A. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions of their choice without authorization or excessive requirements. It permits them to conduct their activities without interference. The right to associate freely covers both citizens and foreign workers, but the latter generally did not join unions due to the often short-term nature of their employment or the lack of social interaction with employees who were citizens.
The law provides for collective bargaining. It prohibits antiunion discrimination and does not recognize union activity as a valid reason for dismissal. Workers in most occupations have the legal right to strike if mediation efforts fail, and they generally exercised this right.
Strikes can be restricted or prohibited in essential service sectors, including hospitals, electricity and water supply services, air traffic control, nuclear energy, and the oil and natural gas sector. Members of the armed forces, prosecutors, and judges may not form or join trade unions or strike. The scope for collective bargaining was limited for civil servants, whose wages were regulated by law. Only trade unions may legally represent workers, including nonmembers. When planning a strike, unions are required to inform employers in writing of the number of strikers and provide a list of the members of the strike committee or contact persons for negotiation. They must announce the strike at least three days in advance. While regulations entitle union members to conduct some union activities during work hours, they do not specify how much time workers may use for this purpose, leaving room for diverse interpretations on the part of employers.
The law protects union officials from dismissal by an employer during their term of union service and for 12 months after its completion. To dismiss a union official, an employer must seek prior consent from the employee’s unit within the union. If the union does not consent, a dismissal notice is invalid.
The government worked to enforce such laws effectively and permitted unions to conduct their activities without interference. Government resources for inspections and remediation were adequate, and legal penalties in the form of fines were sufficient to deter violations.
The Czech-Moravian Federation of Trade Unions (CMKOS) complained that, under the law, employers are not required to consult with unions on matters related to individual employees or to seek mutual agreement on some workplace problems, hurting the ability of employees of small enterprises to maintain union rights.
According to CMKOS, employer violations of the labor law and trade union rules continued during the year, following the trend of the previous several years. CMKOS reported a number of violations and cases of discrimination and unequal treatment, including employers raising administrative obstacles to collective bargaining; making unauthorized, unilateral wage changes; and threatening to dismiss employees who asserted their union rights, refused to terminate union activities, or attempted to form unions. Sometimes, employers formed “yellow,” employer-dominated trade unions to thwart collective bargaining by splitting unity and capacity of action of employees.
According to CMKOS, some employers forced employees to work without a regular work agreement during a “trial period,” paying them only a minimum wage with the remaining amount provided “under the table” or not paying wages on time in violation of the labor law. Nevertheless, proving a violation of the law was difficult. Employees, union as well as nonunion, were often unwilling to file formal complaints or testify against their employers due to fear of losing their jobs, having their wages reduced, or being moved to positions with poorer working conditions, regardless of the positive macroeconomics situation which includes low unemployment and a labor shortage. Employees would usually file complaints only if the employer stopped paying wages, their jobs were immediately threatened, or after a job loss.
CMKOS still reported cases of employers not allowing union members sufficient paid time off to fulfill their union responsibilities or pressuring union members to resign their employment to weaken the local union unit. There were cases of bullying of union officials, including unreasonable performance evaluation criteria, excessive monitoring of work performance, and being targeted for disciplinary action or reduced financial compensation based solely on union participation.
During the year labor unions most frequently used strike alerts and strikes to advance their goals. Strikes and strike alerts targeted wages, obstacles in collective bargaining, excessive overtime, premium pay for overtime, concerns about the closure of a business without a follow-on social program, including reasonable compensation for disadvantaged employees such as single parent employees, or intended layoffs.
B. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. In the previous few years, inspections were more numerous and enforcing the law was more effective.
The government implemented legislation tightening regulation of potentially abusive labor agencies by raising requirements to enter the labor agency business, levying fines for illegal employment, and establishing limits on temporary employment of foreign nationals. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. Penalties for violations were sufficient to deter violations.
There were reports that men and women, including migrant workers, were subjected to trafficking for forced labor, typically through debt bondage. The Ministry of Interior reported seven victims of forced labor in the first eight months of the year. Private labor agencies often used deceptive practices to recruit workers from abroad as well as from inside the country.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
C. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum age for employment is 15. Employment of children between the ages of 15 and 18 was subject to strict safety standards, limitations on hours of work, and the requirement that work not interfere with education.
The law permits children under 15 (or until completion of mandatory elementary education) to work only in certain areas: cultural and artistic activities, advertising, product promotion, and certain modelling and sport activities. A child under 15 may work only if he or she obtains a positive health assessment from a pediatrician and prior approval by the Labor Office. Work permits for children are issued for 12 months. The State Bureau for Labor Inspections (SBLI) effectively enforced these regulations. Penalties for infringement of these laws and regulations were sufficient to deter violations. During the year the SBLI did not report any child labor law violations.
D. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
Labor laws and regulations prohibit any kind of discrimination based on nationality, race, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, disability, HIV-positive status or presence of other communicable diseases, social status, or trade union membership. According to the 2015 analysis of socially excluded localities in the country conducted by the Gabal Analysis Company, unemployment within the Roma community was high, especially in socially excluded localities where it amounted to 80-85 percent. In the rest of the country, Romani unemployment was 39 percent, while among the non-Roma the rate was 3.3 percent.
In 2016 the SBLI conducted checks for unequal treatment and discrimination and imposed penalties violations of discrimination laws, mostly noncompliance with the requirement to employ a specific number of persons with disabilities, discrimination based on gender and age, or the publication of discriminatory job advertisements that were sufficient to deter violations. According to CMKOS, cases of labor discrimination usually involved gender pay gaps.
In 2016 women made up 44 percent of the nonagricultural workforce. Women’s salaries lagged behind those of men by approximately 24 percent.
Associations supporting HIV-positive individuals reported cases of discrimination. HIV-positive individuals are not legally obligated to report their diagnoses to their employer unless the diagnosis prevents them from executing their duties. Some employers dismissed HIV-positive employees due to prejudices of other employees. To avoid accusations of discrimination, employers justified such dismissals on administrative grounds, such as redundancy.
The government generally enforced the antidiscrimination laws involving employment effectively. According to the ombudsman’s report, discrimination occurred in job advertisements, which mentioned criteria such as age, gender, physical disability, and nationality. Employees were often unwilling to file formal complaints or testify against their employers due to fear of losing their jobs, having their wages reduced, or being transferred to positions with poorer working conditions.
E. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs establishes and enforces minimum wage standards. The minimum wage is above the “minimum subsistence cost,” which is defined as the minimum amount needed to satisfy the basic needs of a working-age adult for a month. Enforcement of the minimum wage was one of the primary objectives of SBLI inspections.
The law provides for a 40-hour workweek, two days of rest per week, and a break of at least 30 minutes during the standard eight-hour workday. Employees are entitled to at least 20 days of paid annual leave. Employers may require up to eight hours per week of overtime to meet increased demand but not more than 150 hours of overtime in a calendar year. Additional overtime is subject to the consent of the employee. The labor code requires premium pay for overtime that is equal to at least 125 percent of average earnings.
The government set occupational health and safety standards, which were appropriate for the country’s main industries. The labor code obliges an employer to provide safety and health protection in the workplace, maintain a safe and healthy work environment, and prevent health and safety risks.
SBLI inspectors conducted checks for compliance with the labor code and imposed penalties that were sufficient to deter violations. SBLI’s labor inspection plan focused on sectors where there were typically high-risk working conditions, such as construction, agriculture, and forestry.
The SBLI is responsible for combating illegal employment. Labor inspectors prioritized inspections for illicit employment in those sectors that were especially vulnerable to illegal employment, such as the lodging/catering, retail, warehousing and logistic centers, agricultural, forestry, and construction industries. Inspectors conducted numerous inspections in selected, seasonal businesses, including outdoor swimming parks, ski resorts, gasoline stations, and service stations. To strengthen the effectiveness of inspections, SBLI inspectors acted in conjunction with the Labor Office, the Social Insurance Bureau, the Licensing Office, foreign police, the Customs Office, and police.
Employers sometimes ignored standard work conditions requirements in situations involving migrant workers. More than 90 percent of migrant workers were Ukrainians, followed by Moldovans and Vietnamese. Migrant workers were most frequently employed in the construction industry and forestry. Many worked in the so-called shadow economy with no work permits and often faced hazardous and exploitative working conditions. Relatively unskilled foreign workers from less developed countries were sometimes dependent on temporary employment agencies to find and retain work. Migrants sometimes worked in substandard conditions and were subjected to undignified treatment by these agencies. Most commonly, salaries were paid to the agencies, which then garnished them, resulting in workers receiving subminimum wages, working overtime without proper compensation, or working without compensation. Since migrant workers seldom filed formal complaints of such abuses, authorities had few opportunities to intervene.
The SBLI effectively enforced health and safety standards. Laws requiring acceptable conditions of work cover all workers equally in all sectors. During the year the SBLI conducted checks focused on health and safety standards, primarily in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, agricultural, forestry, and heavy machine industries. The inspections occurred both proactively and in response to complaints. Authorities imposed penalties that were sufficient to deter violations.
In 2016 the number of registered injuries in the workplace increased by 1 percent from 2015. Fatal accidents decreased by 0.8 percent during 2016. The vast majority of workplace injuries and deaths occurred in the mining, transport, construction, warehousing, and processing industries. According to the SBLI, the most common causes of injuries or fatal incidents included underestimated risk, falls from height, irresponsible application of dangerous work procedures and techniques, unauthorized conduct and/or stay in hazardous zones, and failure to observe bans. Employees of small and medium-sized companies often declined to use protective gear even though their employer provided it.
Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and the SBLI aimed to enforce this standard consistently.
Human Rights in the Czech Republic
The condition of human rights in the Czech Republic is, for the most part, favorable. The Czech government takes an active role in protecting its citizens’ rights and appears open to positive change.
The main issue that the Czech Republic faces is a lack of acceptance of immigrants and minorities along with an increase in hate speech. While the nation complied with the European Union (EU) resettlement agreement of Turkish and Middle Eastern refugees, Amnesty International reports several demonstrations against the Romani people and asylum seekers. The general dislike of refugees and the view that they pose a threat to the Czech Republic was perpetuated by some political leaders, including the president.
Several polls reflected the general disapproval of Roma, including one in which 82 percent of the participants deemed Roma “unlikeable” or “very unlikeable,” according to the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Additionally, one-third of Roma lived in ghettos or similar conditions, and many Romani children went to special schools, putting them at an educational disadvantage.
Most reported hate crimes against both Romani and Muslim people have led to convictions, revealing a commitment to the improvement of human rights in the Czech Republic. The minister for labor and social affairs as well as the minister for human rights in the Czech Republic also supported legislation that would benefit minority and disadvantaged groups.
Freedom of speech and expression is largely unhindered by the Czech government with the exception of hate speech and those who deny the Holocaust. Unlawful Internet censorship is not an issue, and most homes have high-speed Internet access.
Government corruption still affects the Czech Republic, as demonstrated by an increase in crimes committed by prison workers and law enforcement officers between 2014 and 2015. Despite this, the government ensured that these offenders were subjected to the appropriate fines and prison time. Lawmakers and the like must publicly report their assets and are generally compliant, even if the information is sometimes difficult to access.
The unemployment rate among disabled persons remains high, but education conditions for the disabled have progressed. The U.S. DOS documents that legislation was recently passed that increased the attendance rate of disabled children in “mainstream schools.” This is indicative of a focus on improvement of human rights in the Czech Republic.
Although prisons struggle with sanitation and overcrowding, they are open to making the suggested changes of investigative forces – such as NGOs – that monitor prison conditions.
Human rights in the Czech Republic could improve in some areas, but thanks to the Czech government being attentive to the needs and rights of its citizens, not much improvement is needed.
Discrimination against Roma remained widespread, although the new Public Defender of Rights claimed that it was only a marginal problem.
Some steps were taken towards implementing a mechanism for providing compensation to Roma women who were victims of forced sterilization. In September the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner called on the lower house of parliament to adopt a draft law providing one-off compensation for victims. The bill was awaiting its first reading at year’s end.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe held a regular review in December of the measures taken to address the discriminatory segregation of Roma in schools and classes for pupils with mental disabilities (following the continued failure to implement the judgment in D.H. and Others v Czech Republic). The Committee noted some positive trends but remained concerned that the majority of Roma pupils assessed as needing individual educational plans were still educated outside the mainstream.
Parliament failed to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women (Istanbul Convention) although it was scheduled to be submitted for ratification in 2018. According to a group of Czech NGOs, the Coalition Against Violence, annually some 168,000 victims of domestic violence have sought medical help in recent years. Service providers noted an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents during the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic.
In June the European Committee of Social Rights made public its decision (in the case of University Women of Europe v. Czech Republic) that there had been insufficient progress on the right to equal pay and the balanced representation of women in decision-making bodies in private companies. In response the Czech Government Commissioner for Human Rights submitted a new draft strategy on gender equality 2020-2030 to the government.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people
Parliament again failed to table a vote on a bill, originally approved by government in 2018, which would fully recognize equal marriage for same-sex couples. Such couples had been able to register their partnerships since 2006, but this did not permit joint adoption.
Czech Republic Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy. At year's end, an orderly transition was under way to form a new government following the November resignation of the minority coalition government led by Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, which was formed after the June 1996 parliamentary elections. In mid-December, Josef Tosovsky was named interim Prime Minister, and in January 1998 he was sworn in. The bicameral Parliament elects the President for a 5-year term. The country has essentially completed the reform of political and economic structures initiated after the 1989 "velvet revolution." President Vaclav Havel is an internationally recognized advocate of human rights and social justice he was elected to a second 5-year term in January 1998. The judiciary is independent.
The Ministry of the Interior oversees the police. The civilian internal security service, known as the Security and Information Service (BIS), is independent of ministry control but reports to Parliament and the Prime Minister's office. Police and BIS authorities generally observe constitutional and legal protection of individual rights in carrying out their responsibilities. However, there were occasional reports of abuses by some members of the police.
The Czech Republic has a market-based economy, with over two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP) produced by the private sector. Devastating floods in July may reduce growth but could force increased investment and industrial restructuring. Although external imbalances caused a 10 percent depreciation of the currency in May, macroeconomic indicators remain favorable: Low national debt, a low budget deficit, strong foreign currency reserves, relatively low inflation, and low but rising unemployment. Worsening trade and current account deficits were financed by strong capital inflows. The work force was employed primarily in industry, retail trade, and construction. Leading exports were intermediate manufactured products and machinery and transport equipment. GDP per capita reached approximately $5,100.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. Popular prejudice and skinhead violence against Roma remain problems. The discriminatory impact of the 1993 citizenship law was mitigated by the constructive implementation of a 1996 amendment, although other problems with citizenship persist. There is some violence against women. The law on lustration (screening) forbids certain pre-1989 Communist officials and secret police collaborators from holding certain positions. A law criminalizing defamation of the presidency was abolished.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture is prohibited by the Constitution, and there were no reports of such practices.
The police have undergone significant restructuring, and many new officers have joined the force since the 1989 revolution. However, police approval ratings remained rather low in public opinion polls. Recorded incidents of crime by police have risen in recent years. There have been reports of police shakedowns, physical abuse, and malfeasance, often directed at foreigners and Roma.
In March the Prague 1 district court dismissed a charge of abuse of public office against the leader of a 1996 police action at a Prague rock club, during which some 60 police officers injured several concertgoers with truncheons. The court found him to be merely insubordinate and left the police administration to handle the matter internally.
The investigation continues into the 1996 case of a policeman charged with abuse of public office in connection with a police action in 1995, when the Brno police allegedly used excessive force in breaking up a late-night party outside a theater.
Some cases of torture from the Communist era have reached the courts through the efforts of the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism (UDV--see Section 1.e.). In the first conviction of its kind since 1989, a Brno court sentenced 85-year-old former secret police agent and prison guard Jaroslav Daniel in May to 5 years' imprisonment for his brutality toward prisoners in the period from 1948 to 1967. In addition, three former secret police investigators, including the father of the current chairman of the Communist party, have been charged with abuse of public office in a similar case.
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards. There is overcrowding in some prisons. According to the prison authority, as of June the prison system was at 112 percent of capacity, and 8 of the country's 33 prisons were 25 percent or more over capacity.
The Government permits visits by human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government observes this prohibition in practice. Police may hold persons without charge for no more than 24 hours, during which they have the right to counsel. The 24-hour rule, enshrined in the Charter of Basic Rights and Freedoms, was reaffirmed by a Constitutional Court decision early in the year. Previously, the police and many courts had interpreted two separate statutes to allow the police an aggregate 48 hours to turn a suspect over to a court for arraignment.
The lack of experienced police investigators, combined with a still-evolving legal environment, has contributed to a backlog of court cases. Under the law, pretrial detention may last as long as 4 years, with periodic judicial review, for criminal charges. If the court does not approve continued detention at any of the legally-mandated review dates, the suspect must be released. In practice few suspects are held for longer than 2 years. A possible precedent was set in late 1996 by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that any period of time in which the accused used delaying tactics to prevent his case from reaching trial would not count toward the 4-year limit. In the case at hand, the accused repeatedly changed lawyers as the 4-year limit was approaching. The law does not allow bail for certain serious crimes. A suspect may petition the appropriate investigating authorities at any time for release from detention. Since 1989 the average length of pretrial detention has increased from 89 to 212 days in 1997, although that figure has been decreasing slightly since 1995. According to the prison service, approximately 35 percent of prisoners are currently awaiting trial or sentencing, down from 39 percent in 1996. Attorney and family visits are permitted. The authorities follow these guidelines in practice.
