ERRC Press Statement: UN Human Rights Committee "Deeply Concerned" about the Czech Government's Treatment of Roma"


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Date: Sat, 4 Aug 2001 19:08:04 +0300 (EEST)
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Subject: ERRC Press Statement: UN Human Rights Committee "Deeply Concerned" about  the Czech Government's Treatment of Roma"

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Original sender: European Roma Rights Center <errc@errc.org>

ERRC Press Statement: UN Human Rights Committee "Deeply
Concerned" about  the Czech Government's Treatment of Roma"


UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE "DEEPLY CONCERNED" ABOUT THE CZECH
GOVERNMENT'S TREAMENT OF ROMA
 
PRESS STATEMENT – AUGUST 2, 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 Committee’s "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
http://www.errc.org/publications/legal/index.shtml, or from ERRC upon
request. Additional information on the Roma in the Czech Republic is
available at
http://www.errc.org/publications/indices/czechrepublic.shtml. 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 or on email:
vszente@errc.org
 
_____________________________________________
 
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.
 
European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
 
Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201
 
_____________________________________________
 
SUPPORT THE ERRC!

The European Roma Rights Center is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
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European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary
 
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please use office@errc.org.

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