Roma continued to suffer discrimination at the hands of public officials and private individuals. There were continuing reports of police ill-treatment.

Discrimination against Roma

Roma continued to face discrimination in employment, housing and education. They also suffered frequent violent attacks by racist individuals.


Discriminatory practices in public and private rental markets meant that in practice Roma could frequently not obtain housing, even if they were able to present financial guarantees, and as a result lived in segregated substandard housing. Ostensibly neutral eligibility requirements, such as an adequate education level for all members of the family applying for housing, disproportionately affected Roma whose level of education was often lower than that of ethnic Czechs.

  • In June, the municipality in the northern town of Bohumin issued eviction orders to the predominantly Romani residents of a hostel that it decided to convert into flats. The municipality offered no feasible plan to provide the low-income residents with alternative accommodation. Instead, it proposed to segregate the men from the women and children, and move them into a shelter for single mothers. Most of the residents left, while the remaining 15 appealed against the eviction orders. By November a regional court had ordered them to leave the hostel, without instructing the authorities to provide alternative accommodation. They appealed, and pending a decision, the town authorities were prohibited from evicting them.


In May the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg decided to admit a complaint filed by 18 schoolchildren of Romani origin against the Czech Republic. The complaint alleged racial discrimination in education. The applicants claimed that their placement in "special schools" for mentally disabled children on the basis of their ethnic origin constituted racial discrimination and contravened international human rights principles.

Police ill-treatment

Reports of ill-treatment by the police continued, particularly of Roma, but also of other vulnerable groups, such as homeless people, people with substance abuse problems and foreigners. There was no mechanism, totally independent from the Interior Ministry, for investigating complaints about the actions of law enforcement officials.

  • The League of Human Rights, a local non-governmental organization, reported that on 1 February an 18-year-old Roma youth, R.B., was assaulted by municipal police in the city of Krupka. He was stopped on the street by the police and taken in a patrol car to a bar where he had allegedly earlier broken a window. He was reportedly kicked in the body and head in front of several witnesses, and required treatment for extensive injuries. The League of Human Rights filed a complaint on behalf of R.B. with the state police but, despite witness testimonies, the case was closed.
  • On 20 April, brothers Jan M. and Jozef M., both minors, were reportedly ill-treated after being taken into custody by police in a Prague street on suspicion of illegally pasting posters. In the car, Jan M. was hit by a policeman. At the police station in Prague 3 (Uiûkov), the boys were made to strip naked and do push-ups in front of three policemen. During the interrogation, Jan M. was reportedly hit on the head so hard that his ear and nose bled and he had concussion. Relying on the testimony of the three policemen and despite a medical report on one of the youngsters, the case was not taken forward by the Inspectorate of the Interior Ministry. The League of Human Rights appealed against the decision of the inspectorate and, as of November, the case was under investigation by the state attorney.
  • On 30 July police intervened to disperse some 5,000 people gathered in a field near the village of Mlýnec, West Bohemia, for a music festival known as "CzechTek", which was allegedly unauthorized and causing damage to private property. Police in riot gear reportedly shot tear gas grenades and used water cannons to end the festival. More than 80 people were injured, and around 20 members of the public and five police officers sought medical attention. In November, the Ombudsman's office stated that the intervention was legal but that police failed to take adequate preventive measures that might have helped to avoid the later use of force.

Mental health issues

Despite the banning of cage beds in psychiatric institutions under the Ministry of Health, their use was still permitted in social care centres under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. These centres housed children and adults with mental disabilities and people with substance abuse problems.

In May, parliament adopted an amendment to the law on social care on the use of restraint in all social care institutions, including cage beds. Regularization of restraint use was cited as the objective of the law, although in fact it legalized the use of restraints. The amendment allows employees of social care homes who are not qualified physicians to make decisions regarding restraint use. Moreover, the amendment does not provide for supervision of the restraint order, time limits on restraint, or a complaint mechanism for victims.

Forced sterilization of women

In late 2004, the Ministry of Health established a panel to review the files of alleged victims of forced sterilization, to facilitate investigation of the issue and to respond to queries from the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman was conducting an independent investigation into approximately 80 complaints against hospitals that allegedly sterilized women without their informed consent. In December, the Ombudsman produced a final report, stating that in most cases of forced sterilization, women were not able to give informed consent because they did not understand the procedure, because of lack of time (sometimes the procedure was carried out within a few minutes of their agreeing to it, or after labour had started) or because of misleading information on the part of hospital personnel about the nature and consequences of the sterilization procedure. A number of these cases were transferred to the state attorney and the police for investigation.

  • The Group of Women Harmed by Sterilization, a victim advocacy group, lodged formal complaints in cases of Romani women sterilized under coercion.

In November, the Ostrava District Court indicated that it would uphold the complaint of Helena Ferencikova, who was sterilized in an Ostrava hospital in 2001 while giving birth to her second child by caesarean section. The court was expected to rule that, in violation of the rules on informed consent, the doctors secured her consent when she was deep in labour and did not fully understand the consequences of her actions.

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