The law prohibits exile, and the Government observes this prohibition in practice. However, police can and do expel to Slovakia "Slovaks" without proper citizenship or residency papers.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and it is impartial and independent in practice. Judges are not fired or transferred for political reasons.
The court system consists of district, regional, and high courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal. In addition, a Constitutional Court rules separately on the constitutionality of legislation. The shortage of qualified judges has been largely overcome by the hiring of new personnel.
The law stipulates that persons charged with criminal offenses are entitled to fair and open public trials. They have the right to be informed of their legal rights and of the charges against them, to consult with counsel, and to present a defense. The State provides lawyers for indigent defendants in criminal and some civil cases through the bar association. According to the International Helsinki Committee, many eligible parties fail to complete the process of applying for such representation because it is demanding. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to refuse to testify against themselves. They may appeal any judgments against them. The authorities observe these rights in practice.
In June a student won a court case against the Interior Ministry related to the presumption of innocence. The Ministry was investigating the student as a suspect in a 1992 attempt on the life of the chairman of the Communist Party by a masked assailant. In speaking with the press about the case, the police referred to the student as the perpetrator and not as a suspect. The court ordered the Ministry to apologize to the student and pay him damages of about $4,440 (150,000 Kcs). The Ministry may appeal to the relevant High Court.
The 1991 lustration law barred many former Communist Party officials, members of the people's militia, and suspected secret police collaborators from holding a wide range of elective and appointive offices, including appointive positions in state-owned companies, academia, and the media for a period of 5 years. In 1995 Parliament extended the law to the year 2000, overriding a veto by President Havel. Some other employers also have required applicants to produce lustration certificates proving noncollaboration.
According to the Interior Ministry, about 15,000 requests for lustration certificates were received in 1997, bringing the total since 1991 to 316,000. Some 3.3 percent of applicants were denied because of suspected collaboration. Those who have been denied may file a civil suit against the Interior Ministry for a charge similar to slander. In the period from mid-October 1996 to September 1997, 31 such suits were filed. Of these 31 suits, about half of those decided to date were "fully successful," and another quarter have been "partially successful."
Defenders of the lustration law argue that individuals who systematically destroyed the lives of others in order to gain advantages for themselves within the Communist system should not be entrusted with high state responsibilities. The screening process has been criticized, however, because it is based on the records of the Communist secret police, records many suspect were incomplete or unreliable. The law also has been criticized as a violation of human rights principles prohibiting discrimination in employment and condemning collective guilt. Many of those unjustly accused of collaboration believe that they have suffered diminished career prospects and damaged personal reputations. In August the Agenda 2000 report by the European Union noted the law's continuing existence with concern, as did a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in September.
A 1993 law defining the pre-1989 Communist regime as criminal and lifting the statute of limitations for crimes committed by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia during its 40-year rule remained in effect, although it has led to few convictions. The government office responsible for prosecuting cases under this law describes its workload as consisting primarily of cases of: Torture (see Section 1.c.) border shootings treason connected with the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia and state persecution of opponents of the Communist regime. The anti-Communist law was upheld by the Constitutional Court in 1993.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Electronic surveillance, the tapping of telephones, and interception of mail require a court order. The Government complied with this requirement in practice.
In January the Intelligence Oversight Committee in the Chamber of Deputies seconded President Havel's rejection of charges by the speaker of that body (and leader of the main opposition party) that: There was collusion between the BIS and the Interior Ministry the secret services were following politicians and (therefore) there were tendencies toward a police state in the Czech Republic. The speaker based his charges on alleged internal documents from the intelligence agency, which were later found to be forgeries. Neither the President nor the Parliament found evidence of serious infractions by BIS agents. Press commentary generally dismissed the charges as politically motivated.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the Government respects this right in practice. Individuals can and do speak out on political issues and freely criticize the Government and public figures.
In September the President signed into law a measure revoking a 36-year-old statue on the "defamation" of the President, effective in January 1998. Such action had been punishable by prison terms of up to 2 years. In practice, the few persons convicted received suspended sentences. President Havel routinely pardoned those convicted under the law when they requested it or when his office learned of their cases. A separate law on the defamation of the republic remains in effect, and three people were convicted of this charge in 1996 (the last year for which statistics are available).
A wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals publish without government interference. The capital, Prague, is home to at least a dozen daily newspapers with national distribution, as well as a variety of entertainment and special interest newspapers and magazines. These publications are owned by a variety of Czech and foreign investors.
The electronic media are independent. There are 4 television stations, 2 public and 2 private, and more than 60 private radio stations in addition to Czech Public Radio. The leading television channel, Nova, is privately owned, partially by foreign investors. In addition, many viewers have access to foreign broadcasts via satellite and cable.
A parliamentary commission has broad oversight and power to approve or reject candidates for the Television and Radio Council. The Council has limited regulatory responsibility for policymaking and answers to the parliamentary media committee. The Council can issue and revoke radio and television licenses and monitors programming. By year's end, Parliament had not yet voted on two long-delayed media laws: one for print and one for broadcast media. The Communist-era print law does not affirm the right of journalists to protect their sources nor ensure the freedom of information, and the 1991 broadcast law did not envision private media.
In April an accredited journalist and advocate of Tibetan independence was denied access to a press conference given by the Chinese Deputy Premier and hosted at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In response the Czech Helsinki Committee called for reform of the 1966 press law to ensure journalists' unhindered access to information. There is no evidence of a pattern of such exclusions by authorities.
The law provides for academic freedom but also forbids activities by established political parties at universities.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides for the right of persons to assemble peacefully. Permits for some public demonstrations are required by law but are rarely refused. However, the law forbids political party activity at universities (see Section 2.a.). Police generally do not interfere with spontaneous, peaceful demonstrations for which organizers lack a permit.
The right of persons to associate freely and to form political parties and movements is provided for by law, and the Government respected this right in practice. Either the Government or the President may submit a proposal to the Supreme Court calling for a political party to be disbanded, but there have been no such cases since 1989. Organizations, associations, foundations, and political parties are required to register with local officials or at the Interior Ministry, but there is no evidence that this registration is either coercive or arbitrarily withheld. In September a draft report to the Cabinet by the Minister without Portfolio called upon the Interior Ministry to reexamine the official registrations of organizations propagating racial hatred or fascism, but no action has been taken to date. The Communist Party is represented in the Parliament and in local government.
The law provides for religious freedom, and the Government respects this right in practice. The State provides funding to all religions that are registered with the Ministry of Culture. There are currently 21 registered churches. Under a 1991 law, a church wishing to register for the first time must have at least 10,000 adult members, although churches registered prior to this date were not required to meet this condition. Unregistered religious groups, such as the small Muslim minority, are legally unable to own community property, although they are otherwise free to assemble and worship in the manner of their choice. Their members can and do issue publications without interference.
One Christian political party, the Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-CSL), is a member of the governing coalition.
In July the Government pledged roughly $600,000 to a new Czech-Slovak-Israeli foundation to compensate for gold taken from Jewish Slovaks during World War II. The amount represents the Czech share of gold that ended up as part of the gold reserves of the former Czechoslovakia and was divided along with other federal property on a 2:1 basis during the 1992-93 split of the Czechoslovak federation.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There are no restrictions on domestic or foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Czechs who emigrated during the period of Communist rule frequently return to visit, or even to settle, and are able to regain Czech citizenship if they wish, although to do so they must relinquish their claim to any foreign citizenship. Citizenship is not revoked for political reasons. Nonetheless, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern to the Government that its 1993 citizenship law has created a problem of statelessness, especially among Roma (see Section 5).
The Government provides first asylum and cooperates with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. Most migrants used the Czech Republic as a transit route toward the West however, the country is becoming the final destination for increasing numbers. There are four reception centers for asylum seekers, six integration centers for recognized refugees, and one humanitarian center for Bosnians under temporary protection, which was closed in September. Nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) work closely with the Interior Ministry to ease the refugees' transition into society.
Asylum seekers filed 1,198 applications for asylum in the first 8 months of 1997 (latest available statistics), compared with 1,033 for the same periods in 1996. The most numerous countries of origin during the most recent 8-month period were Bulgaria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Romania. The acceptance rate held steady at 4.7 percent. In recent years, Bulgarians and Romanians made were the most frequent applicants for asylum.
The Government discontinued temporary protection for Bosnian refugees on September 30. After that date, Bosnians could still remain in the country with long-term or permanent residency or with formally recognized refugee status. According to the Interior Ministry, as of June, 1,122 Bosnians had obtained either long-term or permanent residency. In September there were officially 193 Bosnians under temporary protection in humanitarian centers and approximately 300 living under other arrangements. An unknown number remain in the country illegally.
Voluntary repatriation of Bosnian refugees began in July 1996. Approximately 190 Bosnians returned to their homeland on two flights specially chartered by the Government in August and September. From February through August the Interior Ministry operated an information center for Bosnian refugees seeking information on voluntary repatriation. The Government gives each returnee a resettlement stipend and subsidizes nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) that construct housing in Bosnia-Herzegovina for returning refugees.
The Government continued to devote increased attention to illegal migration into the country and took steps with its neighbors to control the movement of people across its borders. The Czech Republic has signed readmission agreements with all of the country's neighbors and with Hungary, Romania, and Canada. There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government by democratic means, and citizens exercise this right in practice. Citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote by secret ballot in republic-wide and local elections. Opposition groups, including political parties, function openly and participate without hindrance in the political process. Former Czechoslovaks who elected representatives to the Czech National Assembly in 1992 and whose current citizenship status is unclear, especially Roma, continue to lack voting rights (see Section 5).
The minority government of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus resigned in November, and a new government was being formed at year's end. In addition to the two rightist and one centrist parties that formed the outgoing coalition, there are also two left-of-center opposition parties and one party of the radical right. The Constitution mandates elections to Parliament at least every 4 years, based on proportional representation in eight large electoral districts. There is a 5-percent threshold for parties to enter Parliament. The President, who is elected by Parliament, serves a 5-year term. The President has limited constitutional powers but may use a suspense veto to return legislation to Parliament, which can then override that veto by a simple majority.
There are no restrictions, in law or in practice, on women's participation in politics. Nevertheless, relatively few women hold high public office. One of the 16 cabinet ministers in the pre-November Government and two in the Government named in January 1998 were women. The 200-member Parliament includes 29 female deputies, including 1 deputy speaker. Nine women are senators in the 81-member Senate 1 of the Senate's 4 vice chairmen is a woman.
No seats are reserved in either house for ethnic minorities. Slovaks, of whom there are an estimated 300,000, are almost all "Czechoslovaks" who elected to live in the Czech republic after the split. Many serve in high positions in the civil service. For the most part, these Slovaks define their interests in the context of Czech politics, not along ethnic lines there is no Slovak party in the Parliament.
In contrast, many of the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Roma have not been fully integrated into society (see Section 5). The political culture generally defines Roma as outsiders. Roma themselves have not united behind a program or set of ideals that would enable them to advance their interests in the democratic structures of the country. A few Roma serve in local government structures, and some have been appointed to advisory positions in government ministries. There are currently no Romani representatives in the Parliament no seats are reserved for ethnic minorities.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Human rights groups operate without government restriction, and government officials are generally cooperative and somewhat responsive to their views. The best-known human rights groups are the Czech Helsinki Federation and the Tolerance Foundation (really an umbrella organization), but there are many single-issue groups that do equally important work. The presidency of former dissident and human rights monitor Vaclav Havel serves as an important symbol for these groups.
In each house of Parliament there is a petition committee for human rights and nationalities, which includes a subcommittee for nationalities. A government-sponsored Council for Nationalities advises the Cabinet on minority affairs. In this body, Slovaks and Roma have three representatives each Poles and Germans, two each and Hungarians and Ukrainians, one each. There is also a government commission staffed by members of the NGO and journalist communities that monitors interethnic violence. In September the Government agreed to create a new commission for Romani affairs, which is to advise the Government. Observers believe that the commission offers a significant opportunity to enhance the dialog between the Government and the Romani community.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The law provides for the equality of citizens and prohibits discrimination. Health care, education, retirement, and other social services generally are provided without regard to race, sex, religion, disability, or social status. In practice Roma face discrimination in such areas as education, job opportunity, and housing.
The true extent of violence against women is unknown, and public debate about it is rare, despite the efforts of a handful of women's groups to bring the problem to the attention of the public. The press occasionally reported on the problem of violence against women and trafficking in prostitutes. Available studies indicate that 11 to 19 percent of Czech women report that they have experienced sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or partners. According to some legal experts, there is an unspoken understanding in the court system that spousal abuse should be prosecuted as a crime only if a doctor determines that the victim's condition warrants medical treatment for 7 days or more. Since 1989 official police statistics have recorded 500 to 800 rape cases per year, and approximately 80 percent of the cases are solved. A study by the Sexology Institute found that only 3 percent of rape victims report the crime. Gender studies experts say that women are ashamed to speak about rape and that the police are not equipped to help, either by attitude or training. There are state-supported shelters that accept women in most major cities and towns. According to NGO's, the situation has improved in recent years, but there are still not enough spaces to meet the demand.
Prostitution is legal, although a 1995 amendment to the law on communities provides for its regulation by local authorities. Under the Penal Code, trafficking in prostitutes is punishable by a prison term of up to 8 years (up to 12 years if the victim is under the age of 15). According to the police unit responsible for fighting organized crime, the Czech Republic is also a transit country for traffickers in women. In February a Czech national who is a known trafficker in women was detained in Austria. In March police detained a Ukrainian who was trafficking in Ukrainian women in a brothel in western Bohemia. A credible NGO that follows this problem has concluded that the country is increasingly becoming a destination for many prostitutes from farther east.
Women are equal under the law and in principle receive the same pay for the same job. Women were relatively successful in taking advantage of the post-1989 transformation, due to the absence of social upheaval and low unemployment. Women have made deep inroads into the private sector since 1989, and the number in agricultural work has fallen by 50 percent over the last decade. Women have steadily represented roughly half of the labor force over the same period, although they are concentrated in professions in which the median salary is low. According to a 1996 survey of employers by the Ministry of Labor, women's median wages lagged behind those of men by roughly 25 percent in 1996 (a private survey produced comparable results), although the gap is narrowing. Women enjoy equal property, inheritance, and other rights with men.
The Government is committed to children's welfare through programs for health care, compulsory education through the age of 15 (through the age of 14 in special schools) and basic nutrition. Girls and boys enjoy equal access to health care and education at all levels.
Child abuse and trafficking in children continued to receive occasional press attention in 1997. Since 1990 the number of reported cases of child abuse has roughly doubled this increase appears to be the result of an increased awareness of the problem. According to a special envoy of the U.N. Human Rights Commission who visited in 1996, there is no evidence of a societal pattern of child abuse. A children's crisis center was founded in 1995 and is 70 percent state supported. According to its director, around 1 percent of children are neglected, mistreated, or sexually abused, but only about one tenth of all cases are registered by the police. In November the police arrested several individuals suspected of using minors to produce pornography.
Romani children are often relegated to "special schools" for the mentally handicapped and socially maladjusted. Both a government program and various private initiatives exist to prepare Romani children for mainstream schools (see Section on National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities below).
The disabled suffer disproportionately from unemployment, and the physically disabled have unequal access to education, especially in rural areas. This is less the result of government policy than of a lack of barrier-free access to public schools. Most buildings and public transportation are inaccessible to those in wheelchairs. However, a 1994 Economic Ministry regulation requires architects to ensure adequate access for the disabled in new building projects, and this regulation is applied in practice. Businesses in which 60 percent or more of the employees are disabled qualify for special tax breaks. Government benefits for the disabled are being streamlined. Numerous NGO's are actively working to diminish the disadvantages faced by the disabled. The integration of the disabled into society has not been the subject of significant policy or public debate. There is one disabled Member of Parliament.
Religious groups with 10,000 or more adult members may register with the Ministry of Culture. Only registered religions are eligible for state subsidies. The Jewish community constitutes an exception, since it was recognized by the State before 1989. Smaller groups lack a legal mechanism by which they may own community property (see Section 2.c.).
The Jewish community numbers a few thousand. There were only isolated incidents of vandalism against Jewish property. The police confirmed the existence of over 20 underground magazines with small circulations propagating fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism.
The Pilsen-north district court sentenced participants in a 1996 international gathering of skinheads commemorating the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a series of Nazi-inspired mob attacks on German Jews and their property in 1938. About 700 people assembled in Kozolupy near Pilsen in November 1996 to hear skinhead bands play. Eight persons were charged under a law criminalizing the public expression of religious intolerance and obliged to pay fines ranging from roughly $255 to $1,275 (8,000 to 40,000 Kcs) a Czech national was also sentenced to community work.
