Commissioner for Human Rights calls for a ‘breakthrough’ to end Roma exclusion in the Czech Republic

28 February 2023

By Bernard Rorke

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has taken issue with 20 years of persistent anti-Roma discrimination in the Czech Republic; highlighted the unequal treatment of Romani refugees fleeing Ukraine since the Russian invasion one year ago; and called on the Czech authorities to ensure that victims of forced sterilization are “not further humiliated and traumatized.”

At the end of her five-day visit, Commissioner Dunja Mijatović stated that, “The Czech Republic should spare no effort to address the long-standing problem of the exclusion of Roma people and people with disabilities, and to ensure that they can live in equality and dignity.” 

Despite the focus of the Council of Europe on these issues for two decades, Mijatović stated that “while there have been some positive developments, I am concerned at the persistence of many of the same problems of discrimination and exclusion that each of my predecessors identified.” She noted that Roma continue to face discrimination in virtually every area of life, including their interactions with the police; and that the deep-rooted anti-Roma prejudices that exist in Czech society became evident in the very different treatment meted out to Ukrainian Roma compared to other Ukrainian refugees.

The Commissioner met with Romani victims of forced sterilisation and called for a quick resolution to all the ongoing problems many face in accessing the compensation mechanism. She reminded the Czech Republic of how important it is in tackling this historical injustice “to now get this right to ensure victims are not further humiliated and traumatised.” 

On the issue of inclusive education, the Commissioner expressed her concerns at the lack of progress and the failure of continuing efforts to refine testing tools to prevent Romani children from being diverted into lower quality or separate education. “A real paradigm shift is necessary to move away from the focus on testing, since this still acts as a tool of exclusion in the education system”, the Commissioner stated.

On the issue of large-scale state institutions for those with disabilities, she called for a redoubling of efforts to deinstitutionalise the social and health care systems and to fully move to community-based support for people with disabilities. 

The Commissioner said that despite the strategies and action plans, there continued to be a fragmentation of responsibilities, both at the central government level and between the state and the regional and municipal authorities; and that for Czech society to become more inclusive, good ideas and intentions “need proper implementation and enforcement. Unfortunately, an important gap still exists here.”



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