MINELRES: Fwd: Prague Post: Czech Republic given 3 tasks to fight racism

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Sat Sep 26 13:21:21 2009

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Czech Republic given 3 tasks to fight racism
European watchdog sets wide-ranging goals in fighting intolerance

Posted: September 23, 2009

By Tom Clifford, Staff Writer

The Czech Republic must take specific measures, including educating the
police and judiciary, to combat racism, according to Europe's top
anti-discrimination body.

A report this month from the European Commission Against Racism and
Intolerance (ECRI) found that the Czech Republic must do much more to
tackle racism, its chairwoman Eva Smith Asmussen, told The Prague Post
from Denmark.

"There are three areas which we would like to see improvement on,"
Asmussen said. "First, legal aid must be introduced to allow people who
have a complaint the means to file it. At the moment, it is very hard
for anyone who has been a victim of discrimination or racism to take
their case to court. Second, apart from the legal aspect, the police,
prosecutors and judges must be better educated. On too many occasions,
they have brushed off claims of racism by saying it was just the work of
hotheads or hooligans instead of going after those responsible. And
third, we are concerned that Roma children are not getting into
mainstream education. Practical or special schools are a great idea for
those children who need it because of certain difficulties. But we see
Roma children being sent to these schools when they should really be in
mainstream schools."

The ECRI compiles 10 reports a year and is involved in 47 countries, a
cycle that means one country is normally reported on every five years -
though, in the Czech Republic's case, they will be reporting in two
years' time to monitor the implementation of the three measures.

Compiling a report means months of research and discussions with various

"We meet with government officials, NGOs, as well as minority groups and
individuals who feel they have a grievance before any report," Asmussen

Asmussen stressed that the government was cooperative in their

"Our dealings with the government were friendly and productive," she
said. "They maybe had a different perspective on some issues, but they
did not try to hide anything from us. We found them forthright and
willing in all our meetings."

Before combating racism, it is important to define just exactly what it
is, Asmussen said.

"Racism does not always have to be violent. It is basically when someone
judges themselves superior on the basis of color, creed or region. It
can manifest itself in subtle ways like ignoring someone or stepping in
front of another person in a queue. It doesn't have to be an attack by a
group of skinheads," she said.

Asmussen said that the real education against racism must come from
parents and schools.

"Young people must be taught that we all have so much in common. It is
important for children to mix," she said.

The advance of the far right in Europe, due in part to the economic
crisis and a general feeling of vulnerability among people, is a
particular concern for the ECRI.

"There is nothing wrong with nationalism as such. We all want the best
for our countries, but, when this is allied to the politics of the far
right, it becomes a dangerous cocktail," Asmussen said. "In times of
economic crisis, we know the danger is there. Europe has a history of
this, looking for scapegoats. Then, you have misguided people saying
things like they are the liberators of the country and everyone who is
different must be sent away."

Tom Clifford can be reached at tclifford@praguepost.com.


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