After ethnic Slovaks, the largest minority is the Romani population, officially estimated to number approximately 200,000. Roma live throughout the country but are concentrated in the industrial towns of northern Bohemia, where many eastern Slovak Roma were encouraged to settle in the homes of Sudeten Germans transferred to the west more than 40 years ago.
Roma suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, interethnic violence, discrimination, illiteracy, and disease. They are subject to deeply ingrained popular prejudice, as is repeatedly affirmed by public opinion polls. The State funds television and radio programs for Roma on public stations, as well as supporting Romani press publications, and in 1997 there was more and better information available on Roma in the mainstream press and other sources. However, efforts by foundations and individuals in the education and health fields to improve their living conditions have had only minimal impact. Romani leaders have had limited success thus far in organizing their local communities, which are often disunited and where many are reluctant to foster contacts with the majority.
Interethnic violence is usually perpetrated by skinheads, according to a May report on security by the Interior Ministry. A March report on racially motivated crime in 1996 by the Attorney General's Office found that Roma were the most likely victims of such crimes, and that the number of incidents continued to rise. This may be the result of increased vigilance against such crimes by law enforcement and justice personnel since mid-1995. Nonetheless, judges and police officers have been reluctant to ascribe a racial motive to anti-Roma violence, even when skinheads are involved. For example, in June a judge in Hradec Kralove refused to apply laws relating to racial motives, ruling that there could be no such motives in Czech-Roma conflicts because both belong to the same, Indo-European race. The Justice Ministry subsequently lodged a procedural complaint with the Supreme Court related to this ruling. Following the complaint, the Supreme Court struck down this interpretation of the law in October and returned the case for a new ruling.
There were numerous incidents of violence or intimidation directed against Roma. In September a gang of drunken men aged 18 to 24 fired pistols, broke windows, and shouted "gypsies to the gas chambers" in front of a house inhabited by Roma in Domazlice. During that incident, one 36-year-old Romani woman died of suffocation during an epileptic seizure apparently brought on by acute fright. The police prepared charges against 11 suspects. In February the regional court in Ostrava upheld an earlier sentence involving eight youths who had attacked and severely beaten three Romani girls in Karvina in 1995. In March the Ceske Budejovice regional court found four youths guilty of negligence in the death of Tibor Danihel, an 18-year-old Rom who drowned after a gang of skinheads forced him into the Otava river in Pisek in September 1993. The court found the crime to be racially motivated. Two of the youths received sentences of 31 months, a third 22 months, and the fourth a 2-year suspended sentence. In connection with this case, a government minister criticized the generally careless work of the state administration in investigating and prosecuting racially motivated crime, and a prominent human rights activist charged that such delays as seen in the Danihel case contributed to other criminals' sense of impunity. In December the Justice Minister filed a complaint with the Supreme Court questioning whether the defendants were guilty merely of negligence in Danihel's death.
Laws prohibiting racist attacks (normally intended to protect minorities) were also invoked against Roma. In March in Louny, five Roma said to be celebrating a relative's release from prison attacked and shouted race-related insults at a group of police officers who had come to investigate the disturbance. The local state attorney charged them with defamation of a nation/race/creed in addition to two other charges. In April a police investigator in Breclav filed the same charge against three Roma who attacked two skinheads. That charge carries a penalty of up to 3 years in prison.
Verbal attacks against Roma recur frequently in fringe publications. Criminal charges were filed against the editors of a magazine belonging to the Association for the Republic-Republican Party of Czechoslovakia (SPR-RSC), an extremist, far-right political party represented in the Parliament yet shunned by the democratic parties, for publishing offensive statements regarding Roma. In one issue of the magazine Roma were likened to garbage that must be either recycled or incinerated. The investigation is continuing. Some members of the mainstream political culture consistently condemned such statements when they were made in a public forum.
In the larger context, those Roma wishing to integrate face practical difficulties in the areas of employment and education. Romani unemployment was estimated at 70 percent in a report prepared at the Government's request. According to the same report, many unemployed Roma subsist on government support or their earnings from illegal activities. Some employers refuse to hire Roma and explicitly ask local labor offices to refrain from sending Romani applicants for advertised positions. Most Roma are qualified only for low-paying jobs as manual laborers, since very few complete secondary education.
The integration of Romani children into mainstream schools is frequently impeded by language and cultural barriers. Some Romani parents do not send their children to school regularly for a variety of reasons, including subtle or overt discrimination the expense of books, supplies, and activities and because some Romani parents doubt the importance of education. According to a 1991 study (the only such study available after 1989) less than 20 percent of the self-identified Romani population in the Czech lands had completed elementary school and less than 5 percent had completed high school. Such statistics provide only a rough picture of the actual situation, however, since a large majority of Roma do not identify themselves as such for census-takers.
A significant number of Romani children are taken from mainstream schools at an early age and sent to study at "special schools" for the mentally disabled and socially maladjusted. According to unofficial estimates by Ministry of Education employees and NGO's, Romani children makeup 60 percent or more of pupils placed in these "special schools," although Roma are estimated to comprise only 2 to 3 percent of the population.
In 1993 the Government created the framework for a number of year-long programs (so-called zero grades) to prepare disadvantaged youths for their first year in school. Many districts with high concentrations of Roma participate in the program, which is funded solely by local authorities. Students' participation in the zero grades is voluntary, which many observers feel limits the program's effectiveness. About half of existing zero grades are organized by special schools for the mentally disabled and socially maladjusted the pupils in these classes frequently proceed directly into the special school curriculum and are thus never given the opportunity to attend a mainstream school. Nonetheless, there is anecdotal evidence that some zero grades are successfully preparing disadvantaged Romani children for mainstream schools. A number of private initiatives to prepare Romani children for mainstream schools have also emerged in recent years, such as those in Rokycany, Ostrava, and elsewhere.
Roma also face discrimination in housing and other areas of everyday life. In July a senator, also the mayor of the Prague 4 district, praised one landlord's efforts to move "problem tenants" (widely understood to mean Roma) to an outlying part of town. Many journalists and politicians criticized these remarks for appearing to advocate a policy of segregation. Some restaurants, pubs, and other venues throughout the country routinely refused service to Roma and posted signs prohibiting their entry. In some cases, local authorities intervened to have such signs removed.
In February in the first prominent antidiscrimination case, the Pilsen regional court annulled a 1996 decision that found pub owner Ivo Blahout not guilty of discriminating against Romani patrons, despite videotaped evidence and the incriminating testimony of two policemen. The case was returned to a lower court for retrial.
In December the Kladno district court found the local deputy mayor guilty of incitement to national/racial hatred for closing the municipal swimming pool to Romani children in July 1996, fining him about $445 (14,000 Kcs). At the time, a hepatitis epidemic was sweeping the town and was particularly prevalent among Roma, yet local health officials stated that the measure would not be effective in containing the outbreak.
Czech Roma claiming persecution in the Czech Republic and applying for refugee status in Canada and Western Europe generated significant discussion. In August a private television station broadcast a program on Roma applying for refugee status in Canada, portraying that country as offering asylees' a warm welcome. The broadcast spurred hundreds of Roma to sell their possessions to buy airline tickets to Canada, and many more attempted to raise the money for airfare. Posters appeared in Usti Nad Labem urging Roma to depart for Canada and offering material assistance. A district mayor in the town of Ostrava offered to pay two-thirds of the airfare to Canada for Roma living in her jurisdiction if they relinquished the leases on their municipal flats. That official was criticized sharply in press commentary and by some parliamentarians and rebuked mildly by her party. By October over 1,200 Roma had applied for refugee status in Canada. Dozens of other Czech Romani families applied for refugee status in the UK, France, and elsewhere in Western Europe.
Faced with this "exodus" of Czech Roma, the Government deliberated the issue of Romani integration with a renewed sense of urgency. The Prime Minister met with Romani representatives, and an ad hoc group convened by the Office of the Government prepared a report on the Romani minority for the Cabinet. In September the Government approved the creation of a new commission for Romani affairs. Government ministries also adopted numerous, related taskings in an effort to foster Romani integration, such as expanding the "zero grade" program, training ethnic Romani teaching assistants for public schools, attempting to induce employers to hire more Roma, and stricter enforcement of consumer protection laws where businesses refuse to serve Roma. The President and some politicians urged Roma not to leave the country.
The 1993 Citizenship Law has been criticized by the UNHCR and the Council of Europe, although its discriminatory impact was mitigated by the constructive implementation of an amendment in April 1996. Under the 1993 law, created at the time of the Czech-Slovak split, Czechoslovaks of Slovak nationality ("Slovaks") were able to opt for Czech citizenship until December 1993 (later extended to June 1994) under conditions more favorable than those faced by non-Czechoslovaks in the normal naturalization process. Nonetheless, "Slovaks" had to present proof of a clean criminal record for the previous 5 years and residency in what is now the Czech Republic for 2 years. Romani leaders and human rights groups protested that these provisions were designed to discriminate against Roma, most of whom were designated as being of Slovak nationality by a 1969 law. After June 1994, "Slovaks" could apply only for naturalization, a more stringent process.
The practical result of the law was that an unknown number of "Slovaks" resident in the Czech republic at the time of the split--a great many of them Roma--found themselves without Czech citizenship. Some failed to meet the law's requirements others never applied, either out of negligence or ignorance of the consequences. Many of these Roma were long-term residents of, or born in, the Czech Republic. Without citizenship or residency, these individuals do not have the right to work, to health insurance, or to any of the social benefits enjoyed by nearly all citizens and residents. "Slovaks" with valid identification may claim Slovak citizenship at any time, although many have no family, property, or other ties in Slovakia.
Most but not all former Czechoslovaks living in the Czech Republic appear to have resolved their current citizenship. The Interior Ministry has never given an official estimate of the number of people without citizenship, but approximately 3,500 applications are currently pending, most of them until proof of release from Slovak citizenship is presented. The Citizenship Project, an NGO sponsored by the Czech Helsinki Committee that actively helps former Czechoslovaks through the citizenship application process, and which has registered about 3,000 requests for assistance from "Slovaks" applying for Czech citizenship, states that many more have not applied and that only the Government is in a position to gauge the scope of the problem.
Responding to domestic and international criticism, the Government amended the law in 1996, allowing the Interior Ministry to waive the clean criminal record requirement for individual "Slovaks" resident in what is now the Czech Republic since before the 1993 split. By mid-September, 2,077 "Slovaks" had applied for the waiver of these, 2,043 (98.4 percent) were successful and 34 (1.6 percent) were denied a negative decision could be appealed to the Minister of Interior and then to the courts. Interior Ministry policy was to deny only those who had committed serious crimes. In November the Interior Ministry pledged to grant the waiver to all new qualified applicants as well as to previously unsuccessful waiver applicants as well as to previously unsuccessful waiver applicants who appeal however, six individuals were who were denied the waiver and subsequently deported are unable to appeal the ministry decision unless their sentence of expulsion is overturned by a court. In two of those six cases, the Justice Ministry issued a procedural complaint against the sentence of expulsion. The Government has taken no steps to publicize its new policy.
Some other practical problems have been addressed. For example, in March the Interior Ministry agreed not to require additional criminal registry records (which are valid for only 6 months) from prisoners while their citizenship applications are pending, although it continued to require them from those in pretrial detention. However, other problems persist. The failure of one family member to secure residency or citizenship prevents the entire family from receiving certain social subsidies. "Slovak" applicants who have never set foot in Slovakia, even school-age children, must still obtain an official release from Slovak citizenship. Police who come across "Slovaks" without proper citizenship or residency papers can and do expel them to Slovakia. A total of 122 Slovak citizens (an indeterminate number of whom had long-term ties to the Czech Republic) were expelled and 189 were sentenced to "prohibition of stay" in the first half of the year.
The Citizenship Project sponsored by the Czech Helsinki Committee documented over 500 cases of minors in children's homes and foster care arrangements who lack Czech citizenship or permanent residency and believes that there are several hundred more. Typically, the children are ethnic Roma who were formally deemed Slovak citizens following the Czech-Slovak split. All noncitizen children in foster care may claim permanent residency, but this is canceled on their release. Those who are released from foster care at age 18 without citizenship or residency lack the right to work, register as job seekers at local labor offices, claim social benefits, or vote, and are believed more likely to become involved in crime and face deportation. Even in children's homes where the directors take an active interest in resolving the problem, legal expenses and local bureaucratic intransigence present significant barriers. In 1997 the Interior Ministry cooperated with the Czech Helsinki Committee to inform the directors of state institutions about the issue.
Racism and discrimination in society were the subject of increased attention during the year. The November murder of a Sudanese student in Prague by a skinhead was followed by significant antiracism demonstrations around the country and resulted in considerable public discussion on racism in Czech society. Two suspects were taken into custody by year's end. Nonwhite foreigners continued to be at risk of physical violence and harassment police and courts generally responded appropriately. The Prague 4 district court found a local youth guilty of attacking a visiting Japanese scientist but failed to establish a racial motive the assailant had allegedly mistaken the victim for a Vietnamese. In June the Brno municipal court found one youth guilty of attacking a long-term resident university professor from Benin and attributed a racial motive to the attack the youth had verbally assaulted the victim in a tram and kicked him in the face while wearing spiked boots. In late November 1996 three youths from Olomouc who had attacked a Pakistani student were found guilty and given suspended prison sentences. In March visiting university lecturer of Indian origin was stalked and attacked by youths he then left the country without filing charges, said by friends to fear reprisals.
Approximately 50,000 ethnic Germans live in the country, most of them elderly. In July the Litomerice district court sentenced five members of the far-right SPR-RSC, including a Member of Parliament, to fines of about $65 to 160 (2,000 to 5,000 Kcs) for intimidation. Four of the defendants appealed their sentences. In 1994 they disrupted a joint Czech-German ceremony at Terezin to honor those who died during the transfer of Ethnic Germans out of Czechoslovakia following World War II, pelting participants with eggs and kicking wreaths off of graves.
Also in July, the leader of the SPR-RSC party was charged with inciting national and racial hatred for anti-German statements made at a rally protesting the signing of the Czech-German Declaration in January. The accused set a German flag on fire and said that he regretted that too few Germans had been killed during World War II.
In December Parliament ratified the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of national Minorities which is to take effect in April 1998.
a. The Right of Association
The law provides workers with the right to form and join unions of their own choice without prior authorization, and the government respects this right in practice. Union membership continued to decline in 1997.
Most workers are members of unions affiliated with the Czech-Moravian chamber of trade unions (CMKOS). The CMKOS is a democratically oriented, republic-wide umbrella organization for branch unions. It is not affiliated with any political party and carefully maintains its independence.
Workers have the right to strike, except for those whose role in public order or public safety is deemed crucial. The law requires that labor disputes be subject first to mediation and that strikes take place only after mediation efforts fail.
In February railway workers staged a 48-hour strike, later extended by an additional 24 hours, to protest restructuring plans that would have resulted in significant layoffs. The Prague municipal court ruled the strike illegal, and that decision was appealed. A deputy minister of transport was ousted during the strike.
In April 65,000 teachers waged a rolling strike calling for higher pay. The Government and striking teachers agreed to a slight raise in pay and a longer work week.
In November as many as 100,000 union members and sympathizers staged an orderly demonstration against the Government's economic and social policy in Prague's Old Town Square.
Unions are free to form or join federations and confederations and affiliate with and participate in international bodies. This freedom was fully exercised.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law provides for collective bargaining, which is generally carried out by unions and employers on a company basis. The scope for collective bargaining is more limited in the government sector, where wages are regulated by law.
There are 11 free trade zones. Their workers have and practice the same right to organize and bargain collectively as other workers in the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including that performed by children, and it is not practiced.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The Labor Code stipulates a minimum working age of 15 years, although children who have completed courses at special schools (schools for the mentally disabled and socially maladjusted) may work at the age of 14. These prohibitions are enforced in practice. The law prohibits forced or bonded labor by children, and the Government effectively enforces this prohibition (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Government sets minimum wage standards. The minimum wage is approximately $80 (2,500 Kcs) per month. The minimum wage provides a sparse standard of living for an individual worker, although when combined with allowances available to families with children, it provides an adequate standard of living for a worker and a family. Retraining efforts, carried out by district labor offices, seek to provide labor mobility for those at the lower end of the wage scale. Because of a very tight job market in most of the country, the enforcement of minimum wage standards was not an issue during the year.
The law mandates a standard workweek of 42 1/2 hours. It also requires paid rest of at least 30 minutes during the standard 8- to 8 1/2-hour workday, as well as annual leave of 3 to 4 weeks. Overtime ordered by the employer may not exceed 150 hours per year or 8 hours per week as a standard practice. Overtime above this limit may be permitted by the local employment office. The Labor Ministry enforces standards for working hours, rest periods, and annual leave.
Government, unions, and employers promote worker safety and health, but conditions in some sectors of heavy industry are problematical, especially those awaiting privatization. Industrial accident rates are not unusually high. The Office of Labor Safety is responsible for enforcement of health and safety standards. Workers have the right to refuse work endangering their life or health without risk of loss of employment.
