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Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Czech Republic

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 13 May 2011
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Czech Republic, 13 May 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dce15725.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Head of state: Václav Klaus
Head of government: Petr Necas (replaced Jan Fischer in July)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 10.4 million
Life expectancy: 76.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 5/4 per 1,000

Several trials were ongoing in cases of violent attacks against Roma and some defendants received heavy sentences. The government continued to fail to eliminate segregation of Romani children in the educational system. Concerns were raised over amendments to the law on treatment of migrants.

Background

Following parliamentary elections in May, the President appointed a new centre-right coalition government in July. In September, the government dismissed the state Human Rights Commissioner. No successor had been appointed to the post at the end of the year.

In October, two high-level officials at the Ministry of Education responsible for integration of Romani children into mainstream education resigned from their posts in protest against the new government's failure to prioritize equal education for Romani children.

The Supreme Administrative Court decided to dissolve the Workers Party (Delnická strana) on the grounds that its programme involved incitement to national, racial, ethnic and social hatred and that it presented a threat to democracy.

Discrimination – Roma

Roma faced overt public hostility and several trials of attacks against Roma were pending. Roma continued to experience discrimination, including segregation in schools and housing.

Violent attacks

  • On 14 March, Molotov cocktails were thrown into the home of a Romani family in the Bedriska settlement in the town of Ostrava. In November, the State Prosecutor charged one of the family's neighbours and her teenage son with attempted murder. The police investigation ruled out racial motivation for the crime and concluded the attack was a result of a neighbourly dispute. In December, the Regional Court in Ostrava gave the perpetrators suspended sentences.

  • On 20 October, the Regional Court in Ostrava found four men guilty of attempted homicide and property damage in an arson attack against a Romani family in the village of Vítkov in April 2009. It held that the crime was premeditated and racially motivated. Three of the perpetrators were each sentenced to 22 years' and the fourth to 20 years' imprisonment. All of them appealed the verdict. The attack had destroyed the house of a Romani family. A two-year-old girl had suffered burns over 80 per cent of her body and had been in an induced coma for three months.

  • The trial against eight suspects accused of attacks on Roma in Havírov was pending. During one of the attacks in November 2008, a group of alleged neo-Nazis attacked several people and severely injured one man.

Education

Segregation of Roma children in schools for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" and Roma-only schools and classes continued. Three years after the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, which confirmed the prohibition of separate and inferior education of Roma, the government still failed to eliminate discrimination within the country's educational system.

The Czech School Inspectorate found in March that 35 per cent of all children diagnosed with "mild mental disability" were Roma, while in some regions the percentage amounted to more than 50 per cent.

In reaction to the report, the Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsperson) stated in April that "the consequence of the assessment method applied to Romani children by psychologists of School Advisory Centres is their segregation outside the mainstream education, thus resulted in them being denied access to good quality education." The Ombudsperson also found that it was discriminatory that one third of the children diagnosed as mentally disabled were Roma.

The government had adopted a National Action Plan for Inclusive Education in March, although it did not address discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin nor did it include a concrete timeline for the desegregation of Czech schools. The implementation of the Action Plan was then postponed by the new Minister of Education, who also rejected amendments to two Ministry Regulations aimed at eliminating some of the discriminatory barriers faced by Romani children in accessing education in mainstream schools.

After his November visit, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stated that "[t]here has been virtually no change on the ground in the Czech Republic since the European Court ... found three years ago that the country had discriminated against Roma children by educating them in schools for children with mental disabilities." On 2 December, in the review of the implementation of the judgement, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe encouraged the government to implement the Action Plan without delay, and to address the situation of pupils placed in the wrong schools.

Housing

The Ombudsperson found in September that the municipality of Vítkovice district in Ostrava significantly violated legal regulations in cases of Roma applicants for permanent residence. He raised concerns that additional administrative requirements – such as an interview with officials – for Roma when applying for permanent domicile might constitute discrimination. The NGO Zvule práva representing the Roma applicants had notified the Ombudsperson's Office and also filed a civil complaint in 2009 against the practice of the municipality. The civil case was pending at the end of the year.

  • The case of the 2006 eviction of Roma from the town of Vsetín was referred back to the Regional Court of Ostrava in October by the Appeals Court, as the Regional Court had failed to assess a large part of the evidence presented by the complainants. The Ombudsperson had stated in 2007 that the eviction amounted to a substantial violation of the right of the inhabitants to human dignity and to the protection of private and family life. Some families alleged that they were threatened with homelessness if they did not agree to the eviction. Some of the evictions were carried out at night and the alternative housing provided was reportedly inadequate.

Enforced sterilization of Romani women

Despite expressing regret over past enforced sterilizations, the government failed to implement legislative changes to ensure free, prior and informed consent for sterilizations. In October, the CEDAW Committee recommended that the government review the three-year time limit in the statute of limitation for the enforcement of compensation claims in cases of enforced sterilizations.

  • In January, the High Court in Prague awarded 200,000 Czech koruna (approximately 8,100 euros) compensation to two Romani women who underwent enforced sterilization.

Refugees' and migrants' rights

The parliament adopted an amendment to the Act on the Stay of Foreigners in December. The new legislation, extending the maximum period of immigration detention from six to 18 months, gave rise to concern.

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