ERRC written comments concerning the Czech Republic to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

02 March 1998

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation, which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, this week submitted written comments concerning the Czech Republic for consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), at its 52nd Session on 6 and 9 March, 1998 in Geneva. CERD, the United Nations organ monitoring compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, considers reports from member states on a regular basis. The upcoming session marks the first time the CERD will review developments in the Czech Republic since the dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia in 1993.

To date, efforts undertaken by the government of the Czech Republic have been insufficient to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention's main provisions. A summary of the comments presented to the CERD Committee by the ERRC follows:

Twenty-nine years after the Convention's entry into force in the territory of the Czech Republic, discrimination against Roma remains widespread, and the government has yet to enact legislation or administrative regulations expressly prohibiting racial discrimination. Accordingly, notwithstanding the existence of constitutional provisions, and criminal code sections directed primarily against racist speech and propaganda, victims of racial discrimination have no effective civil or criminal remedies available to them for acts of discrimination as such. "Clean" criminal record and residency requirements have rendered the 1993 Czech Citizenship law susceptible to arbitrary and discriminatory application with respect to Roma. As a result, large numbers of Roma have been denied access to citizenship, deprived of voting rights and social benefits, and -- for those convicted of crimes -- put at risk of expulsion from the country.

Prominent public officials have continued to disseminate racist hate speech, suggesting, among other things, that Roma must be housed in separate areas, preferably, outside the Czech Republic.

The Czech government has failed to ensure Roma and other racial minorities equal protection of the law. Roma suffer widespread discrimination in the justice system, and are the victims of an unchecked wave of violence at the hands of law enforcement authorities, skinheads, and others. Notwithstanding the routine practice of denying Roma admission to restaurants, pubs and similar establishments, the government has yet to secure by law the right of access on a non-discriminatory basis to public accommodations. Educational discrimination is particularly egregious, with grossly disproportionate numbers of Roma children 15 times more than the numbers of white children, according to recent statistics -- assigned to dead-end special schools for students branded "intellectually deficient". Roma experience large-scale discrimination in employment, and existing legal protections are ineffective.

In view of these deficiencies, the ERRC makes the following recommendations: the government should adopt and implement legislation expressly outlawing acts of racial discrimination and providing for civil, criminal and administrative remedies; abolish the practice of race-based educational segregation; adopt effective measures to prevent and punish manifestations of racial bias in the justice system; and intensify efforts to promote racial tolerance, in part through the conduct of educational and media campaigns to familiarise the public with the Convention and its standards.

Copies of the submission are available from ERRC upon request.


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