The Czech government's record on law enforcement related to human trafficking is mixed.  The Czech Republic prohibits trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and labour exploitation through Sections 232a and 204 of its criminal code, and punishments prescribed under these statutes range from two to 15 years’ imprisonment, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  In January 2010, a new section of the criminal code – Section 166 – came into effect and increased the maximum penalty prescribed for trafficking to 16 years. This Section includes some elements that are not considered as human trafficking by all jurisdictions, such as forced military service.  In 2009, police conducted 47 investigations – including three labour trafficking investigations – a decrease from 81 investigations in 2008. The same year authorities prosecuted 115 people for trafficking offences (compared with 110 in 2008), leading to 83 convictions, an increase from 64 in 2008. Of those convicted in 2009, only those convicted under Section 204, related to pimping, were sentenced to time in prison, and the number of convicted traffickers given a prison sentence decreased compared to the previous year. In 2009, only 23 percent (19 out of 83) trafficking offenders convicted served time in prison, down from 28 percent in 2008 (18 out of 64). In 2009, two traffickers were sentenced to between 15 and 25 years in prison, 16 were sentenced to one to five years, and one of those convicted was imprisoned for less than a year. In 2009, the police provided 12 training seminars to 431 seasoned officers and cadets focused on investigation techniques as well as victim identification for both sex and labor trafficking offenses. 
According to the US State Department, the Czech government makes strong efforts to protect and assist victims of human trafficking, using formal victim identification procedures and a mechanism for referring victims to NGOs for assistance. The government funds a "Program of Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings", available for both foreign and Czech victims, and provides for both short-term and longer-term assistance. Foreign and Czech victims are offered an automatic 60-day period of reflection, during which time they receive government-funded assistance through NGO providers while they decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement in the criminal investigation.  Victims are encouraged to assist in investigations and prosecutions. Foreign victims who cooperate with investigators after the initial 60-day reflection period are granted temporary residence and work visas for the duration of the relevant legal proceedings. Upon conclusion of the court proceedings, qualifying victims have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. Victims are not fined or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. 
According to the US State Department, the government "demonstrates sustained, strong efforts to prevent trafficking domestically and it continues to dedicate significant resources to prevent trafficking in designated foreign countries".  Working together with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs allocates funding (around $132,500 between January 2008 and April 2010) to NGOs to raise awareness of trafficking among Mongolian labour migrants and protect Mongolian victims of both forced sex and forced labour exploitation in the Czech Republic and of those repatriated to Mongolia. Domestically, the Ministry of Interior funds an NGO to conduct a campaign to raise awareness of forced labour among foreign workers in factories, especially among the Vietnamese community. The government also funds NGOs to conduct general trafficking awareness campaigns in schools and in asylum and migration centers. The government funds a campaign called "Say it for Her", aimed at reducing the demand for prostitution among foreign tourists visiting the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic became a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol in 2014. 
Czech Republic Human Rights - History
ROMA IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Foreigners in Their Own Land
In May 1995, Tibor Berki was spending the evening at home with his wife and five children when four unknown men burst into his kitchen. The forty-three-year-old Berki tried to defend his family and home, but was beaten with a baseball bat. He died some hours later in the hospital from injuries to the head.
Berki's death brought the number of Roma (Gypsies) murdered in the Czech Republic since 1989 to an estimated twenty-seven. In 1995 alone, there were at least 181 reported attacks against Roma or foreigners in the country. Many other assaults go unreported.
The Berki murder incited a public debate about racism in the Czech Republic and prompted the government to take more forceful measures against racist violence, which has been on the rise since the fall of the communist system in 1989. The government condemned the attack, proposed stiffer penalties for racially motivated crimes and introduced a special department within the police to deal with "skinheads" and other extremist groups.
While these changes are steps in the right direction, they do not go far enough to combat the serious problem of racist violence and discrimination against the estimated 200,000-300,000 Roma in the Czech Republic. Since 1989, Czech authorities have failed to adequately protect Roma from the ever-increasing danger of racist attacks. When attacks do occur, Roma are often denied equal treatment before the law, a direct violation of both Czech and international law.
The biggest problem stems from the local police, who sometimes display an open sympathy for "skinheads," allowing them to hold unauthorized marches and threaten non-ethnic Czechs. Police are often slow to respond to Romani calls for help and hesitant to make arrests, even after a violent attack. In some cases, police themselves have used excessive force against Roma, sometimes causing death.
Despite noticable improvements in the last year, the judicial system still does not always punish the perpetrators of racially motivated violence to the fullest extent of the law. When cases do go to court, the attack is often viewed as a "personal fight" rather than a premeditated act of violence against an individual on account of his race, ethnicity or color. Sentences are often light, which sends the message that such attacks are not considered serious.
Racist attacks - and the government's lack of response - are the most serious concern of Roma in the country today. But Roma also face state discrimination in other areas of daily life, such as education, housing and employment. They are often segregated in "special schools," denied residency permits and refused jobs, solely because of their race or ethnicity.
The issue that has received the most international attention, however, is the country's controversial citizenship law, which came into effect after the split of Czechoslovakia in January 1993. Most of the Czech Republic's Roma originate from Slovakia, and, according to the law, were required to apply for Czech citizenship through naturalization, even if they were born on the territory of the Czech Republic and had lived there all of their lives. Although the law does not specifically refer to Roma, its requirements on residence, ancestry and criminality had a clearly disproportionate impact on Roma, and as such are discriminatory. In addition, many Roma who met all of the requirements of the law were arbitrarily denied citizenship by local officials.
As a result, many Roma living in the Czech Republic do not have Czech citizenship even though they are long-time or lifelong residents of the republic. Those denied citizenship are unable to vote, run for office, participate in the privatization process or seek redress for wrongs committed against them during the communist regime. Some non-citizens have difficulty receiving permanant residence, which is necessary to receive social benefits from the state. An undetermined number of people have been deported to Slovakia, while others are stateless altogether. Although it is difficult to prove with certainty, evidence suggests that the law was drafted with the specific intent of hindering citizenship for Roma and facilitating their removal from the Czech lands.
Parliament passed an amendment to the law in April 1996 after substantial criticism from the Council of Europe, UNHCR, the U.S. Helsinki Commission and nongovernmental organizations. According to the amendment, the Ministry of Interior may now waive the five-year clean criminal record requirement, which is the clause that had prevented many Roma from obtaining citizenship. However, it remains to be seen if the ministry will exercise this right. Even as amended, the law remains inconsistent with the Czech Republic's international commitments.
Overall, the Czech record on human rights has been admirable since the 1989 "velvet revolution" toppled the communist government. But the otherwise laudable reforms of Czech democracy have failed to ensure many basic human rights to the Roma minority. The effects of the citizenship law and the state's unwillingness to combat racist violence reveal an undeniable pattern of discrimination along ethnic lines.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki urges the Czech government to abide by its obligations under international law to respect and promote human rights and specifically to:
* Guarantee the security of all persons from violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual or group.
* Conduct a criminal investigation into each incidence of violence against Roma individuals or the community and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those cases where there is evidence of guilt.
* Investigate allegations that, in certain areas, the Czech authorities failed to intervene to protect Roma from attack or failed adequately to investigate violence against Roma, and take all appropriate measures up to and including criminal prosecution.
* Ensure effective administrative and judicial remedies for Roma who are subjected to discrimination, including harassment and intimidation by government officials.
* Ensure that Roma are not treated in a discriminatory manner with regard to access to education.
* Ensure that Roma are not treated in a discriminatory manner with regard to access to housing.
* Guarantee Roma equality in the workplace, and conduct a full investigation into allegations of discriminatory hiring practices.
* Ensure that Roma are not treated in a discriminatory manner with regard to access to public services and accommodations, including public and private restaurants, discos and bars.
* Implement the so-called "zero option" by granting citizenship to all applicants who were citizens of Czechoslovakia with long-term or permanent residence in the Czech Republic prior to the country's split on January 1, 1993.
* Take additional measures to promote mutual understanding and tolerance among ethnic Czechs, Roma and foreigners living in the Czech Republic.
Roma in the Czech Republic
Roma1 first arrived in the territory of the Czech Republic during the Middle Ages, probably around 1400. Since that time, they have been subjected to various forms of discriminatory policies, ranging from assimilation to extermination.2
At various points in the 16th and 17th centuries, Czech authorities banned Roma from parts of the region. Signs with Roma hanging from the gallows were posted on the borders violators had their ears cut off or were executed. In 1761, Maria Theresa shifted from banishment to forced assimilation as a means of addressing the perceived "Gypsy problem": Roma were declared "new citizens," and forbidden to use Romani dress or language. Romani children were taken from their homes and placed with non-Romani peasant families to be "educated."
The most brutal treatment of Roma occurred during World War II, when the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia. By 1944, between 6,000 and 8,000 Czech Roma had been killed in concentration camps, predominantly Auschwitz. In total, approximately 95 percent of all Roma living in the Czech lands lost their lives during the war.3
Czechoslovakia's communist government, which came to power in 1948, viewed Roma as a socially backward group that required forceful integration and assimilation into mainstream society. The government banned nomadic behavior and dispersed Romani settlements, forcing Roma to live in newly-constructed apartment blocs that were provided by the state. The Romani language and traditions were suppressed, and sterilization procedures were conducted on some Slovak Roma to lower what was considered the high, unhealthy birthrate.
Since the fall of communism in 1989, the situation for Roma has improved in some areas and deteriorated in others. On the one hand, Roma now enjoy the newly-won benefits of political and economic freedom, as have others in the Czech and Slovak Republics. In both republics, they are recognized as a minority and have formed political, cultural and educational organizations.
On the other hand, Roma have suffered disproportionately from the difficult transition to a market economy. They are often the first to be fired from state-run firms and the last to be hired by private businesses. Unemployment among Roma has soared since 1989 in a country where joblessness was previously unknown.
In its 1992 report, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded:
Discrimination against Roma has reportedly increased in housing, employment, and access to public and private services since democratic changes in 1989. The common perception that Roma destroyed better housing that they received during the communist era has led to severe discrimination against Roma now seeking housing in non-Romani neighborhoods. The high rate ofunemployment of Roma has been exacerbated by the emergence of discriminatory hiring practices in both republics which go unpunished by government employment offices responsible for enforcing an employment law forbidding discrimination. State- and privately-owned restaurants, pubs and discos throughout the country increasingly deny Roma entry and service.
The greatest threat to Roma in post-communist Czechoslovakia, however, was the dramatic increase in racially motivated threats and violence against non-ethnic Czechs. Graffiti began to appear in public places throughout the country after 1989 saying "Gypsies to the Gas Chamber!" or "Foreigners Out!" Right-wing and extremist organizations like the White League (Bila Liga) and the Ku Klux Klan began to hold demonstrations and publish underground magazines. Physical attacks, sometimes resulting in death, began to occur with greater frequency.
This trend has continued since the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993. Despite some government actions, the number of racially motivated crimes in both the Czech and Slovak Republics continues to rise. In addition, a large number of formerly Czechoslovak Roma were denied citizenship in the Czech Republic even though they had genuine links to the republic. Some of them are now stateless.
In its 1995 report on the state of human rights in the Czech Republic, the Czech Helsinki Committee said:
One can speak of deepening racial segregation within Czech society in 1995 as far as Roma are concerned. The segregation is a result of the rapid worsening of Romas' chances in the employment market, of the relative worsening of their participation in the educational, health care and housing systems -- with an exceptionally negative and large-scale impact on the extremely high unemployment rate of the Roma, on the reproduction of the lack of at least primary education, their social deprivation and being affected more than the average by criminality and even serious forms of organized crime.4
Although it is no longer legal to keep criminal statistics along ethnic lines, government officials, the media and public opinion still speak about the high rate of Romani crime. While recognizing that there is a problem, Romani leaders point out that Romani involvement in crime is a result of their lower economic and social status, rather than a predisposition toward illegal activity, as is often suggested. Furthermore, they say, the Czech media often portray Roma one-sidedly as thieves, beggers or black marketeers.
Popular prejudice against Roma is increasing as a result. According to the Czech Helsinki Committee, seven out of ten Czechs do not want to live next to a Romani family one out of every ten supports "skinheads" and other extremist groups.5 In the June 1996 parliamentary elections, the far-right Republican Party captured eightteen seats (an increase of four seats) with a blatently anti-Roma program.6
A disjointed Romani political movement has not been able to provide much help. A number of Roma were in the first democratically-elected federal and national parliaments after 1989, but only one Rom was in the Czech parliament elected in 1992. As of April 1996, there are no Roma in the Czech parliament.
VIOLENCE BY PRIVATE ACTORS
By all accounts, violent attacks against Roma by private individuals are increasing. According to the Office of Criminal Police, from 1990 to 1993 there were 121 racially motivated attacks in the Czech Republic. Since 1993, however, there have been 181 registered attacks, forty-two of which occurred in the first two months of 1996.7
Human rights and Romani organizations, however, claim that the number is much higher since many incidents go unreported. According to the Citizens' Movement for Solidarity and Tolerance (HOST), a Czech organization that monitors racist violence and the work of the police, there were 181 racist attacks in 1995 alone.
One Romani woman in Prague told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I rarely let my children out alone, and never at night. Under communism it was better. At least we had jobs and didn't have to worry about skinheads attacking us at any moment. I'm scared to send my children to school.8
Many Roma told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that they did not report incidents to the police because they did not believe it would do any good. Some had had bad experiences with the police in the past, including witnessing or being a victim of police violence, which made them hesitant to ask for their assistance.
Ond Í ej Gi Á a, chairman of the Romani organization The Fund for Hope and Understanding and a representative on the government's Council for Nationalities, repeated a common sentiment among Roma when he told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
Many cases are not reported. Roma who get beaten by the police or by skins don't complain or even go to the doctor because they are afraid.9
Gi Á a's seventeen-year-old nephew, Dezider, was attacked twice by skinheads in Plzen, where he used to go to school. He told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki what happened after the second attack in autumn 1994:
The police came and investigated. They took me to the station. I explained what happened, but they said they cannot do anything because they don't know the attackers' names. "Skinhead" is a broad term. I told him I knew the boy who beat me, and they said they'd do something.
We went together to a group of skins and he [a policeman] told me to show him which one it was. But it was a different group. So he told me to get on the train and go home. The police asked nothing of the skins. Only "where are you going?" In the station they didn't fill out any documents. I got nothing. One week later I went there with my grandfather and we got a document, but since then there has been nothing. Now I don't go to school in Plzen because I am afraid.10
Some Roma reported that, when the police were called, they either did not come or came too late. When they did arrive, they were often slow to take action. Very rarely would the police interfere ahead of time to diffuse a potentially explosive situation.11
Ms. Holemek, a Romani activist in Brno, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
From my experience, if there is any demonstration by Roma or anarchists or, on the other side, skinheads, then they [the police] try to separate the groups. That's it. But if skinheads run through town yelling "Heil Hitler!" then the police do nothing. . . . If there is an attack, then the police say it was not a racist attack, but a normal attack. Police have the same opinion as most people that Roma are bad for society.12
Peter Uhl, a former dissident and founding member of HOST, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
The police have tolerated or even encouraged skins. Not openly, because they know it is illegal. But they often revealed themselves to be sympathizers of skins. Faced with this situation, we founded HOST, so that we may do something in place of the state. We must tell the state organs that the local organs are operating in conflict with the law.13
Some government representatives recognize that there are problems with the police. Hana Fri_tenská, director of the secretariat of the Council for Nationalities, mentioned the positive changes in the police, but also told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
We don't say that everything is alright with the police. The police must deal with the baggage of the past. Many are from the previous times when they dealt with undesirables of a different sort, like people who didn't want to work.14
An internal study by the Interior Ministry conducted in 1995 determined that racism was a serious problem within the police force. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki heard from several sources who saw the report that, according to the study, roughly 60 percent of the police force sympathized with skinheads.
Petr ð elásko, who is in charge of tracking extremist groups at the criminal police headquarters in Prague, said he was aware of the Interior Ministry's study, but refuted its results. He told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
There is no racism in the police. It's just a matter of their [police officers'] personal experiences. And a lot of them have had bad experiences with Roma. And someone dealing with them on a day by day basis could even say that every Roma is a thief. It's an individual matter.15
Mr. ð elásko described the changes the police have made in recent years to combat the growing problem of racially motivated violence. As of January 1996, a special department has been working within the criminal police to deal specifically with extremist groups. Specialists from the various branches of the police, representatives of the Jewish community, judges and prosecutors have been invited to provide training to the new department, although, thus far, no Roma have participated. There has also been an attempt to recruit more Roma into the force.16
The changes in the police have had some effect: Roma leaders claim that the police have become slightly more sensitive to their needs in the last year. Still, the number of attacks continues to rise, and even the police admit that the trend is likely to continue. In the end, the police have still not undertaken a serious effort to protect the Roma population from physical attacks.
The Legal System's Response
The legal system altered its approach to racially motivated crimes in the second half of 1995, after the brutal murder of Tibor Berki (see description below). The government introduced stiffer penalties for racially motivated crimes and state prosecutors were ordered to seek the highest possible penalty in crimes where race was a factor.17 Romani and human rights activists report a noticable improvement in the work of the courts since then.
