UN Critical on Czech Efforts on Roma

02 April 2003

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Issues Concluding Observations on Czech Republic

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) welcomes the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the compliance of the Czech Republic with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

In its Concluding Observations released at the conclusion of its 63rd Session in August 2003, the Committee stated that it "remains concerned at the continuance of acts of racially motivated violence and incitement to hatred, and the persistence of intolerance and de facto discrimination, in particular with regard to the Roma minority". The Committee recommended that the Czech government "pursue and intensify its efforts towards more effective application of existing legislation".

The Committee also expressed concerns about "allegations of racially motivated ill-treatment, ineffective protection, and discrimination against the Roma by law enforcement officials, especially the Police". Furthermore, the Committee noted that it has been "suggested that allegations of abuse by law enforcement officials are not always promptly and impartially investigated". The Committee stressed that "prompt and impartial investigations are paramount in countering discriminatory attitudes and practices". The Committee recommended that the Czech government "intensify its efforts to end such discriminatory practices". It also requested that the Czech government "include in its next periodic report statistical information on the number and nature of complaints of racial discrimination received prosecutions launched and penalties imposed".

As regards anti-discrimination legislation, in spite of "efforts of the Government to elaborate a comprehensive anti discrimination law", the Committee is concerned about "the difficulties faced during this process". The Committee encouraged the State party to "complete its efforts with regard to the comprehensive anti-discrimination law promptly and to subsequently ensure its effective enforcement".

As regards access to justice, the Committee stated that it is concerned at "continued reports that judges in criminal proceedings are reluctant to issue findings that crimes are racially motivated". The Committee expressed its regret about "the lack of information on specific cases where victims of discrimination have been afforded adequate reparation". The Committee also encouraged the Czech government to "promptly establish a legal aid system for alleged victims of racism". It further requested the government to "include in its next periodic report information on the number of persons that have benefited from legal aid and information on cases where victims have been provided adequate reparation".

As regards employment, an issue of concern for the Committee continues to be "the unemployment rate among the Roma", which "remains disproportionately high". This concern "is compounded by the information related to the practice of usury and its negative economic and social consequences for the Roma". The Committee urged the State party to "continue and intensify poverty reduction and employment programmes for the Roma, and also to consider establishing a functional loan system for socially weak sections of the population, including the Roma, as an alternative to usury".

As regards the right to housing, the Committee noted that in the short term "construction of housing units which are predominantly occupied by Roma may be successful", but stressed that in the long term, "such solutions may perpetuate segregation". The Committee further expressed its concern at "the evictions from flats or threats to evict reportedly faced by many Roma families".

The Committee encouraged the Czech government to "continue its activities in the area of research related to the problem of housing and to seek solutions promoting social integration of the Roma". As to evictions, the Committee recommended that the State party "devise measures to prevent evictions or mitigate their negative effects, in particular on the most vulnerable groups".

On education, The Committee "remains concerned, as does the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/15/Add.201 para.54), at the continued placement of a disproportionately high number of Roma children in special schools". Drawing attention upon its General Recommendation No. XXVII, the Committee urged the Czech Government to "continue and intensify the efforts to ameliorate the educational situation of the Roma through, inter alia, enrolment in mainstream schools, recruitment of school personnel from among members of Roma communities, and sensitization of teachers and other education professionals to the social fabric and world views of Roma children and those with apparent learning difficulties".

In spite of initiatives by the Czech government to combat discriminatory attitudes and practices, a matter of concern for the Committee is the "persistence of negative attitudes towards minorities and refugees, among public officials, in the media and among the general public". Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that "the judiciary, unlike the police, does not seem to benefit from sensitization and educational activities". The Committee recommended that "the State party continue and intensify its anti-racism campaigns and other efforts aimed at combating racial and ethnic stereotyping". It also recommended that the State party, "while pursuing public education campaigns, continue and diversify targeted training programs for professionals, such as the police, judges and other public officials working with the Roma and other vulnerable groups".

The full text of the United Nations Committees Concluding Observations on Czech Republic is available HERE

The ERRC submitted written comments to the Committee for consideration during its review of the Czech Republic's compliance with the ICERD on July 28, 2003, aimed at providing the Committee with information related to the segregation of Romani children in the Czech educational system.


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