Parliament passed anti-discrimination legislation blocked for several years by presidential opposition. Anti-Roma hate speech and marches by far-right parties and groups increased. Roma continued to be segregated in education and housing. Although the government apologized for the forced sterilization of Romani women in the past, individual complainants were refused compensation by the courts.
In March the government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek lost a vote of no confidence and was replaced in May by an interim government led by Jan Fischer.
Parliament adopted anti-discrimination legislation in June, overturning a veto by President Klaus and fulfilling obligations under the EU Race and Employment Equality Directives after several years’ delay. The new law guaranteed the right to equal treatment and banned discrimination in areas including education, employment and housing.
Discrimination – Roma
Roma faced increasingly overt public hostility, as well as segregation in schools and housing and discrimination in employment.
Attacks on Roma
In March the Supreme Administrative Court, citing insufficient evidence, rejected a government proposal to dissolve the far-right Workers’ Party, which organized vigilante patrols targeting Roma.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed concern in a report in September at mounting anti-Roma hate speech in public discourse and at repeated demonstrations by extreme right-wing groups. It recommended vigorous implementation of laws prohibiting racist violence and incitement to hatred.
- On 4 April far-right groups organized a march through the Romani district in the town of Přerov. The Workers’ Party, which initially announced the march, later distanced itself from the event. About 500 demonstrators, chanting anti-Roma slogans and joined by local inhabitants, marched through the town and the Romani neighbourhood. Around 700 police officers prevented direct attacks on Roma, but violence later broke out as demonstrators attacked riot and mounted police.
- On 18 April in the village of Vítkov, Molotov cocktails were thrown into the home of a Romani family, where Pavel Kudrik lived with his partner, four daughters and two other family members. The fire completely destroyed their home and seriously injured the parents. Their two-year-old daughter, Natálka, had burns over 80 per cent of her body, was in an induced coma for three months and in hospital for over seven months. In August the police arrested 12 suspects: four were charged in connection with the attack; eight were released without charge. The police said the suspects were supporters of far-right groups. According to Czech Television, they were supporters of the Autonomous Nationalists, an organization allegedly linked to the Workers’ Party.
- In October the police arrested eight suspects accused of attacks on Roma in Havířov in November 2008. The case was before the Regional Court in Ostrava at the end of 2009.
Two years after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Czech Republic had discriminated against Romani children by placing them in special schools, Romani children continued to be segregated. They were still over-represented in elementary schools and classes for pupils with “mild mental disabilities” or in segregated mainstream schools and classes. This was despite the Schools Act in force since 2005, which abolished the category of “special schools” for pupils with mild mental disabilities. Such classes and schools often provided inferior education.
The Czech NGO People in Need reported in February that the education system tended to exclude pupils with special educational needs. An analysis of the segregation of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, commissioned by the Ministry of Education and published in April, found that almost half of Romani pupils in elementary schools either failed their grade or were transferred to special schools.
- In April the Prague City Court rejected a complaint by Jaroslav Suchý against the Ministry of Education that he had suffered discrimination and been denied the right to education. Jaroslav Suchý said that he had been placed in a special school because of his membership of the Romani community. The Court ruled that he had not proved his case and that the placement had been justified by a psychological assessment.
- In May Valašské Meziříčí Town Council announced a plan to create special classes for Roma and non-Roma in the first grade of the local mainstream school. The proposal was presented as an attempt to address the special education needs of Romani pupils. After criticism from the Minister for Human Rights and the Ministry of Education, the Council eventually withdrew the plan.
Roma continued to experience segregation in housing. In its September report, ECRI recorded no positive developments in tackling this issue and highlighted the government’s failure to hold to account local authorities that do not fulfil housing rights.
- Z§vůle Práva, a Czech NGO that provides legal advice to Roma, brought cases against local authorities: in July alleging ethnic segregation of Roma in housing in Kladno, and in August alleging discrimination against Roma in accessing permanent residence status in the city of Ostrava.
Enforced sterilization of Romani women
There was some movement towards acknowledging responsibility for enforced sterilizations carried out in the past. In November the Prime Minister expressed regret over the illegal sterilizations, and asked the Minister of Health to report on the implementation of existing regulations that prohibited them. According to the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization, a Czech NGO, at least 100 women may have been sterilized against their will. Although most forced sterilizations were carried out in the 1970s and 1980s, the most recent reportedly occurred in 2007.
- In October the Constitutional Court dismissed a claim for financial compensation from a Romani woman who had been illegally sterilized, on the grounds that her legal action was beyond the time limit for such claims. She had received an apology from a hospital in Vitkovice after the Regional Court in Ostrava decided in 2005 that the doctors acted illegally when they carried out the sterilization without her informed consent. The Minister for Human Rights subsequently announced that the state was nevertheless obliged to take a position that reflected the non-reversible impact of sterilization on women’s lives.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In March the National Defender of Rights (Ombudsperson) reported that some psychiatric institutions continued to use restraint beds even where there was no risk to the patients or their environment. Restraint beds were in some cases included in the inventory of institutions. In September, the Ministry of Health issued a methodological guide to regulate the use of restraint techniques, including net-beds. In 2004 the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture had recommended the immediate withdrawal from service of cage-beds and the removal as soon as possible of net-beds as means for managing patients or residents in a state of agitation.
Amnesty International visits/report
- Amnesty International delegates visited the Czech Republic in February and April.
- Injustice renamed: Discrimination in education of Roma persists in Czech Republic