Despite these positive changes, the courts are still failing to apply the law equally. Too frequently, attacks that are clearly motivated by race are considered a normal assault, or a personal fight between individuals. In some cases, judges have shown open sympathy for skinheads and other extremists who have committed racist attacks.18
Jana Chalupová, ombudsman in President Václav Havel's office, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I don't believe in the changes to the penal code. They aren't used. Or very rarely. I'm sure they cannot solve the problem. Judges, prosecutors and policemen have told us that skinheads come from good families, that they were just engaged in child's play. But if they have a Romani boy who stole something, then he is not a good kid.19
Perhaps the most telling example is the case of Tibor Berki, who's murder inspired the changes in the law. A forty-three-year-old Rom, Berki was killed in his South Moravian home in May 1995 when four young men burst in to his house and beat him with a baseball bat. The attackers, who did not know Berki personally, were overheard in a pub before the attack saying they would "get a Gypsy."
The government publicly condemned the attack and the prosecutor sought the highest possible punishment for racially motivated murder. Despite this, on December 12 the court ruled that there had been no racial motivation since the attackers did not utter any racial slurs while committing the murder. The leader of the group, Zdenek Podrazsky, was sentenced to twelve years in prison for murder, while his main accomplice, Martin Komar, received eighteen months. Two others who participated got suspended sentences of two years and six months. The presiding judge, Jan Engelman, justified the absence of racial motivation by saying:
It was not shown that Podrazsky attacked with the baseball bat with the intent to kill Berki as a Gypsy. He acted subconsciously because Berki held an axe in his hands. Moreover, throughout the entire attack he was silent, and did not yell any abusive words from which a racist motive could be discerned.20
Romani leaders and human rights activists were outraged by the court's decision, and argued that it set a bad precedent for similar cases. Ond Í ej Gi Á a told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
The court said it wasn't racially motivated murder. If the court can't prove racial motivation in such a brutal case, then in a normal case, when someone is attacked on the street by a skin, they're just charged with a normal assault.21
Prime Minister Klaus also protested the court's ruling, and the prosecutor applied for an appeal. On May 23, 1996, the appeals court in Olomouc overturned the lower court's decision, ruling that racial motivation had indeed been a factor. Podrazsky's sentence was increased to thirteen years.22
Despite this positive development, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki heard of many other cases where the courts failed to prosecute racially motivated attacks to the fullest extent of the law. Perhaps the most flagrant example occurred in Pisek in December 1994. One year before, a large group of skinheads had come to the town from the neighboring area to attend a soccer match. On September 24, they found four Romani boys on an island in the middle of the Otava River and attacked them with sticks and stones, forcing them into the water. One of the boys, seventeen-year-old Tibor Danihel, drowned.
Two of the skinheads were convicted of "damaging the health resulting in death," without any mention of racial motivation, and received one-year suspended sentences. The police checked the blood of the Romani youths and determined that they had been sniffing glue, which, they claimed, contributed to Danihel's drowning. No blood checks were run on the attackers.
Throughout the trial, the judge displayed an open sympathy for the skinheads. Ladislav Zamboj, a social worker who observed the trial, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
The judge showed clearly that he was on the side of the skins. The whole courtroom was full of skins. Journalists and human rights monitors couldn't enter because it was so full. And the judge was soft on the skins who were rowdy and shouted at the witnesses. He just said, "come on boys, quiet down."23
Vaclav Trojan monitored the trial for the Czech committee of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (HCA), a local nongovernmental organization, and Amnesty International. He told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
The courtroom was full of skinheads. I couldn't even get in. The police said I couldn't enter. I told them I was from the HCA to monitor, and then I had to sneak in. After the verdict, the mother of the killed Rom cried emotionally and told the judge: "You're treating my son as if he were an animal." The judge told the police to escort her out, and charged her with contempt of court.24
According to Trojan, on the last day of the trial, some Romani homes near the courthouse were spray painted with the slogan "Zigani Raus" (German for "Gypsies Out"). He told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I saw that and went to the police. I said that I wanted to report a racial crime. After a long discussion they asked me what I wanted. Should the slogan be removed? But they are obliged to investigate. They didn't understand and they didn't even make a written record.25
As with the Berki case, the prosecutor appealed for a stiffer penalty. The case was scheduled for trial in late June 1996.
Another problem Roma face in court stems from their poor understanding of the law. The generally lower level of education and occasional illiteracy among the Romani population leave them open to abuse by the legal system. In addition, few lawyers are willing to accept their cases, often for financial reasons. Some lawyers told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that there is a stigma attached to working with Roma: having a Romani client could bring problems with the police and the courts, or deter other clients.
The Government's Response
The murder of Tibor Berki finally sparked a response from the government. Prime Minister Klaus condemned the attack and called a ministerial meeting to address the problem of racist violence, which led to the changes in the penal code and a directive for prosecutors to seek the highest sentences in racially motivated crimes. A new section was opened within the criminal police to follow extremist groups in the country. In a commentary entitled "How to Solve the Problem of Racism" published in the main Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Justice Minister Ji Í i Novak said:
The role of the state in solving this problem is clearly important and cannot be replaced. This is a democratic state and its institutions should assure citizens equal standing and protection against those who challenge the institutions and, on the other hand, take action against all those who do not respect this principle. . . . The government of this republic will without doubt do everything it can to make the word racism disappear from our daily vocabulary.26
Romani leaders and human rights activists welcomed the government's apparent resolve, but complained that it came too late and did not go far enough. Ond Í ej Gi Á a told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
It was a reaction to the most brutal racist case that had taken place in the Czech Republic. But Klaus ignored the other cases before this. He only responded after this case. The result was that they took some administrative measures, but only to improve the work of the police, prosecutors and the courts. The statement wasn't about improving the situation generally, just the institutions.
Something only happens when somebody dies. But there are so many other problems that go ignored. This is a huge tragedy because our kids are losing the chance to go to school. Both the police and society are passive.27
In its annual report on human rights for 1995, the Czech Helsinki Committe wrote:
The Czech Republic has not yet been successful in protecting the Roma from violent acts of racism and discrimination, the numbers of which have been clearly growing in recent years resulting in deaths and severe injuries. The obligation to protect minorities from racial violence has been fulfilled neither by repressive steps nor those toward its prevention, be it safety measures or education. The government tends to react once violent acts of racism have been committed, usually by verbal statements and by prosecution, not by active political prevention.28
Hana Fri_tenská from the government's Council for Nationalities emphasized the steps taken by the government following the Berki murder. Still, she felt the government could do more to combat racism in Czech society. She told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
The government must start thinking differently about racism. Not about the victims of racism, but racism as a phenomenon. Until now, it has not done so much to prevent racism. In this society, in public and in the state, no one says it is not good to be a racist.29
Karel Holemek, a member of the first post-communist Czechoslovak parliament and a prominent Romani activist, thought that the problem lay more with local officials. He told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I must objectively say that the government is not racist. It is trying to do what it can. But it's not always perfect and there are many obstacles in society. For example, the government introduced some laws to parliament about racist violence being judged more severely than normal attacks. But the verdicts of judges are not always corresponding.30
In general, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki found the same to be true. Many of the specific abuses against Roma take place on the local level: in police stations, courtrooms and administrative offices. However, the government is obliged by international law to "pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy ofeliminating racial discrimination in all its forms. . ."31 Ultimately, the Interior Ministry is responsible for the action of every police officer, the Justice Ministry for every judge. Failure to aggressively combat discrimination on all levels amounts to tacit approval for racist behavior.
POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST ROMA
Although much improved since the communist era, police violence continues to be a concern, especially for Roma. Many Roma report police harassment and, at times, the unnecessary use of force, only because they are not "white Czechs." In its annual report on human rights, the U.S. Department of State concluded:
In 1995 they [the police] continued to have a poor reputation among the public, in part a heritage from the communist era. There have been reports of police shakedowns and anecdotal stories of physical abuse and malfeasance, often directed at foreigners and Roma.32
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki confirmed two cases in recent years where a Rom died as a result of police mistreatment. None of the responsible police officers was held accountable.
The Death of Martin ,, erve Á ák
On June 8, 1994, Martin ,, erve Á ák was working outside his house with his three brothers in the village of Jeníkovice near the town of Hor_ovský Týn. According to the ,, erve Á ák family, three policemen arrived at their home around 10 a.m. and said they needed to take Martin to the police station, although they did not explain why.33 Later they learned that he had been suspected of stealing a car radio.
The police told the family that Martin would be back soon. But at 3:30 p.m. a friend telephoned them to say she had seen Martin being transported from the police station in Hor_ovský Týn by ambulance. According to Ladislav ,, erve Á ák, Martin's brother:
We called the police and they gave the phone to Dr. Luka_ Re ñ ek in Hor_ovský Týn. . . . The doctor said he [Martin]fell on a rock, that's why he had a hole in his head. We phoned again and a policeman said that he had fallen on a heater.34
The family then went to the hospital where they found out that Martin was in intensive care and probably would not survive. He died soon thereafter of a gunshot wound to the head.
The official police report, issued on September 30, 1994, claimed that ,, erve Á ák had attacked three policemen, Officers Horák, Marek and Bárta, who were conducting the initial investigation at the police station. During the ensuing struggle, the report said, one of the officer's pistols had accidentally fired, striking ,, erve Á ák in the head. The report concluded that "there is no suspicion of criminal offense" on the part of the police.35
Martin's father, Matej, protested the investigator's conclusions. The police recommended a local lawyer, Vlastimil Kaplan, to assist him in his case. According to Mr. ,, erve Á ák, the lawyer was friendly with the police, charged the family money and never genuinely assisted them with their case. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki saw a letter Matej ,, erve Á ák wrote to the police protesting the investigator's decision and requesting more information on his son's death. He received a letter back from Václav Královec of the regional government in Plzen which said:
I have not found anything inappropriate with the investigator's report. The only thing left is for you to cease with this unreasonable initiative. I must also inform you that, if you present another similar request, we will not respond, nor will we confirm its receipt.36
Officers Horák, Marek and Bárta are all still working for the police in the nearby town of Doma ñ lice.
On November 22, 1991, a Romani man, Václav Balá ñ , exited a pub in his home town of B Í ezlav with three friends. The group was apparently drunk as they blocked the passing car of Captain Petr Baránek, an off-duty policeman. An argument ensued which quickly grew violent. Baránek fired his gun, killing Balá ñ and injuring two of the other men.
The inspector at the Ministry of the Interior opened an investigation but determined that Baránek had been attacked first, and fired his gun accidentally when the men tried to take his weapon. The official report concluded that Baránek had, "behaved according to the law concerning the behavior of the police."37
Roma activists, however, claim that Balá ñ was murdered. Witnesses told Romani leaders that Baránek had clearly fired his gun at the men, killing the eighteen-year-old Balá ñ . Numerous pleas to the Ministry of the Interior and the prosecutor's office to press charges against Baránek brought no results.
Karel Holelmek, who was a member of the Czechoslovak parliament at the time the attack took place, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I made an interpellation in parliament about that policeman Baránek who shot a drunken group of Roma. They just touched his car, and he got out and shot. The policeman was thrown out of the police, but then nothing more.38
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki discovered that Petr Baránek is now working as a police captain in B Í ezlav.
These and other incidents of police mistreatment have helped erode the little trust that Roma had in the police. As Ond Í ej Gi Á a told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
If the institutions like the police, courts and official investigators are not able to find the truth when the police are involved, how can they protect people from individuals like skinheads?39
DENIAL OF ACCESS TO PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENTS
Throughout the Czech Republic, Roma are often denied access to pubs, discos, restaurants, swimming pools and other public establishments run by private individuals or the state. According to the 1995 report of the Czech Helsinki Committee:
Cases of open non-violent discrimination of minorities, in particular of Roma, were registered [in 1995] in consumer services, stores, restaurants etc., where employees refused to serve Roma or let them enter. These acts of discrimination, in some cases even overtly declared (notices such as "We do not serve Gypsies"), are left unprosecuted since there is no direct legal instrument for their punishment and that what is called indirect instruments are not used.40
The Prague-based organization HOST is conducting a study of such discrimination throughout the Czech Republic by purposefully sending Romani customers into establishments known not to serve Roma. Ms. Holemek, who is running the project in Brno, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that six out of twenty restaurants in her town had refused Roma service.
Her father, Karel Holemek, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I have some experience from this week. Two of my Romani employees went to a restaurant, and they didn't allow them in. They said directly: "We won't serve you here."41
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki also heard about a restaurant in Rokycany, Na ð elezné , that refused to serve Roma. A Human Rights Watch/Helsinki researcher then watched the waiters refuse service to a woman they mistakenly thought was a Rom.42
In March 1996, a controversy erupted in the South Moravian town of B Í ezlav when a candidate for parliament, Rudolf Baránek, put up a sign outside his hotel that said: "Because of repeated stealing, access is forbidden to those of Romani origin." After public outcry, the sign was removed, and Baranek was placed much lower on the list of his party, the Free Democrats - Liberal National Social Party. Ladislav Bodý, the only Rom in parliament at the time, subsequently filed suit against Baranek for fomenting racism. As of June 1996, the case was still under investigation.
DISCRIMINATION IN HOUSING, EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT
Although not the focus of this report, it should be said that Roma face daily discrimination in housing, education and employment. The situation was aptly summed up by Vaclav Trojan from the HCA when he said:
Roma are a marginalized group in society, and they are not able to defend themselves. And this is abused by individuals and sometimes the local officials.43
For example, there are some new initiatives for Roma in schools, such as a Head Start program and after-school activities. But a disproportionate number of Roma still attend special schools for handicapped children. A number of Roma told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that Romani children are often placed in such schools even if they are good students. As Human Rights Watch/Helsinki's 1992 report on Roma in Czechoslovakia pointed out: "These schools offer an inferior education and significantly restrict choices for further studies and job opportunities."44 In normal schools, Romani children are often placed in the back of the room or ridiculed by students and even teachers.
In May 1996, the organization HOST issued an 80-page report about the inequalities in the education system. It targeted seven areas, including: de facto segregation in special schools where Roma are labeled retarded, violence against Romani children, teachers' lack of response to racism in class, lack of funding for Romani education, lack of access for Roma to higher education, the absence of Romani teachers and the lack of state resolve to address the situation.45
The lack of a proper education clearly limits the possibilities for fruitful employment. But even well-educated Roma face discrimination in the job market. Z.M. from Usti nad Labem told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki about a common experience for Roma:
I called about a job at a construction site. The manager said come on down. But when I got there he saw I was a Gypsy and told me all the jobs had been taken.46
In fact, Usti nad Labem has a special employment office for Roma that offers retraining. But discrimination in this town and others throughout the Czech Republic appears widespread.
Freedom of movement is guaranteed in the Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, but Roma face constant difficulties in finding and registering for housing in many areas of the country. As the 1992 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report points out, "Roma are often prevented from obtaining housing by non-Roma who do not want them to `ruin the neighborhood'."47
On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. The country split peacefully into two parts, the Czech and Slovak Republics, both of which adopted new citizenship laws to determine who would and would not gain citizenship in Europe's two newest states.48
Slovakia decided that all former Czechoslovak citizens could receive Slovak citizenship if they desired, regardless of where they had been living on the day of the split. Czechoslovak documents were simply exchanged for the Slovak equivalent.
The Czech Republic, however, chose a more restrictive route. According to the Law on the Acquisition and Loss of Czech Citizenship (Law No. 40/1993), passed December 29, 1992, all those with Czech state citizenship from the former Czechoslovakia automatically received Czech national citizenship.49 Those with Slovak state citizenship, even if they had been living in the Czech Republic, had to apply for Czech national citizenship through naturalization, and meet a series of stringent requirements.50
The law thus created a distinction between Czech and Slovak state citizenship that did not exist before. In the former Czechoslovakia, state citizenship was largely meaningless: it denoted a person's place of residence, but had no relevance to taxes, voting rights or any other right or obligation usually connected with citizenship. Many people were not concerned with their "administrative identity," and moved from one republic to the other without applying for a change.
As the new Czech citizenship law came into effect, however, it became clear that the distinction between Czech and Slovak state citizenship was highly relevant for a certain sector of the population. Approximately 95 percent of the Czech Republic's Roma population had moved to the Czech Republic from Slovakia after World War II.51 Very few of them had bothered to change their state citizenship over the years and, therefore, were considered Slovak citizens under the new law, even if they had been living on the territory of the Czech Republic since the 1950s. The children of such people are also considered Slovak, even though they were born on the territory of the Czech Republic, have lived their entire lives there and have no connections to Slovakia.
As Slovaks, these people were forced to go through a rigorous administrative process to obtain citizenship in the very country in which they had spent most or all of their lives. Many Roma were unable to meet the requirements of the law, such as five years with a clean criminal record or proof of permanent residency. There werealso many cases where Roma who met all of the law's requirements were arbitrarily denied citizenship by local officials. Occasionally misinformation was provided, either by accident or intentionally, to keep Roma from obtaining citizenship.
