MINELRES: ERRC: UN Racial Discrimination Supervision Body Convenes to Assess Czech Republic's Compliance with International Law

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Mar 5 08:37:05 2007


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


Advocates Report on Roma Rights Concerns

Budapest, Ostrava, March 1, 2007. The United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination has reviewed today Czech Republic's
compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). In advance of today's hearing,
the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), acting in cooperation with the
Ostrava-based civic organisation Vzajemne Souziti, submitted written
comments on racial discrimination concerns with regard to Roma in the
Czech Republic. Systematic monitoring of the overall human rights
situation of Romani communities in the Czech Republic as well as recent
targeted research carried out by the ERRC/Vzajemne Souziti indicate that
government compliance with the ICERD is seriously flawed, among other
things due to: 

Failure to give effect to the international ban on racial
discrimination;     

Persistent racial segregation of Roma, especially in the fields of
housing and education; 
Failure to act upon recommendations by the Czech Ombudsman and the UN
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
with regard to practices of coercive sterilisation affecting Romani
women; 
Systematic discriminatory practice of removing Romani children from the
care of their biological parents and placing them in state care. 
The ERRC/Vzajemne Souziti submission elaborates the following concerns: 

The government has not complied with its obligations under international
race discrimination law to "prohibit and bring to an end, by all
appropriate means, including legislation [] racial discrimination." The
Czech legislature has yet to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination
law and most of the sectoral fields of the ICERD Convention remain to
date unprotected by any form of actionable domestic law ban on racial
discrimination. In practice, Roma in the Czech Republic are regularly
subjected to discrimination in almost all aspects of their lives. 

The submitting organisations are concerned that the government of the
Czech Republic has failed to prevent, prohibit, and eradicate the racial
segregation of Roma.  This is especially evident in the field of
education, where officials consistently deny equal access to Romani
children, placing them in alarming numbers in segregated, substandard
schools and classes.  In addition to the inherent harms flowing from
this practice, the racial segregation of Romani children in the Czech
school system virtually ensures that Roma will remain, for the
foreseeable future, a systemically excluded underclass.  Additionally, a
growing number of Roma live in socially excluded locations characterised
by substandard conditions on the edges of towns, segregated from the
rest of the population. Recent acts by a number of local officials in
the Czech Republic have worsened this situation in a number of
municipalities, and no acts of the national government have been
effective in countering racially segregating forces in the field of
housing.

Anti-Romani hate speech is a regular part of public discourse in the
Czech Republic. Anti-Romani statements are a standard and often
unquestioned part of public life, and officials as high-ranking as the
Prime Minister and President, and also including local officials, have
made anti-Romani statements or otherwise undertaken speech acts
denigrating the dignity of Roma. Individuals are rarely if ever held
accountable in cases in which anti-Romani statements are at issue. 

Key sectoral fields covered by the international law ban on
discrimination are infused with systemic discrimination against Roma.
This submission notes a number of concerns in social and economic
sectoral fields including education, employment, housing, health care,
social assistance and child protection. Furthermore, authorities
continue to fail to provide Roma and human rights defenders with
adequate protection against racially motivated violence perpetrated by
members and sympathisers of nationalist-extremist movements and other
vigilante groups. 

Finally, research by independent human rights groups including the ERRC
and Vzajemne Souziti has revealed that Romani women have been subjected
to coercive sterilisation in Czech hospitals for decades and as recently
as 2004.  In December 2005, the Czech Ombudsman concluded that "the
problem of sexual sterilisation carried out in the Czech Republic either
with improper motivation or illegally, exists, and Czech society has to
come to terms with this". One year since the publication of the Czech
Ombudsman's Final Statement and half-year since the CEDAW
Recommendations, no high-level authority in the Czech Republic has made
any public pronouncement on the matter. There is no indication that any
governmental authority intends to act with the urgency required - if at
all -- on these or any other recommendations existing on this issue.

As the substance of the submission elaborates, the ICERD Convention's
guarantee that "States Parties shall assure to everyone within their
jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent
national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of
racial discrimination which violate his human rights and fundamental
freedoms contrary to this Convention, as well as the right to seek from
such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any
damage suffered as a result of such discrimination" currently rings
hollow for Roma in the Czech Republic. In the year 2006, there is near
total impunity for racial discrimination against Roma, as well as for
those who would frustrate Roma in their efforts to realise the
Convention's substantive provisions.

The submission concludes with recommendations for the Czech government,
intended to assist the Committee in bringing concluding observations
with respect to the Czech Republic's compliance with the ICERD.

The full text of the ERRC/Vzajemne Souziti submission to the UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discirmination is available at:
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2129 . 

--------------------------------------------------------

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org 

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
Tel: +36.1.413.2200
Fax:
+36.1.413.2201

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