." Translated from Czech to English by the Translation Bureau, Multilingual Translation Division, Public Works and Government Services Canada.
_____. 2007b. Ministry of the Interior. Information on the Issue of Extremism in the Czech Republic in 2006.
DecadeWatch. 2008. Roma Activists Assess the Progress of the Decade of Roma Inclusion: 2007 Update.
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 16 October 2008. Correspondence from a representative.
Freedom House. 2008. "Czech Republic." Nations in Transit.
Radio Prague. 25 June 2008. Dominik Jun. "Roma Parents Sending Children Home from ' Nationalist' School in Karlovy Vary."
_____. 22 April 2008. Dominik Jun. "The Czech Republic and the Rise of Social Exclusion."
ROMEA / Ceske tiskova kancelar (CTK). 25 August 2008. "Czech Town to Reinforce Police Patrols over Romanies' Complaint."
_____. 18 August 2008. "Czech Most to Improve Life in Romany Ghettoes."
_____. 29 January 2008. "Czech Romany Inclusion Agency Has Its Head."
_____. 23 January 2008. "Czech govt approves establishment of social exclusion agency." < http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_713> [Accessed 15 Dec. 2008]
World Bank. N.d. Dzamila Stehlikova and Shigeo Katsu. "Equal Opportunities for Europe's Roma."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: An official with the Council of the Government of the Czech Republic for Roma Community Affairs did not provide statistics within the time constraints of this Response. Two professors specializing in Roma issues in the Czech Republic did not respond within the time constraints of this Response.
Internet sites, including: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Council of Europe (COE), Courrier international, Czech Helsinki Committee, Drom Romany Center, The Economist, European Commission (EC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), European Network on Social Inclusion and Roma under the Structural Funds, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Factiva, Human Rights Watch (HRW), IQ Roma Service, League of Human Rights, Open Society Institute (OSI), United States (US) Overseas Secuirty Advisory Council (OSAC), People in Need, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.