Major national and international bodies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Council of Europe and the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), publicly stated that the law did not comport with international legal principles. A report on the law prepared by the UNHCR concluded:
. . . those who were permanently resident in the Czech Republic should not, in January of 1993, have been classified as Slovak citizens. The individuals with whom this paper is concerned were not resident in Slovakia and had a genuine effective link with Czech territory. This attribution of Slovak citizenship to non-residents who have no effective link and have indicated, in fact, their link to be elsewhere does not conform with generally accepted rules of international law.52
Max van der Stoel, OSCE high commissioner on national minorities, also expressed his concern at an OSCE meeting on Roma held in 1994, saying:
In no case should new citizenship laws be drafted and implemented in such a way as to discriminate against legitimate claimants for citizenship, or even to withhold citizenship from possibly tens of thousands of life-long and long-term inhabitants of the state, most of whom are Roma. As a result, the status of these persons is essentially that of "foreigner" in their own country. This would greatly undermine what I would consider to be in the long-term interest of the state. I would strongly urge that the clearly negative impact of such legislation be considered, and that appropriate changes be made.53
A number of Czech nongovernmental organizations conducted detailed research to document the discriminatory impact of the law on the Romani population. The Tolerance Foundation, which produced five reports on the citizenship law based on interviews with hundreds of Roma, determined:
The law was aimed at limiting the Roma population's possibility of acquiring Czech citizenship because it imposed a set of requirements that are particularly difficult for this ethnic group to comply with.54
During its fact-finding mission in the Czech Republic, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki conducted interviews with numerous individuals who had either monitored the citizenship law or were affected by it. Although it is difficult to prove with certainty, based on this research, there is substantial evidence to suggest that the law was drafted with the specific intent of restricting citizenship for the Romani population. In any case, there is no doubt that the law has had a highly discriminatory impact on Roma living in the Czech Republic.
Despite this, the Czech government continues to defend the law. Although President Havel has criticized the discriminatory implementation of the law, he too maintains that the legislation itself is sound. In a letter written to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the president's director of foreign policy wrote:
President Havel believes that the Czech citizenship law can stand the comparison with analogous legislation of other nations. The requirements stipulated by the law are binding upon all inhabitants of the former Czechoslovakia, without discriminating in any way against any nationalities or ethnic groups.55
Regarding citizenship in newly-formed states, Human Rights Watch supports the "zero option," i.e. the granting of citizenship equally to all who were permanent residents at the time the new state came into existence, and who were citizens of the predecessor state. Any other option presents the possibility that citizenship will be denied to individuals who had significant links to the territory of the state in question, in this case the Czech Republic. Those excluded are individuals who, while Czechoslovakia was a united state, migrated from Slovakia to the Czech Republic. We believe, however, that most individuals who migrated within the country could not have foreseen the change in Czechoslovakia's political status, and that they lived in the Czech Republic with the expectation that their residence would not be interrupted by the issue of their citizenship. These individuals must be considered separately from new immigrants, i.e. people without genuine links to the Czech Republic who applied for citizenship after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
Our concern with respect to citizenship entitlement is twofold: first, citizenship entitles individuals to basic rights such as voting and residence. Denying citizenship to deserving individuals would therefore violate their voting rights guaranteed in Article 25 of the ICCPR, and Paragraph 7 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document of the OSCE. Second, the allocation of property and other social and economic rights often hinge upon citizenship. Citizenship laws that exclude otherwise deserving individuals would create categories of people who would be the victims of systematic discrimination, banned by Article 27 of the ICCPR.56
There is no question that the citizenship law has left some long-term or life-long residents of the Czech Republic without Czech citizenship, almost all of them Roma. According to the Interior Ministry, only 200 former Czechoslovak citizens had been denied Czech citizenship as of December 31, 1995.57 But research by Czech NGOs suggests that the number of rejected applicants is much higher. In one study alone, for example, the Tolerance Foundation questioned 255 Roma from eight cities who had been denied citizenship. They found that 52 percent of these people were born in the Czech Republic 26 percent had lived there more that twenty years.58 Estimates differ, but NGOs claim that between 10,000 and 25,000 former Czechoslovak citizens with genuine links to the Czech Republic have not obtained Czech citizenship.
Some of these people have become stateless altogether. Others have been deported to Slovakia. Those that remain in the Czech Republic cannot vote or participate in privatization programs, and have difficulty obtaining social support.
Background to the Law
Discussions on controlling the "Gypsy problem" began in the summer of 1992. Partially it was a response to the growing crime problem in Czechoslovakia, much of which was blamed on Roma. In addition, local officials in the Czech Republic expressed fears of a Roma influx from the poorer and lesser developed Slovakia, especially as it became clearer that Czechoslovakia would split.
The loudest complaints came from the industrial towns in northern Bohemia, where many Roma lived and unemployment levels were growing. Already in 1991 and 1992 there had been a number of violent incidents between Roma and the local population.
Around this time, the government formulated an internal document, known as the "Catastrophic Scenario," which dealt with many aspects of the federation's pending split. Sections leaked to the press made clear references to the "Romani question," including a section which said:
We should use the process for the purpose of departure of not-needed persons from factories, especially for the reasons of structural changes, and for the departure of people of Roma nationality to the Slovak Republic.59
Interior Minister Jan Ruml denied on television that the document mentioned the deportation of Roma, but was later quoted in Mlada Fronta Dnes as saying, "The question of deporting Roma is in the discussed material only as a footnote besides the text itself."60
In October 1992, the northern town of Jirkov passed a local ordinance as a response to the perceived inflow of Roma from Slovakia.61 The decree, which the city council admitted was aimed at Roma, spoke of areas in danger of migration and gave local authorities the power to evict people from apartments that were deemed overcrowded or unclean.62 The town hall had to approve visits to Jirkov by anyone without residency permits in the area. Visitors were allowed twice a year for one week, and police had the right to enter a flat they suspected of harboring guests. Unregistered guests could cost the host up to 5,000 koruny (approximately U.S. $185) or imprisonment.
The general prosecutor stated that the decree violated the Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, but did not take any action against the local authorities. Soon thereafter, five other towns in Bohemia began to adopt points from the Jirkov decree. All together, approximately twenty families were expelled from their homes as a result, according to local Romani activists. Some were given train tickets to Slovakia.
In November, the mayors of the northern Bohemian towns of Louny, Teplice, Chomutov, Litomerice, Most, Usti nad Labem and De . in formulated a series of demands for the parliament and Interior Ministry regarding Roma and the influx of migrants. Among other things, they proposed that Czech citizenship be granted only to those individuals without a criminal record, and who had been approved by the local authorities where they were living.
One month later, the Czech general prosecutor, Ji Í i Setina, proposed a Law on Extraordinary Measures to be used in areas "threatened by migration." According to the proposal, people who did not have a residency permit in a certain municipality needed the permission of the local authority to stay there. Visits were limited, and violatorscould be fined 1,000 koruny (approximately U.S. $36) per day of illegal stay. The police also would have the right to monitor who was staying in any apartment, except between midnight and 6:00 a.m. The report accompanying the draft law referred to the large concentration of Roma in certain areas of northern Bohemia.63
Romani and human rights organizations, as well as some deputies in parliament, condemned the proposal as a violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and called for the general prosecutor's resignation. In January, Justice Minister Ji Í i Novak said that the draft law contravened the constitution, but refused to recall the general prosecutor.
As these debates raged, the Czech parliament quietly reviewed the citizenship law. On December 29, 1992, it passed by a vote of 155 to thirteen.
Clearly, the law was drafted in an atmosphere of fear that Romani immigrants would flood the Czech Republic from Slovakia. Some government officials admit this, and criticize the law for disproportionately affecting the Romani population, although they adamantly deny the law was drafted with the intent of discriminating against Roma.
Many Romani and human rights activists however, believe that the law was drafted specifically to hinder the application process for Roma and expel "undesirable" people from the country. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki believes that there is strong evidence to suggest that this is the case.
Indeed, the Czech Republic could have crafted a law that would have prohibited immigration from Slovakia while providing citizenship to long-term residents of the Czech Republic who had also been Czechoslovak citizens. Such a proposal was advanced during separation negotiations with Slovakia in 1992, but was dropped by Czech officials when Slovaks held out for a dual citizenship agreement.
Discriminatory Aspects of the Law
Throughout the process, the citizenship law presents formidable barriers for Roma to obtain citizenship. First, applicants have to obtain proof of their Slovak citizenship from the Slovak authorities. Having obtained proof of Slovak citizenship, an applicant must apply for release from this citizenship, a procedure which originally cost 3,000 Slovak korony (approximately U.S. $120). Only then could one apply to the Czech authorities for Czech citizenship, a procedure which originally cost 5,000 Czech korony (approximately U.S. $180).64
Even for educated people, the process was obtuse and confusing. But for many Roma, who suffer disproportionately from low levels of education and literacy, it was at times incomprehensible. Many Roma couldn't understand why they had to apply for citizenship in one country, give it up, and then apply in another country, only to keep living in the place where they had been living most or all of their lives. For many, the very notion of citizenship was confusing.
Eva Bajgerová, a Romani social worker in Usti nad Labem, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
Many people were asking me for help with their citizenship. But the biggest problem was that many of them had committed a crime in the last five years. The second problem was that they couldn't understand why they should apply for citizenship when they were born here.65
Marta Miklu_aková, who interviewed between thirty and forty Roma for her master's thesis on the citizenship law and worked with numerous international organizations on the issue, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
No one ever saw the law, and they did not understand the basic terminology. Many [Roma] are even illiterate. What you take for granted, they cannot do. They are powerless against the institutions.66
Moreover, the government failed to provide substantive information about the law or explain the application procedure. With some exceptions, the government did not cooperate with local Romani groups, who have good contact with the Romani communities. Instead, the information campaign became the task of nongovernmental organizations, who printed brochures and placed ads in local papers. Some of these groups, such as the Tolerance Foundation and the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that the Czech authorities often proved uncooperative. In its report on the Czech and Slovak citizenship laws, UNHCR also complained of poor cooperation with the government, stating:
UNHCR has also encountered serious obstacles in gaining access to individuals and records. The authorities have, on several occasions, committed themselves to providing the Office with access to data as well as to individuals. Despite reminders, significant obstacles remain. With the cooperation of the authorities, these issues could be resolved.67
Many Roma were also not able to afford the administrative fees required to apply. The Tolerance Foundation spent U.S. $10,000 in two months to help 212 people from Prague and Usti nad Labem gain citizenship. Another $15,000 was spent in Teplice. According to Ladislav Zamboj, who helped administer the project:
There was a serious financial problem for many people. Many didn't have the money to get the necessary documents. But it's not their fault, they should have the possibility to get citizenship without difficulty. They should not pay anything.68
For those who understood and could afford the application, the difficulties were not over. According to the law, "Slovak citizens" had to meet a series of stringent requirements in order to obtain Czech citizenship. Significantly, other catagories of former Czechoslovaks who were predominantly ethnic Czechs were not required to meet these conditions at all.
Clean Criminal Record Requirement
Known as the "Gypsy clause," Article 7 of the law required that applicants not have committed an intentional crime within the five years proceeding their application. However, denying citizenship to previously convicted criminals effectively adds an additional, ex post facto punishment to the individual who committed a crime. Imposing penalties heavier than those that applied at the time a crime was committed violates Article 15 of the ICCPR.
In addition, the clean criminal record requirement does not take into consideration the severity of the crime, and thus violates the accepted international principle of proportionality. As such, individuals were denied citizenship for both shoplifting and murder.
This is especially relevant since, according to the Interior Ministry, the most common crimes committed by Roma are robbery and simple theft.69 In an August 1995 report, the Tolerance Foudation also determined that, of 114 people who had been denied citizenship because they had committed a crime, seventy-four of them had committed a theft or other petty crime.70
Another factor is that Roma are more likely than ethnic Czechs to encounter difficulties with the legal system. Partially this is due to their lower economic status. But racism in the law enforcement and legal systems also makes it more likely that Roma will be arrested, convicted and incarcerated. Jana Chalupová, ombudsman for President Havel, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that approximately one-third of the amnesties issued by the president were for Roma, especially women with children. She said:
It's connected with the problem that they [Roma] are more criminalized. More often they are in prison. If you have a Czech boy and a Roma boy who commit the same crime, you can bet that the Roma boy will go to prison and the Czech boy will get a suspended sentence.71
Regarding proportionality, the Council of Europe's report on the citizenship law concluded:
. . . [I]t is questionable whether the requirement of proportionality, as an element of the concept of the Rule of Law, is met. The condition encompasses every offence except very minor ones and its practical application could be seen as extremely harsh, in particular toward persons who had lived on the territory of the Czech Republic for a long time or even were born there. . . . It is the opinion of the experts that the clean criminal record requirement is not proportional and could be considered discriminatory for this segment of the population which is already socially marginalized.72
According to the citizenship law, Slovak citizens must prove two years permanent residency in the Czech Republic to acquire citizenship. But many Roma who had been living in the Czech Republic longer than that did not have the documents to prove that they had permanent residency for the last two years. A Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report on Roma in Czechoslovakia, published in August 1992, pointed at some of the problems, stating:
The housing situation for Romanies in the Czech Republic has been increasingly difficult in the last several years, especially in Northern Bohemia and Moravia. In the face of a general housingshortage, in which people must wait anywhere from two to ten years for an apartment (from the state), Romani families sometimes live in extremely unhygienic conditions, sometimes as many as fifteen to twenty persons in a two-room showerless apartment. This situation has been aggravated by the process of restitution and privatization, in which Roma, who rarely had any property in the past and are presently in the poorest social strata, are left with few possibilities.73
The result is that many Roma are not able to provide documents proving their permanent residency. A 1994 Tolerance Foundation report on the citizenship law examined 1,000 individual cases in five Czech cities. It concluded:
Many Roma families were living in overcrowded flats with, for example, 18-20 persons in three rooms. Their applications for extra rooms or extra flats were never resolved by local authorities. At the same time, administration officials were refusing to register as permanent residents at a specific address, more than three or four members of the family (which invariably far exceeded that number) because they did not have the legally required number of square meters per person.74 As a result, many Roma have been unable to prove permanent residence and, consequently, to acquire Czech citizenship.75
In late 1994, the Czech Constitutional Court recognized that proving permanent residency with a document was diffiuclt for some people who had, in fact, been living permanently in the Czech Republic. On September 13, the court ruled:
. . . permanent residency means actual residency and not one that is reflected only in official files . . . In this sense, permanent residency must be understood to mean that the person lives at his place of continuous residence, is generally at the place where he has his family, parents, apartment or employment and also the place where he lives with the intention of staying there permanently. . .76
Despite this, Roma and human rights organizations report that local Interior Ministry officials still often require the permanent residency document. UNHCR has concluded:
Under these circumstances, many of the Roma are not able to meet the condition of the law requiring permanent residency, despite the fact that they have been resident in the Czech Republic and their children born on Czech territory.77
Orphans and Prison Inmates
The citizenship law states that all children under fifteen years of age are included on the applications of their parents. Furthermore, both parents must agree that the child apply for citizenship.78
This condition has grave consequences for the hundreds of children in the Czech Republic's 180 orphanages, the majority of whom are Roma of Slovak origin.79 Very few of these children have contact with their parents, which leaves them foreigners in a Czech institution, even though they were born in the Czech Republic. One foreign observer very familiar with the citizenship issue believed that over 1,000 children were in such a position.
The same situation exists for prison inmates who have not been able to regulate their citizenship during their period of incarceration. According to Zdenek Trojan, a member of parliament, between 1,500 and 2,000 people in prison do not know if they are Czech or Slovak.80 Human rights organizations report very bad cooperation with the prison authorities in determining whether these people have a legal right to obtain Czech citizenship.
Discriminatory Implementation of the Law
Aside from the inherently discriminatory aspects of the law, there are also many reported cases where local authorities arbitrarily denied citizenship to Roma who met all of the law's requirements. The Interior Ministry issued directive No. 1/1993 to instruct the local authorities on how to process applicants. But Romani and human rights activists, as well as Roma who were denied citizenship, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that local officials sometimes provided misinformation, both intentionally and by accident. Partially this was because the Interior Ministry did not always provide clear enough information to those responsible for dealing with the application process. In other cases, local authorities denied citizenship solely because the applicant was a Rom.
President Havel recognized the discriminatory implementation of the law. In a letter to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the president's director of foreign policy wrote:
The President is aware of certain problems in the application of the citizenship law at the executive level. In many ways, he has sought to promote proper application of the law with a view to preventing injustices. He has been repeatedly stressing the need that the competent authorities at all levels provide the applicants correct information and considerate treatment.81
` Marta Miklu_aková echoed this view, and told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I saw so many [Roma] who fulfilled all of the condition and were denied [citizenship] because the social worker told them that they didn't meet the requirements. The main thing was the five year[clean criminal record] condition because social workers did not understand that the law differentiated between the beginning and end of the prison sentence.82
According to the law, the five year clean criminal record requirement refers to the date of sentencing. Despite this, some people were told that they did not qualify for citizenship because they had been released from prison within the last five years. The Tolerance Foundation also reported cases where Roma were denied citizenship even though they had been arrested or detained, but not convicted. Lastly, officials sometimes failed to explain that a person who was ineligible because of a crime would become eligible after five years had passed since the date of sentencing.83 The UNHCR's report also stated that regional authorities had "wrongly rejected some applications on grounds of the criminal record," stating:
For example, persons arrested but never prosecuted were told they did not meet the requirement of a clean record. For others, who were amnestied, the authorities refused to take this into account. Individuals sentenced more than five years ago have been told they did not meet the requirement.84
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki also heard about the case of M.S., a Romani woman living in Karlovy Vary. Social workers falsely told her that her two children, Simona and Zdenek, would automatically be included on her citizenship application. Following their advice, she asked for them to be included on her application, and they did not receive citizenship, even though both were born in the Czech Republic.85
It should be noted, however, that some of the local authorities performed their duties in good faith. The generally lower level of education among Roma, including cases of illiteracy, and poorer understanding of administrative procedures, compounded the problem.
