UN Human Rights Committee
02 August 2001
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) welcomes the Concluding Observations issued last week by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) on the Czech government's compliance with international human rights standards. Upon release of the Committee's Concluding Observations concerning the Czech Republic, Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of ERRC, stated, "The fact that a UN Committee not specialised in racial discrimination focused almost exclusively on the plight of Roma when examining the Czech government's record confirms that their treatment remains the single most disturbing human rights problem affecting that country. We expect the government to undertake urgent action to remedy the many shortcomings identified by the Committee and bring the Czech Republic into compliance with international law."
The Human Rights Committee is a United Nations body charged with responsibility for overseeing compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Covenant was ratified by the Czech Republic, as successor state to the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, 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 has reviewed a report submitted by the Czech government.
In its Concluding Observations concerning the Czech Republic, the Human Rights Committee said its was "deeply concerned about discrimination against minorities, particularly the Roma," and concluded that "[t]he steps taken by the State party to improve the conditions of the Roma do not appear to be adequate to address the situation and de facto discrimination persists." It requested the Czech government to take all necessary measures to eliminate discrimination against members of minorities, particularly the Roma, and to enhance the practical enjoyment of their rights under the Covenant," and asked to be provided with "full details on policies adopted and their results in practice."
The Committee also expressed "particular concern about the disproportionate number of Roma children who are assigned to special schools designed for mentally disabled children, which would seem to indicate the use of stereotypes in the placement decisions in contravention of [ ] the Covenant" and called upon the government to "take immediate and decisive steps" to eradicate what it termed "the segregation of Roma children in its educational system."
The Committee further noted the inadequacy of existing legislation prohibiting discrimination and requested the government to "adopt measures to ensure the effectiveness of existing legislation against discrimination" as well as to "adopt further legislation in fields not covered by the current legislation in order to ensure full compliance with [ ] the Covenant." Specific fields identified by the Committee as lacking legal protection in this regard included education, health care, housing and the provision of goods and services.
Among the Committees "principal subjects of concern and recommendations" to the Czech government were also the following:
- "the failure on the part of the police and judicial authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish hate crimes," with respect to which the Committee called upon the government to "take all necessary measures to combat racial violence and incitement, provide proper protection to Roma and other minorities, and ensure adequate investigation and prosecution of cases of racial violence and incitement to racial hatred;
- "the persistent allegations of police harassment, particularly of the Roma minority and aliens," with a corresponding recommendation to undertake "firm measures to eradicate all forms of police harassment of aliens and vulnerable minorities;"
- the fact that "complaints against police are handled by an internal police inspectorate, while criminal investigations are handled by the Interior Ministry which has overall responsibility for police," a system the Committee termed as "lack[ing] objectivity and credibility and would seem to facilitate impunity for police involved in human rights violations." The Committee requested the government to "establish an independent body with authority to receive and investigate all complaints of excessive use of force and other abuses of power by the police;"
- "the lack of independent mechanisms for monitoring the practical implementation of rights." While "welcoming the creation of the institution of the Ombudsman for investigating individual complaints,"the Committee noted that "his or her powers are limited to recommendations covering the public sector," and that "the Commissioner for Human Rights is a government official and the Council of Human Rights an advisory body" with "no mandate to deal with individual complaints relating to human rights." In view of these deficiencies, the Committee asked the government to "adopt measures to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms for implementation of Covenant rights, particularly in the area of discrimination;"
- the "apparently low level of awareness amongst the public of the provisions of the Covenant and the Optional Protocol procedure" In this regard, the Committee emphasised the obligation of the government to "publicise the provisions of the Covenant and the availability of the individual complaints mechanism provided in the Optional Protocol" as well as "the present examination of its initial report by the Committee, and, in particular, these concluding observations."
Finally, pursuant to the Committee's rules of procedure, which authorise requests for additional information on specific issues which state reports fail to adequately address, the Committee asked the Czech government to "forward information within twelve months on the implementation of the Committee's recommendations regarding [inter alia] special schools [ ] and the investigation of complaints against police officials." As to the "information concerning the remainder of [the Committee's] recommendations," it clarified that these should be included in the second periodic report, due on August 1, 2005.
ERRC submitted comprehensive written comments concerning the Czech Republic ahead of the Committee's review last month. These document 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 and demonstrate that the Czech government has failed to comply with its obligations under the Covenant to prevent, punish and remedy this widespread abuse. The full text of the ERRC written comments to the HRC concerning the Czech Republic is available on Internet at ERRC: International Advocacy , or from ERRC upon request. The Prague-based "Counselling Centre for Citizenship, Civil and Human Rights" and the Geneva-based "World Organisation Against Torture" also provided written contributions on the occasion of the Committee's review of the Czech Republic.
For details, please contact Veronika Leila Szente Goldston, Advocacy Director of ERRC at phone: + 36-1-4132200