Zpět Czech Republic: systemic change needed to address long-standing human rights issues for Roma and persons with disabilities

Country visit report

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published today the report following her visit to the Czech Republic in February 2023, with recommendations mainly focusing on the human rights of Roma and of persons with disabilities. The report also addresses the overall framework for human rights protection, measures to combat violence against women, and the situation of LGBTI people.

Tangible progress in the advancement of the rights of Roma has by and large been lacking, and a redoubling of efforts is crucial to create a real breakthrough.

The establishment of a compensation mechanism for persons subjected to forced sterilisation was a crucial step in providing victims with a measure of long-awaited justice. However, to be effective, its implementation requires change, including in regard of the provision of medical evidence and the burden of proof imposed on victims.

A paradigm shift away from exclusionary testing practices is necessary to tackle the persisting discrimination of Roma children in education, also in view of the execution of the D.H and Others judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The authorities should develop a comprehensive desegregation strategy, and better support and promote existing good practices. Ensuring continued adequate individualised support is crucial for the inclusion of both Roma children and children with disabilities in mainstream education.

Further efforts are needed to address discrimination of Roma in housing, the labour market, and their interaction with the police. Despite the extraordinary efforts made by the Czech authorities and society in hosting Ukrainian refugees, the equal access to protection and support for Ukrainian Roma is a point of concern.

To effectively realise the right of persons with disabilities to live independently in the community, concerted action is needed to replace institutional social and health care services with community-based ones. Investment in the construction and refurbishment of institutions must be halted and a clear deinstitutionalisation agenda should be adopted. Persons with disabilities must also be provided with adequate financial means to enable them to live independently.

In addition, a systemic change towards the provision of health care on the basis of free and informed consent is necessary, and effective access to justice in all cases related to involuntary placement in institutions, or involuntary treatment, must be guaranteed. Legislation must be amended to guarantee the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.

The authorities must give the utmost priority to combating ill-treatment of persons with disabilities in institutions, with several shocking cases having come to light in recent years. Deinstitutionalisation is key to structurally addressing the inherent risk of ill-treatment in institutional settings.

In relation to other issues, the report notes that the overall system of human rights protection in the Czech Republic can be further strengthened by designating a National Human Rights Institution and a Children’s Ombudsman.

The Istanbul Convention should also finally be ratified to effectively combat violence against women and domestic violence, and a definition of rape entirely based on the absence of free consent should be adopted.

Regarding LGBTI people, the current procedure for legal gender recognition, which requires a surgical intervention, clearly violates human rights and must be reformed urgently. The introduction of equal marriage would be a welcome step to remedy current gaps in the protection of the relationships of same-sex couples.

Strasbourg 26/09/2023
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