In August 1994, the Czech press began running stories about an office worker in Karvina, a North Moravian town with a large Romani population, who was accused of taking bribes in return for granting citizenship. The local authorities began an investigation and checked the citizenship documents of individuals who had their papers signed by the worker in question, Mrs. ,, echová. According to the Tolerance Foundation, by May 1995, 10,500 ID cards had been checked. In 360 cases, the citizenship stamp was determined to be illegal, and was canceled. Mrs. ,, echová was not prosecuted, but did lose her job.86
While some of those 360 stamps may have been illegally acquired, problems arose because the cancellations of citizenship were conducted without a court order. The authorities simply examined the files of those individuals who had received citizenship with Mrs. ,, echová's approval, and revoked the citizenship if any of the necessary documents were either missing or not in order. According to human rights activists and some members of the government familiar with the case, the authorities revoked the citizenship of some individuals who had legally met all of the requirements. Since many of these people had obtained a release from Slovak citizenship, they became dejure stateless. In its report on the Czech citizenship law, the Council of Europe stated that the procedure in Karvina, "clearly does not meet European legal standards."87
After 1992, there was a particular interest in ethnic Czechs living outside of the Czech Republic. Of special concern were the Volnya Czechs who live in Ukraine.
On June 28, 1995, parliament passed an amendment to the citizenship law that gave the Interior Ministry the right to waive the five year permanent residency requirement for foreigners to those individuals who had been resettled in the Czech Republic by the Czech government before December 31, 1994. The amendment was intended to grant citizenship to a couple hundred Volnya Czechs who had been resettled by the Czech government the year before. After the amendment, an estimated 200-300 Volnya Czechs received citizenship.
Human rights activists pointed out the hypocrisy in the government's action: the state had facilitated citizenship for ethnic Czechs living abroad, while doing very little to assist non-ethnic Czechs from obtaining citizenship in the country where they had lived all or most of their lives. For many people, this illustrated the ethnic intentions of the citizenship law. Ironically, some pointed out, it was easier for an ethnic Czech in Ukraine who had committed a murder to gain Czech citizenship than a law-abiding Rom who was born and lived his entire life in the Czech Republic.
Consequences of Lost Citizenship
The precise number of people with genuine links to the Czech Republic who have not received citizenship is hard to estimate. Romani and human rights activists estimate the figure is between 10,000-25,000. Without any question, the majority of these people are Roma. Czech officials have refused to provide credible and consistent documentation on the question of numbers.
The most obvious consequence of lost citizenship is the inability to vote, a fundamental right in any democracy. In addition, non-citizens are not allowed to participate in the Czech Republic's privatization process or hold public office.
According to the Law on Foreigners' Stay and Residence, there are three forms of legal stay for non-citizens in the Czech Republic: short term (up to 180 days), long term (up to one year) and permanent residence. To obtain the latter, an individual must prove foreign citizenship, a place of residence, adequate financial means and proper health. Many of these are difficult for Roma to prove. In one study, the Tolerance Foundation questioned ninety-nine individuals who had been denied Czech citizenship. From this group, not one had a permanent residency permit.88
Without permanent residency, a person is not entitled to benefits from the state, such as unemployment compensation and health insurance. In addition, if the father of the household does not have permanent residency, the whole family receives nothing from the state. Those without permanent residency are subject to deportation by the foreigners' police.
Even those who do obtain permanent residence are sometimes discriminated against because they do not have citizenship. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki heard of a few cases where individuals were taken off job lists in local employment offices, even though one does not need to be a citizen to be on such a list.
The Czech government has continually stated that, with a few random exceptions, no one became stateless as a result of the citizenship law. In a position paper issued in response to the UNHCR report on the Czech and Slovak citizenship laws, the government says:
Upon establishment of the Czech Republic as a new subject in international law, it became necessary to define its citizenship by law. The new citizenship law determined that persons who had been holders of Czech citizenship prior to the dissolution of the federation should become citizens of the Czech Republic. A similar transformation took place in the Slovak Republic as a result, former Czechoslovak citizens automatically became citizens of either of the successor States. The above legislation therefore could not have caused situations of statelessness.89
Despite this, governmental and nongovernmental organizations monitoring the citizenship law have documented cases where statelessness has clearly occurred.90 According to the UNHCR, "A significant number of de facto statelessness have resulted from the fact that certain groups and individuals were physically and/or legally not able to take the necessary steps to exercise Czech or Slovak citizenship."91
The primary way that statelessness can occur is in the transition between releasing Slovak citizenship and obtaining Czech citizenship. Governmental and nongovernmental organizations found individuals who had obtained release from their Slovak citizenship and then, for a variety of reasons, did not obtain Czech citizenship, and are now stateless. The problem was reduced after the Czech and Slovak authorities agreed to coordinate their administrative procedures in 1994, but incidents of statelessness from this transition period still occur.
In its investigation of ninety-nine Roma who were denied Czech citizenship, for example, the Tolerance Foundation found that only six of the ninety-nine people held a Slovak passport.92 The rest did not have any Slovak identification papers and are, therefore, de facto stateless. Eight of the ninety-nine people were de jure stateless, since they had certificates of exemption from Slovak citizenship but had not yet acquired Czech citizenship.
According to Article 16 of the Czech criminal code, police may expel any foreigner who commits a misdemeanor or lesser crime. Those who commit more serious crimes may be expelled by a court decision.93 According to the Czech Alien and Border Police, in 1995 there were 881 expulsions from the Czech Republic, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. Of these, 244 people were Slovak citizens.94
Clearly, some of those deported were genuinely foreigners who committed a crime in the Czech Republic. But there is reason to believe that many of those deported to Slovakia were Roma who, for one reason or another, were denied Czech citizenship despite having genuine links to the Czech Republic. In such cases, these people were not only denied citizenship in the country where they have established lives, but were sent to a country where they have no legitimate connection. In some cases, families have been divided.
One such example is of Edmond Billy, a nineteen-year-old Rom who was born in Ko_ice, Slovakia, but moved to the Czech Republic when he was four years old. His mother and one sister live in the Czech Republic and have Czech citizenship, but Edmond and his brother do not. According to Ladislav Zamboj, a social worker who worked closely with the case, Billy was arrested in December 1994 for shoplifting from a Kmart in Prague. Because it was a misdemeanor, he was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered deported from the country by administrative decision. Billy began his sentence in January 1995 and was expelled from the Czech Republic on January 13, 1996.95
A Czech human rights activist who had contact with Billy before his deportation but wanted to remain nameless, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
He [Billy] said he thought they would send him to his father's permanent address [in Slovakia], but he knew that his father had sold his house. He didn't know where his father was. He said he had no family there. He was born in Slovakia and spent one year there at age sixteen. But he told me that he knew no one there.96
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki encountered another case in Trmice, a town outside of Usti nad Labem. Mr. and Mrs. Demeter came to the Czech Republic from Slovakia in 1975, and obtained Czech citizenship in 1993.97 They have four children, aged fifteen to twenty-four, three of whom also had no trouble obtaining Czech citizenship. Their fourth son, however, twenty-one-year-old Josef, did not apply for citizenship right away in early 1993, committed a crime, and was then denied citizenship. He was convicted and began serving time in Strá ñ pod Ralskem prison on June 3, 1995. His deportation to Slovakia is currently scheduled for July 1996. Mr. Demeter told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
We have no family in Slovakia. Our home is here. Our son was three months old when we moved here. We don't know where he'll live.98
Those Roma who are deported to Slovakia face harsher economic conditions than in the Czech Republic. The large Romani population in Slovakia is poorer and more isolated many people live in over-crowded, ghetto-like settlements in the eastern part of the country. A human rights monitor for the International Helsinki Federation in Bratislava, who has carefully monitored Roma rights in Slovakia, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
If you send them [Roma] back to Slovakia, they left years ago and the connections are broken. They do not have a group of relatives to take care of them and help them out. And they are much poorer here. Those deported really have it tough.99
Another problem is that Slovak state benefits are distributed through the local authorities, which means that individuals much be registered with a place of permanent residence. As in the Czech Republic, Roma in Slovakia often face resistance from local authorities when trying to obtain such a permit.
Milan Kropuch, the mayor of Javornice in eastern Slovakia, told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that a lot of Czech Roma had come to his town since the split of Czechoslovakia, but very few were granted residence. He said:
In the last two years, since the split, about one hundred Czech Roma came here and wanted to be registered. But we've got our laws. Where can I register them? Where, when in some houses there are thirty people. We must force them to take care of themselves.
It's mixed. Some of them are Czech Gypsies. Born here but they lived there for a long time and had kids there. Then they didn't get citizenship because of the five year criminal requirement. Others are Slovak.
They must apply [for the Slovak residency permits] in written form. Then the town hall must find where he wants to be registered. Then they decide. Of one hundred, two were registered, I think.100
Amendments to the Citizenship Law
Since its enactment, the citizenship law has been amended three times. The first amendment, on October 12, 1993, was intended to allow children to acquire citizenship by adoption, and to allow senior citizens to opt for citizenship on slightly more liberal conditions. A proposal to eliminate the clean criminal record requirement was rejected by parliament.
The second amendment passed parliament on June 28, 1995. It granted the Interior Ministry with the right to waive the two year permanent residency requirement for those individuals who had been "resettled in the Czech Republic by December 31, 1994, by invitation of the government."101 The amendment was intended to facilitate the granting of citizenship to Volnya Czechs from Ukraine (see section on Volnya Czechs).
The most recent amendment, passed by parliament on April 26, 1996, grants the Interior Ministry the power to waive the clean criminal record requirement. While this change is a step in the right direction, it still does not eliminate all of the discriminatory aspects of the law. It also remains to be seen if the ministry will utilize its newly-won power to help those with genuine links to the Czech Republic gain citizenship. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki questions whether the government organ that, at times, applied the law in a discriminatory manner, will now actively work to rectify the problems.
In addition, the government has not attempted to inform individuals that the clean criminal record requirement may now be waived. Without spreading this information widely throughout the Roma community, itis unlikely that many people will resubmit their applications for consideration. Many Romani and human rights activists believe that the amendment was passed to console the Council of Europe and UNHCR, after both organizations had released critical reports on the law.
The following section refers to Czech law and the international legal instruments to which the Czech Republic is a party, as well as to politically binding documents adopted by the Czech Republic through the OSCE.
International law prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of ethnic or national identity:
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.102
States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races, and, to this end:
(a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination . . .
(b) Each State Party undertakes not to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination . . .
Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists . . .103
Article 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also states:
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
According to the OSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities, the participating states:
. . . will take the necessary measures to prevent discrimination against individuals, particularly in respect of employment, housing and education, on the grounds of belonging or not belonging to a national minority. In that context, they will make provision, if they have not yet done so, for effective recourse to redress for individuals who have experienced discriminatory treatment on thegrounds of their belonging or not belonging to a national minority, including by making available to individual victims of discrimination a broad array of administrative and judicial remedies.104
The Czech Republic also has international obligations to protect all inhabitants from violence, including a specific obligation to protect minorities from violence due to racial or ethnic identity:
States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone without distinction as to race, color, or national origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of . . .
b. The right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by Government officials or by any individual, group, or institution . . .105
The participating States . . . commit themselves to take appropriate and proportionate measures to protect persons or groups who may be subject to threats or acts of discrimination, hostility or violence as a result of their racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity, and to protect their property . . .106
When fundamental rights are violated, the state is obligated to provide an effective remedy.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.107
States Parties assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination which violate his human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to this Convention, as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination.108
The conduct of police officers is prescribed by international standards:
Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfill the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.109
In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.110
International standards also state that:
No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment . . .111
The government has a responsibility to guarantee that police officers have the proper training and equipment to fulfill their obligations. Specifically, the government has an obligation to make clear to police officers which means may be used to prevent the commission of a crime, and the circumstances under which particular means are appropriate. In an effort to avoid the use of lethal force:
Governments and law enforcement agencies should develop a range of means as broad as possible and equip law enforcement officials with various types of weapons and ammunition that would allow for a differentiated use of force and firearms. These should include the development of non-lethal incapacitating weapons for use in appropriate situations . . . [I]t should also be possible for law enforcement officials to be equipped with self-defensive equipment such as shields, helmets, bulletproof vests and bullet-proof means of transportation, in order to decrease the need to use weapons of any kind.112
Governments should make human rights and civil rights training a part of any police training program:
In the training of law enforcement officials, governments and law enforcement agencies shall give special attention to issues of police ethics and human rights, especially in the investigative process, to alternatives to the use of force and firearms, including the peaceful settlement of conflicts, the understanding of crowd behavior, and the methods of persuasion, negotiation and mediation, as well as to technical means, with a view to limiting the use of force and firearms. Law enforcement agencies should review their training programs and operational procedures in the light of particular incidents.113
In cases where allegations are made of police misconduct, it is the duty of the responsible authorities to conduct an investigation and carry out the appropriate disciplinary measures.
Every law enforcement agency . . . should be held to the duty of disciplining itself . . . and the actions of law enforcement officials should be responsive to public scrutiny.114
International law prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of ethnic or national identity, and requires states to take positive measures to prevent discrimination on these grounds:
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.115
The participating States will adopt, where necessary, special measures for the purpose of ensuring to persons belonging to national minorities full equality with the other citizens in the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.116
The Czech Republic has agreed to take additional measures to promote mutual understanding and tolerance:
Every participating State will promote a climate of mutual respect, understanding, co-operation and solidarity among all persons living on its territory, without distinction as to ethnic or national origin or religion, and will encourage the solution of problems through dialogue based on the principles of the rule of law.117
The participating States [will]. . . take effective measures, in conformity with their constitutional systems, at the national, regional and local levels to promote understanding and tolerance, particularly in the fields of education, culture and information. . . .118
International law allows states to take special measures (i.e., "affirmative action"), for a limited period of time, to ensure members of all ethnic groups the equal enjoyment and exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms:
Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.119
The Czech constitution incorporates the above-mentioned international obligations into domestic law. The Czech Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms states:
Fundamental human rights and freedoms are guaranteed to everybody irrespective of sex, race, color of skin, language, faith, religion, political or other conviction, ethnic or social origin, membership in a national or ethnic minority, property, birth, or other status.120
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.121
Everyone shall be entitled to personal freedom and inviolability.122
The home shall be inviolable.123
Regarding minorities, the Czech Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms states:
The national or ethnic identity of any individual shall not be used to his or her detriment.124
(1) Citizens who constitute national or ethnic minorities are guaranteed all-round development, in particular the right to develop with other members of the minority their own culture, the right to disseminate and receive information in their language, and the right to associate in ethnic associations. Detailed provision in this respect shall be set by law.
(2) Citizens constituting national and ethnic minorities are also guaranteed under conditions set by law:
a) the right to education in their language,
b) the right to use their language in official contact,
c) the right to participate in the settlement of matters concerning national and ethnic minorities.125
Finally, the Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms extends basic rights to all individuals, regardless of their citizenship. Article 42(3) of the law states:
Wherever the existing regulations use the term "citizen" it shall be understood as meaning every individual with respect to the fundamental rights and freedoms the Charter extends to everybody irrespective of his or her citizenship.
This report is based on a fact-finding mission conducted in the Czech and Slovak Republics from February 19 to March 11, 1996, by Fred Abrahams, a consultant to Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Some of the interviews were conducted together with a representative from the European Roma Rights Center, a Budapest-based group that works on Romani rights. The report was written by Mr. Abrahams, and edited by Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Anne Kuper, associate with Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, provided production assistance.
This report would not have been possible without the excellent work of Czech nongovernmental organizations working on Romani issues. Particular thanks go to the Tolerance Foundation, the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, HOST and the Czech Helsinki Committee. A number of individuals also provided invaluable assistance, including: Marta Miklu_aková, Vaclav Trojan, Alena Slamová, Vera Havlová, Ond Í ej Gi Á a, Karel Holemek, Erika Schlager, Andrea Souklová, Ina Zoon, Rachel Tritt, Eva Bajgerová, Mi_a Sikorová, Vaclav Novotný and Nidhi Trehan.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It is supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly. The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director Cynthia Brown, program director Holly J. Burkhalter, advocacy director Barbara Guglielmo, finance and administration director Robert Kimzey, publications director Jeri Laber, special advisor Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director Juan Méndez, general counsel Susan Osnos, communications director Jemera Rone, counsel and Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair. Its Helsinki division was established in 1978 to monitor and promote domestic and international compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. It is affiliated with the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, which is based in Vienna, Austria. Holly Cartner is the executive director Erika Dailey, Rachel Denber, Christopher Panico, and Diane Paul are research associates Ivan Lupis and Maxine Marcus are research assistants Malcolm Hawkes, Anne Kuper, Alexander Petrov, and Shira Robinson are associates. Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the advisory committee and Alice Henkin is vice chair.
