MINELRES: ERRC: First Court Victory in Central Europe on Coercive Sterilization

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Nov 14 08:59:21 2005

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Ostrava Court Finds Violations of Dignity as a Result of Abuse by Czech

Ostrava, 11 November 2005.      
In its second hearing in the matter, the District Court in Ostrava today
indicated that it would find violations of law concerning the coercive
sterilization of Ms. Helena Ferencikova by Czech medical practitioners
in 2001. Once issued in writing, the decision will be the first finding
by any court in Central and Eastern Europe of violations of law
concerning the coercive sterilization of Romani women.

On October 10, 2001, Ms. Ferencikova gave birth in the Vitkovicka
hospital in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava to her second child, a son
named Jan.  The child was born at 4:45 AM, by caesarean section birth.
Ms. Ferencikova's first child had also been born via caesarean section.

At the time of her second birth, Ms. Ferencikova was also sterilized by 
tubal ligation. Although her files indicate that "the patient requests
to be sterilised", procedures set out under Czech and international law
to ensure that, for the extremely invasive and in most cases
irreversible sterilisation procedure, consent must meet the standard of
full and informed, were not followed by doctors at the Vitkovicka
hospital.  Although it had been foreseen well in advance of labour that
she would give birth by caesarean section, Ms. Ferencikova's "consent"
to the sterilisation was apparently secured by doctors several minutes
before the operation, and when she was already deep in labour. As a
result, Ms. Ferencikova emerged from her second birth traumatised and
irrevocably harmed by the doctors to which she had entrusted herself for

The humiliating treatment Ms. Ferencikova suffered is similar to that of
countless other Romani women in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in
Central Europe, where as a result of fundamental contempt for Romani
women and their ability to make informed choices about matters related
to their own bodies, doctors and social workers have, for at least the
past three decades, routinely and regularly overrided their free will as
individuals and subjected them to debasing bodily invasion, with
irrevocable consequences. These specific practices targeting Romani
women are made possible by a general culture of paternalism among
medical practitioners in the region, resulting in threats of abuses of
fundamental human rights to any persons entering medical care.

Because she was unwilling to submit to this humiliation, Ms. Ferencikova
first joined complaints to the Czech Public Defender of Rights
("Ombudsman") facilitated by the organisations European Roma Rights
Centre, League of Human Rights and Life Together. In March of this year,
represented by human rights advocate Michaela Tomisova retained by the
ERRC and the League of Human Rights, Ms. Ferencikova brought suit at the
District Court in Ostrava, alleging that her fundamental rights to
dignity and bodily integrity had been violated. In the same month, Ms.
Ferencikova was elected spokesperson of a victim group of approximately
25 Romani women in the Ostrava area who have been subjected to coercive
sterilisation by Czech doctors.

Ruling today, the District Court in Ostrava for the first time anywhere
in Central Europe recognised the validity of their claims for justice.
Written decision in the case is pending.

Further information is available at:

Michaela Tomisova: ++ 420 73 795 13 23
Helena Ferencikova (via Kumar Vishwanathan, Life Together): ++ 420 77 77
60 191
Jiri Kopal (League of Human Rights): ++ 420 60 87 19 535
Claude Cahn (ERRC): ++ 36 20 98 36 445

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organization engaging in a range of activities aimed at
combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in
particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and
policy development, and training of Romani activists. For more
information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC
website at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel.: ++ (36 1) 413 2200
Fax: ++ (36 1) 413 2201
E-mail: office@errc.org

The League of Human Rights is a non-governmental organisation providing
free legal and psychological assistance to victims of gross human rights
violations, in particular to members of the Roma minority, victims of
domestic violence and children. Its mission is to create a future in
which the Czech state actively protects the human rights of its
citizenry and respects both the spirit and the letter of the
international human rights conventions to which it is signatory.

League of Human Rights
Bratislavska 31
602 00 Brno
Czech Republic
Tel.: + 420 545 210 446
Fax: + 420 545 240 012

Life Together is a Czech Romani organisation fighting social exclusion
and marginalisation in the Ostrava region of the Czech Republic, as well
as strengthening Czech-Roma mutual confidence and co-operation.

Life Together
30. Dubna 3
Ostrava 70200
Czech Republic
Tel: ++ 420 77 77 60 191

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