Czech Report on Coercive Sterilisation of Romani Women Published in English Translation
14 March 2006
Civil Society Organisations Throughout Europe Urge Government Follow-Up
On Friday of last week, the Czech Public Defender of Rights ("Ombudsman") made public an English-language translation of his December 2005 report on investigations into allegations of the coercive sterilisation of Romani women in the Czech Republic. On the occasion of the release of the English-language version of the report, civil society organisations throughout the EU urge Czech policy- and law-makers to undertake measures to ensure that all issues in the report are adequately addressed. Moreover, in light of the historic resolution on the Roma passed by the European Parliament in April of last year, these organisations also call for debate at European level in order to raise awareness of the issues of informed consent and coercive sterilisation of Romani women.
The December 2005 report, "Final Statement of the Public Defender of Rights in the Matter of Sterilisations Performed in Contravention of the Law and Proposed Remedial Measures", is the result of more than a year of research by the Ombudsman and his staff, on the basis of complaints brought by women coercively sterilised by Czech doctors. The overwhelming majority of the victims are Romani. During the course of his research, the Ombudsman filed a number of criminal complaints in connection with cases brought to his attention.
The Ombudsman's investigations followed discussions between the Ombudsman and the European Roma Rights Centre (Budapest), the League of Human Rights (Prague/Brno), Life Together (Ostrava) and the Group of Women Harmed by Sterilisation (Ostrava). The report concluded that "The Public Defender of Rights believes that the problem of sexual sterilisation carried out in the Czech Republic, either with improper motivation or illegally, exists, and that Czech society stands before the task of coming to terms with this fact."
The report brings detailed recommendations to Czech law- and policy-makers, as well as to other stakeholders, aimed at bringing about systemic changes in this area, as well as bringing just remedy to the victims. Among other recommendations, a compensation mechanism is proposed for certain categories of victims. The full text of the Ombudsman's report is available HERE.
Despite the elapse of more than two months since the release of the Ombudsman's report, the Czech government has offered no indication to the public as to how or when it intends to implement the measures proposed by the Ombudsman. Public officials have yet to undertake the simple act of a public apology.
Civil society partners recommend the following:
- The Prime Minister should issue, as a "Decision of Government", a public apology to the victims of the practices described in the Ombudsman Report.
- The Czech Legislature should act without delay to adopt the legislative changes necessary to establish the criteria for informed consent in the context of sterilisation set out in the recommendations of the Ombudsman Report (Recommendations Section A – "Legislative measures").
- The Ministry of Health should act without delay to implement in full the recommendations on "Methodological measures" set out in section B of the Ombudsman Report.
- The Czech Legislature should act without delay to establish by law the compensation mechanism proposed in the Ombudsman Report (Recommendations Section C – "Reparation measures").
- The Czech government should establish a fund to assist victims of coercive sterilisation in bringing claims under the compensation mechanism or, where relevant, before courts of law, such that all victims of coercive sterilisation practices have access to justice. Such a fund should be able to: (i) provide compensatory damages to victims, in such cases where the mechanism established pursuant to the Ombudsman Report may not be able to; (ii) support the work of advocates in bringing claims to court; (iii) where relevant, ensure payment of court fees and other relevant costs arising in the course of establishing coercive sterilisation claims before courts of law and/or other instances.
- The Czech government should seek, in cooperation with the Council of Europe, legal opinion as to the best method for providing compensation to victims of coercive sterilisation practices during the period post-1991 (i.e. those not necessary covered by the measures included in Recommendations Section C – "Reparation measures"), but possibly beyond relevant statutes of limitations, such that the Czech government is in full compliance with its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and other relevant international law.
- That in cases in which hospital records of relevance to establishing claims of coercive sterilisation have been destroyed, the government should make public criteria by which individuals shall establish the veracity of claims for compensation for practices of coercive sterilisation.
- Within the limits of the powers available to his office, the General Prosecutor should monitor investigative proceedings in the matter of criminal complaints filed in the course of the Ombudsman's investigation into these practices, and report to the public the findings of these investigations.
- The Czech government should make financial assistance available to women who have been coercively sterilised, such that they might undertake artificial insemination measures, should they so choose;
- The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs raise with the Slovak Government the issue of compensation for persons who are currently Czech citizens but who have been coercively sterilised in the Slovak Republic.
Michaela Tomisova (legal representative of the victims): ++ 420 73 795 13 23
Kumar Vishwanathan, (Life Together): ++ 420 77 77 60 191
Gwendolyn Albert (League of Human Rights) ++ 420 777 621 227
Claude Cahn (ERRC): ++ 36 20 98 36 445
Association Européenne pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (AEDH) ++32(0)22096384