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UN to Scrutinise Czech Republics Human Rights Record

29 June 2001

In written comments submitted today to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) in Geneva, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) documents that Roma in the Czech Republic continue to be the victims of a wave of racially-motivated violence and pervasive racial discrimination in virtually all spheres of public life. The comments are presented on the occasion of the Committee's examination of the Czech Republic's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) next month.

In its submission, ERRC demonstrates that the Czech government has failed to comply with its obligations under the Covenant to prevent, punish and remedy the widespread abuse systematically perpetrated against Roma, both by state authorities and by private actors. In particular, the submission highlights the following areas of concern:

As to Article 2 (requiring states to provide victims an effective remedy), notwithstanding the numerous breaches of the Covenant perpetrated against Roma in the Czech Republic, protection is lacking or ineffective, and remedies non-existent or inadequate. In the overwhelming majority of cases monitored by the ERRC, the judicial system continues to render inadequate decisions, in particular by failing to take into account racial motivation even where evidence has clearly shown that the victims were attacked only because they were Roma. As a result, countless Romani victims of human rights abuse remain without redress.

As to Articles 6 and 7 (requiring states to protect the right to life and prohibiting torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment respectively), Roma are the victims of an unchecked wave of racially-motivated violence at the hands of law enforcement authorities, skinheads and others. In 1998 alone, skinheads killed at least two Roma in the Czech Republic and violent attacks against Roma, including women and minors, continue to be reported at an alarming rate. Law enforcement authorities, meanwhile, systematically fail to provide effective protection to Roma.

As to Article 14 (requiring states to ensure that all persons are equal before the courts and tribunals), Roma are discriminated against in the judicial system, both as victims pursuing justice for violations perpetrated against them (their complaints are not adequately investigated and prosecuted), and in the capacity of defendants (they are subjected to pre-trial detention more often and for longer periods of time than non-Roma, and receive disproportionately severe sentences). As a result, the Covenant's right to equal treatment before law enforcement and judicial authorities rings hollow for Roma.

As to Article 20 (requiring states to prohibit incitement to racial discrimination, hostility or violence), in failing to acknowledge and condemn widespread anti-Roma policies, practices and attitudes, Government authorities have undertaken insufficient efforts to ensure effective implementation of legislation prohibiting dissemination of racism and incitement to racial discrimination. Prominent public officials have continued to disseminate racist speech targeting Roma, thereby encouraging racism rather than combating it.

As to Article 26 (requiring states to prohibit discrimination and guarantee equality before the law and equal protection of the law), notwithstanding Constitutional provisions guaranteeing equality, the Government has failed to ensure Roma equal protection of the law. Roma suffer widespread discrimination, amounting in some areas to racial segregation, in virtually all fields of public life, most egregiously and systematically, education, housing, employment, and access to public accommodations, while legal prohibitions against racial discrimination remain inadequate and provide for ineffective remedies. The problem of insufficient legislative provisions aimed at combating racial discrimination is further compounded by the failure to ensure effective implementation of those few legislative prohibitions which do exist.

ERRC's concerns with regard to the Czech government's compliance with the Covenant are illustrated with concrete cases providing evidence of recent and repeated violence and discrimination against Roma.

In view of the serious deficiencies addressed in the submission, ERRC recommends that the Czech government adopt a comprehensive body of legislation prohibiting discrimination in all fields of public life and providing civil, criminal and administrative remedies for breach thereof; establish an effective enforcement body empowered both legally and through the provision of adequate resources to effectively secure full compliance with the new law; abolish the practice of race-based educational segregation of Romani children in special schools; investigate promptly and impartially incidents of racially-motivated violence against Roma and duly prosecute perpetrators of such crimes, whether committed by law enforcement officers or private parties; adopt effective measures to prevent and punish manifestations of racial bias in the judicial system; conduct systematic monitoring of access of Roma and other minorities to education, housing, employment, health-care and social services, and establish a mechanism for collecting ethnic data in these fields; and at the highest levels, speak out against racial discrimination against Roma and others, and make clear that racism will not be tolerated.

The Human Rights Committee is a United Nations body charged with responsibility for overseeing compliance with the Covenant. The Covenant was ratified by the newly-formed Czech Republic by succession in 1993. Composed of eighteen internationally-recognised experts, the Committee reviews state implementation of the Covenant through a reporting procedure which obliges governments to submit reports on a periodic basis. The July session marks the first time that the Committee reviews reports submitted by the Czech government. The full text of the ERRC written comments to the HRC concerning the Czech Republic, is available on Internet at or from ERRC upon request.

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