Current efforts to combat prejudices against the Roma are insufficient in the Czech Republic

Press release

FIDH and LIGA welcome the recommendations put forward by the UN Committee which reviewed the Czech Republic’s compliance with ICERD

Brno, Geneva, 15 March 2007 - FIDH and LIGA welcome the recommendations put forward by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the « Committee »), which reviewed the Czech Republic’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) [1] in Geneva on 1-2 March 2007. LIGA, a prominent non-governmental organisation based in the Czech Republic and a member of FIDH, presented information to the Committee on the status of implementation of ICERD by the Czech Republic.

LIGA emphasized numerous discriminatory State practices facing the Roma community which violate the Czech Republic’s obligations under the ICERD2. LIGA reveals there are significant problems of racial segregation in education; a large majority of Roma children are being categorized as mentally handicapped, and therefore receiving a substandard level of education. The Committee expressed its deep concern that it is an issue which the State party « does not seem to fully acknowledge » recommending that the State: « develop effective programmes specifically aimed at putting an end to the segregation of Roma [and] review methodological tools used to determine the cases in which children are to be enrolled in special schools so as to avoid indirect discrimination against Roma children on the basis of their cultural identity ».

Problems of political abuse and anti-Roma sentiment during the last Czech elections were also brought to the attention of the Committee by LIGA, an issue which is exemplified by the « Vsetin case » of forced resettlement. LIGA describes in their report that shortly before elections, Roma families in the town of Vsetin were evicted from their dwellings. Due to « success » of the resettlement programme LIGA states that Mr. Cunek, the Mayor of Vsetin, was elected as the first Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Regional Development3. The Committee noted concern over « information according to which Roma people are particularly vulnerable to evictions and segregation in housing, and regrets that the State party has not taken sufficient action to tackle this issue. » The Committee further states that the Czech Republic should take measure to « ensure the right to housing to all without discrimination, whether direct or indirect, based on race, ethnic origin, including in particular at the local level ». In addition, the Committee urged the State Party to « ensure that hate speech against the Roma, by public officials or other persons, does not enjoy impunity ».

Discriminatory practices with ongoing coercive sterilizations is another priority of concern raised by LIGA. Under communism, the Czech Government sterilised Romani women programmatically, as part of policies aimed at reducing the « high, unhealthy » birth rate of Romani women. LIGA points out that these practices are still being perpetrated today. An investigation and follow-up report were conducted by the Ombudsmen in December 2005, but LIGA seeks further action on part of the Czech Government. LIGA and FIDH affirmingly have the support of the Committee which stated that « sufficient and prompt action to establish responsibilities and provide reparation to the victims » has not been taken on behalf of the State, and without further delay the State should « recognise the particular situation of Roma women in this regard [...] and take all necessary steps to facilitate victims’ access to justice and reparation ».

Racial prejudice against the Roma people was also drawn to the attention of the Committee. According to a recent opinion poll, 76% of the Czech population describe persons of Romani origin as « very unsympathetic. » Such prejudices also occur within the police force, where the employment of Roma is almost non-existent. LIGA also describes how Roma are common targets of violence by the police. The Committee suggested that the Czech Republic « significantly enhance its efforts to improve the relationship and mutual understanding between the Roma and the police, and to ensure recruitment of members of Roma into the police and other law enforcement agencies ». Finally, LIGA expressed that there was a strong need today for a national awareness-raising campaign to fight prejudices against the Roma in the Czech Republic.

In the reporting session, the Committee took into consideration the serious issues raised by LIGA. LIGA and FIDH welcome the timely submission of the report and the frank dialogue of the State Party delegation during the Committee session. Unfortunately, we note that the measures taken on behalf of the Czech Government to combat racial prejudices and discrimination against Roma people currently remain insufficient. FIDH and LIGA aspire for a stronger commitment on the part of the State, and hope the recommendations put forward by the Committee will be implemented immediately and effectively.

Link to LIGA’s Alternative Report

Link to CERD Committee’s recommendations on the Czech Republic

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