Roma segregation remains a serious problem in the Czech Republic

Prague, 15/11/2012 - “The “practical schools” in the Czech Republic perpetuate segregation of Roma children, inequality and racism. They should be phased out and replaced by mainstream schools that need to be properly prepared to host and provide support to all pupils, irrespective of their ethnic origin. There are certain examples in the country that show the feasibility of this necessary paradigm shift, which will require the government’s political will and sustained commitment”, stated the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, after his four-day visit to the Czech Republic.

The Commissioner visited an elementary school in Kladno, near Prague, which has a capacity of 309 pupils but currently hosts only 93 Roma schoolchildren. “This big school is an example of the ethnically segregated practical schools for which the Czech state spends more than double the expenditure ofmainstream schools, while their graduates as a rule end up unemployed and dependent on state benefits”. Commissioner Muižnieks regretted that five years after the D.H. judgment by the Strasbourg Court’s Grand Chamber, the violations found therein have not been redressed. “I urge the Czech government to provide a realistic budget, concrete timeline and indicators in order to bring to an end the vicious circle of segregated education that affects Roma children and costs the whole country so much , both financially and socially. The commitment expressed by the Ministry of Education to fully execute the D.H. judgment and provide quality education to Roma is promising and needs to be fully supported”.

Commissioner Muižnieks welcomed the Interior Ministry’s ongoing efforts to enhance pluralism and participation of members of national minorities, including Roma, in the Czech police forces. “I was interested to learn that seven more Roma graduates are expected to earn their degrees next year from the police academy, and that there is cooperation of the police with a group of Roma assistants. These are trust-building measures and good practices that reinforce social cohesion and harmonious inter-ethnic relations, so much needed in a country where incidents of racist violence and intolerance are far from uncommon”. The Commissioner was also pleased to note that the Czech Republic will soon accede to the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.

During his visit Commissioner Muižnieks also visited the psychiatric hospital of Bohnice, the largest such institution in the country accommodating some1 300 patients, and held discussions with experts on the human rights of persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities. “The judgments delivered by the Strasbourg Court in the cases of Ťupa and Bureš in 2011 and 2012, as well as my discussions with experts, make clear the need to overhaul and transform psychiatric care in the Czech Republic. Promoting de-institutionalisation, fully protecting persons with disabilities from involuntary hospitalisation through effective judicial review, and preventing and eliminating ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty are priority tasks”.

The Commissioner noted that each year in the Czech Republic around 2 000 persons are stripped of their legal capacity. “New legislation that will enter into force in 2014 appears to be a step in the right direction, providing for abolition of full deprivation of legal capacity and the review by courts of around 22 000 such cases. However, this is a herculean challenge that requires sustained efforts to properly train and inform all legal and other professionals who will be called upon to apply the new law and give effect to the standards contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a key human rights treaty that binds the Czech Republic. In this context, the government needs to consult and make full use of the valuable expertise of specialist national non-governmental organisations”.

The Commissioner’s report on this visit is forthcoming.

Read earlier reports on the Czech Republic here

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Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37 ;

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