Czech Republic: Inclusion of Roma should be a political priority

Strasbourg, 03/03/11 – "Deeply-rooted anti-Gypsyism and hate crimes as well as continued segregation in education and housing are the main obstacles to inclusion that Roma face in the Czech Republic. The authorities should strengthen their efforts to eradicate these problems and implement inclusive policies" said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, releasing today a report based on his visit to the Czech Republic on 17-19 November 2010.

The Commissioner is concerned by frequent racist and anti-Roma discourse among leading politicians and the media, which continue to provide a platform for anti-Gypsyism. He recommends the adoption of measures, including by promoting active self-regulation, to effectively address and eliminate racist and stigmatising speech against Roma in politics and the media. In addition, a vigorous implementation of the relevant criminal provisions must be ensured.

"In recent years strong actions have been taken against extremist groups which have committed hate crimes. It is crucial that the Czech authorities continue to deal seriously and effectively with all such crimes, especially when violence has been used. It is also very important that they pursue confidence-building measures in communities affected by particularly intense manifestations of racism and extreme right-wing activities".

In order to address the apparent under-reporting of hate crimes, the Commissioner invites the Czech authorities to establish a more flexible and victim-friendly system to report such incidents. He also notes the need for training and other awareness raising activities for those involved in the criminal justice system, from the police to prosecutors and judges.

In his report Commissioner Hammarberg recommends a coherent system of social housing and strengthened efforts to desegregate Roma localities and improve their living conditions. He also expresses concern at the fact that many Roma children continue to receive low quality education and to experience segregation in Czech schools.

"Three years after a landmark judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which found that the Czech Republic had discriminated against Roma with respect to their right to education, little has changed on the ground. It is necessary to take resolute and urgent action. Tangible progress for transfers of children from special to ordinary education and overall desegregation of the school system should be made already in the next school year."

The Commissioner welcomes the Czech government's expression of regret in November 2009 for the unlawful sterilisations of women, mainly Roma, and calls for further action to provide adequate reparation to the victims of these gross human rights violations. "It is particularly unfair that women affected by this practice are presently without an effective remedy to obtain reparation, including compensation, a situation that should be urgently remedied in line with international standards".

Lastly, he remains concerned about the high numbers of children placed in institutional care and the disproportionate representation of Roma children among them. "Children should not be put in institutional care solely on grounds related to the poor housing conditions or financial situation of their family. Priority should be given to supporting and fostering the development of the child within the family, while the institutionalisation of children should be avoided and remain the exception."

The response of the Czech authorities is attached to the report.

Read the report