1 "Roma" is the common term for Gypsies, as the latter term is now considered perjorative. The singular used in this report is "Rom," the adjective is "Romani."
2 For a complete historical overview, see Helsinki Watch, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1992), pp 5-10.
3 In May 1995, the Czech government unveiled a memorial in the town of Lety at the site of a concentration camp used to hold Roma during World War II. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is currently seeking from the Czech government unique archival material from the camp. Czech officials have promised, but not yet provided, microfilm copies of the archives.
4 Report on the State of Human Rights in the Czech Republic in 1995, Czech Helsinki Committee, January 1996, p.36.
6 Miroslav Sladek, head of the Republican Party, has openly called for the deportation of Roma. Jan Vik, secretary of the party, has been quoted as saying: "Roma and Romani groups murder, rape and rob decent people. It is high time to resolutely stop the raving of these black racists who are acting as parasites to the detriment of the whole society." ,, TK, January 9, 1996.
7 Fax sent to Human Rights Watch/Helsinki by the Presidium of the Czech Police, ,, .j.: PPR-599 /RKP-OOK-96, Prague March 5, 1996.
8 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Prague, February 21, 1996.
9 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ond Í ej Gi Á a, Rokycany, February 26, 1996.
10 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Dezider Gi Á a, Rokycany, March 2, 1996.
11 Roma are not the only ones to complain about police inaction in the face of racist attacks. For example, Uyen Pham Huu, a Vietnamese computer scientist who has lived in the Czech Republic for sixteen years, was attacked twice by skinheads in Prague, but did not report the incidents to the police. He told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki:
I was a victim, but I didn't call the police. What would the police do? It was ten o'clock in the morning in a metro full of people. And no one said anything. They [the attackers] were just kids, fourteen or fifteen years old. At that moment, I had the feeling that I was not a human being.
My friend was seriously hurt by skins. He spent four days in the hospital and one month at home. He reported it to the police and they said, "We can't do anything because the attackers are unknown." Vietnamese people have big trouble with the police. Somewhere deep in every Vietnamese mind there is a fear of the police. And the police use this to extract money. And it is not just Vietnamese, but blacks or anyone who looks different.
12 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ms. Holemek, Brno, February 28, 1996.
13 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Peter Uhl, Prague, March 6, 1996.
14 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Hana Fri_tenská, Prague, March 6, 1996.
15 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with JUDr. Petr ð elásko, Prague, March 4, 1996.
16 In January 1996, Romani organizations complained to Interior Minister Jan Ruml and the South Bohemia Police Inspectorate about a local police chief who sent the force's only Romani officer to patrol a Romani boxing match, saying, "If the blacks are organizing it, let the blacks police it." Their request for the chief's removal was denied. OMRI Daily Report, February 4, 1996.
17 Four articles of the penal code were amended, increasing the penalties for racially motivated crimes by either one or two years.
18 It should be noted that many of the problems in the Czech legal system are inherited from the communist past, such as the lack of qualified judges and prosecutors. In addition, the court system is overburdened with the dramatic increase in cases.
19 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Jana Chalupová, Prague, March 5, 1996.
20 Mlada Fronta Dnes, December 14, 1996.
21 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ond Í ej Gi Á a, Rokycany, February 26, 1996.
22 The defendants could not be sentenced according to the stiffer penalties since the amendments were introduced after the Berki attack. Under the new law, Podranzsky could have been imprisoned for up to twenty-five years.
23 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ladislav Zamboj, Prague, February 30, 1996.
24 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Vaclav Trojan, Prague, February 30, 1996.
26 Mlada Fronta Dnes, May 25, 1996.
27 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ond Í ej Gi Á a, Rokycany, February 26, 1996.
28 Report on the State of Human Rights in the Czech Republic in 1995, Czech Helsinki Committee, January, 1996, p.41.
29 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Hana Fri_tenská, Prague, March 6, 1996.
30 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Karel Holemek, Brno, February 28, 1996.
31 United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1966, Article 2.
32 Human Rights Practices in the Czech Republic for 1995, U.S. Department of State, Washington:1995.
33 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with the ,, erve Á ák family, Jeníkovice, February 26, 1996.
35 Police of the Czech Republic, ,, VS: KVV-52/22-94, Plzen, September 30, 1994.
36 Letter from Václav Královec to Matej ,, erve Á ak, Krajské státní zastupitelství v Plzni, Kzv 52/94-28, Plzen March 17, 1995.
37 Inspector's Office of the Ministry of the Interior - Brno, ,, VS: IM ,, /B-228/91, January 27, 1992.
38 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Karel Holemek, Brno, February 28, 1996.
39 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ond Í ej Gi Á a, Rokycany, February 26, 1996.
40 Report on the State of Human Rights in the Czech Republic in 1995, Czech Helsinki Committee, January 1996, p. 37.
According to Law No. 634 of the Czech civil code, all customers must be treated equally. In addition, international covenants and declarations ratified by the Czech government outlaw discrimination and denial of "access to any place or service intended for use by the general public such as transport, hotels, restaurants, cafes, theaters, parks." International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 5.
41 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Karel Holemek, Brno, February 28, 1996.
42 The woman was acutally an American of Indian decent.
43 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Vaclav Trojan, Prague, February 26, 1996.
44 Helsinki Watch, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1992), p. 39. The report cited statistics from 1990/91 which say that 12,444 pupils out of 41,383 children in special schools are of "Gypsy origin." Human Rights Watch/Helsinki did not obtain updated numbers, but was told by Romani activists, social workers and an official at the Ministry of Education that the situation with special schools has not improved much in recent years.
45 OMRI Daily Report, May 18, 1996.
46 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Usti nad Labem, March 1, 1996.
47 Helsinki Watch, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1992), p. 58.
48 Before the dissolution of the federation, any Czechoslovak citizen could switch their internal citizenship from Slovak to Czech, or visa-versa, without restriction. Before Jaunary 1, 1993, approximately 60,000 Slovaks acquired Czech state citizenship. Letter to Human Rights Watch/Helsinki by Vojtëch Wagner, Director of the Interior Ministry's Department for International Relations, October 31, 1994.
49 Based on a 1968 law, No. 165/1968, Czechoslovak citizens also held citizenship in either the Czech or Slovak Republics. However, this internal citizenship was without meaning in practice. A person's place of permanent residence, and not his or her internal citizenship, appeared on identity documents.
50 The requirements for Slovaks were slightly more lenient than for other applicants for the first six months after the law came into effect. Unlike other would-be citizens, for example, Slovaks only had to prove two years of permanent residency in the Czech Republic. That grace period was later extended until June 1994.
51 Following the war, the Czechoslovak government offered incentives for people to move to the industrial areas of the Sudetenland to fill jobs left behind by ethnic Germans who were expelled from the country for their alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Thousands of Roma from Slovakia moved to the region to work the factories and mines of Northern Bohemia.
52 The Czech and Slovak Citizenship Laws and the Problem of Statelessness, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, February 1996, p. 27.
53 Statement by Max van der Stoel, OSCE high commissioner on national minorities, Human Dimension seminar on roma in the OSCE region, organized by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the High Commissioner for National Minorities, in Cooperation with the Council of Europe, Warsaw, September 20-23, 1994.
54 Report on the Czech Citizenship Law: The Effect of the Citizenship Law on the Czech Republic's Roma Community, Tolerance Foundation, Prague, May 25, 1994, p. 40.
55 Letter written to the U.S. Helsinki Commission by Pavel Seifter, Director of Foreign Policy Department, November 23, 1995.
56 This is based on the Helsinki Watch Policy Statement on Citizenship Legislation Adopted or Under Consideration in Former Soviet Republics.
57 According to the ministry, 311,000 people were granted Czech citizenship between January 1, 1993, and December 31, 1995.
58 The Non-Czech Czechs, The Tolerance Foundation, August, 1995, Prague, p. 4.
59 Prostor, July 21, 1992.
60 Mlada Fronta Dnes, July 23, 1992.
61 Jirkov has approximately 2,000 Roma out of 19,500 inhabitants.
62 "Law on Romanies Causes Uproar in Czech Republic," RFE/RL Research Report, February 12, 1993.
64 Both fees were later reduced, to 200 Slovak korony and 500 Czech korony respectively.
65 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Eva Bajgerová, Usti nad Labem, March 1, 1996.
66 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Marta Miklu_aková, New York, March 16, 1996.
68 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ladislav Zamboj, Prague, February 30, 1996.
69 A report conducted by the Interior Ministry in 1993 on Roma youth determined that, "From the available data, it is obvious that Roma are most likely to commit a property crime. . . . The major subject of their interest is money, electronics, bikes, motorbikes and any parts of them. At the same time, children and young people take an interest in alcohol and cigarettes." Analysis of the Situation of Romany Children and Youth, Czech Interior Ministry, Prague, September 1993. [Analýza stavu situace romských d _ ti mladistvých.]
70 The Non-Czech Czechs, The Tolerance Foundation, Prague, August 7, 1995, pp. 13-15.
71 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Jana Chalupová, Prague, March 5, 1996.
72 "Report of the Experts of the Council of Europe on the Citzenship Laws of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and their Implementation," Strasbourg, April 2, 1996, p. 25.
73 Helsinki Watch, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies, (New York:Human Rights Watch, August 1992).
74 The housing regulations require approximately eight square meters per person.
75 Report on the Czech Citizenship Law, The Tolerance Foundation, Prague, May 25, 1994, p. 17.
76 Decision of the Constitutional Court 207/1994, September 13, 1994.
78 Aside from the obvious difficulty in finding both parents for orphans, Romani activists told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that there are many times when the mother of children under fifteen years of age does not know how to find the father.
79 The Tolerance Foundation visited the orphanage in Bielec and found thirty-one boys between the ages of six and eighteen, 80 percent of whom were Roma of Slovak origin.
80 Trojan made his comments at a press conference held by the Czech HCA on February 29, 1996, to present their opinion on a government-proposed amendment to the citizenship law.
81 Letter to the U.S. Helsinki Commission from Pavel Seifert, director, Foreign Policy Department, November 23, 1995.
82 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Marta Miklu_aková, New York, March 16, 1996.
83 Report on the Czech Citizenship Law, Tolerance Foundation, pp. 14-15.
85 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Ladislav Zamboj, Prague, February 30, 1996.
86 The Non-Czech Czechs, Tolerance Foundation, Prague, August 7, 1995.
87 "Report of the Experts of the Council of Europe on the Citzenship Laws of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and their Implementation," Strasbourg, April 2, 1996, p. 36.
88 A Need for Change in the Czech Citizenship Law: Analysis of 99 Individual Cases, Tolerance Foundation, November 21, 1994.
89 Position of the Czech Republic on the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Europe Document The Czech and Slovak Citizenship Laws and the Problem of Statelessness, Prague, February 1996.
90 The Czech Republic is obliged under the OSCE Helsinki Document 1992, Paragraph 56, not to increase statelessness.
92 A Need for Change in the Czech Citizenship Law - Analysis of 99 Individual Cases, Tolerance Foundation, Prague, November 21, 1994, p. 17.
93 Article 57 of the criminal code states that expulsions by judicial decision can be ordered only for non-Czech citizens. But the law does not require that the person have citizenship in another country.
94 These numbers also coincide with the figures provided Czech NGOs by the Interior Ministry.
95 Police decision PSP 141/CPPS C95.
96 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Prague.
97 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Mr. and Mrs. Demeter, Trmice, March 1, 1996.
99 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Bratislava, Slovakia, March 7, 1996.
100 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Mayor Milan Kropuch, Jarovnice, Slovakia, March 9, 1996.
101 Law No. 140/1995 Coll., Art. 1.
102 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, Article 26.
103 United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1966, Article 2.
104 Report of the CSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities, Article 4, Geneva, July 1991.
105 Ibid., Article 5. See also the ICCPR, Articles 2 and 9.
106 Document of the Copenhagen Meeting on the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE (1990), Paragraph 40.2. Although the CSCE documents do not have the binding force of a treaty, Bulgaria has made a solemn commitment to abide by the standards set out therein.
107 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 8. See also ICCPR, Article 3.
108 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination, Article 6. See also ICCPR, Article 26.
109 United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Article 1. This document and the U.N. Code of Conduct and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, cited atfootnote 100, are not treaties and, therefore, their obligations are not legally binding. However, they do constitute authoritative interpretations and explanations of more general standards that are themselves binding, either because they are found in treaty law or because they are customary international law.
112 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Principle 2.
113 Ibid., Principle 20.
114 Preamble to the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
115 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 26.
116 Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, Paragraph 31.
117 Ibid, Paragraph 36.
118 Ibid, Paragraph 40.3.
119 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969), Article 1.
120 Czech Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, Article 3(1).
123 Ibid., Article 12.
124 Ibid, Article 24.
125 Ibid, Article 25.
126 At the time this letter was written, the proposal was for the Ministry of the Interior to be able to waive the clean criminal record requirement for those who were punished with a prison term of less than two years. The final amendment granted the Ministry the right to waive the requirement regardless of sentence length.
Czech Republic - Civil liberties index
Source: Freedom House. 1 - the highest degree of freedom.
What is Czech Republic civil liberties index?
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(1) The rights listed ind Article 26, Article 27, par.4, Articles 28 to 31, Article 32, pars.1 and 3, and Articles 33 and 35 of the Charter may be claimed only within the scope of the laws implementing these provisions.
(2) Wherever the Charter speaks of a law, this is to be understood as a law enacted by the Federal Assembly, unless it ensues from the constitutional division of legislative jurisdiction that the respective regulation appertains to laws enacted by the National Councils.
(1) Wherever the Charter uses the term "citizen", it is to be understood as a citizen of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.
(2) Citizens of other countries shall enjoy in the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic the human rights and fundamental rights and freedoms the Charter extends to everybody irrespective of his or her citizenship.
The Czech and Slovak Federal Republic shall grant asylum to citizens of other countries, persecuted for asserting political rights and freedoms. Asylum may be denied to a person who acted contrary to fundamental human rights and freedoms.
A law may limit the exercise by judges and prosecutors of the right to business enterprise and other economic activity and of the right listed in Article 20, par. 2 it may furthermore limit the exercise by members of security corps and members of the armed forces of the rights listed in Articles 18, 19, and 27, pars. 1 to 3, in so far as they are related to the performance of the duties of such members. The law may limit the right to strike of persons engaged in professions which are directly essential for the protection of human life and health.
How to become a Czech citizen?
Citizenship law in the Czech Republic is very complicated. In order to become a Czech citizen you need to have at least one parent who is a Czech citizen or who holds a Residency Permit. If this is not the case, you may apply for naturalization, under the following conditions.
- You must have held a Residency Permit for at least five years and have spent most of that time in the Czech Republic.
- You should prove that you are going to give up your current citizenship.
- You should also prove that you are proficient in the Czech language which can be done by an interview at the local application office.
- You must provide a criminal history record stating that there has not been a sentence for any criminal act within the last five years.
The application has to be filed at a local office of the Ministry of the Interior in the Czech Republic.
Special rules apply for the cases listed below. They will also have to lose their current citizenship, prove their proficiency of Czech and provide a clean criminal history. However, they don’t need to have a Residency Permit. These cases include people
Czech vaccines: European rights court backs mandatory pre-school jabs
The case was brought by families who were fined or whose children were refused entry to pre-schools because they had not been vaccinated.
In a landmark ruling, the court found that while the Czech policy interfered with the right to a private life, there was a need to protect public health.
All the cases pre-date the pandemic.
However, the issue of routine childhood vaccinations has come under increasing scrutiny due to the spread of Covid-19.
This is the first ruling from the ECHR on compulsory vaccination against childhood diseases.
The judges backed the Czech legislation by 16 to 1.
"The. measures could be regarded as being 'necessary in a democratic society'" the court said, adding: "The objective has to be that every child is protected against serious diseases, through vaccination or by virtue of herd immunity."
Under the Czech rules, parents are legally obliged to vaccinate their children against a number of childhood diseases unless this is not possible for health reasons.
However, the jabs cannot be forcibly given and unvaccinated children cannot be excluded on this basis once they reach primary school age.
In one of the five cases involving pre-school exclusions, a family refused to allow their daughter to received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.
The child joined the school in 2006 but her place was withdrawn two years later when the family doctor informed the headteacher that the child had not received the vaccination. A Czech court later backed the school's decision on the grounds that allowing the child to continue to go to the pre-school could endanger others.
Other parents had been refused pre-school places, while one father was fined for failing to fully vaccinate his children.
The Czech Republic is not the only EU country with mandatory childhood vaccinations.
Last year, a law came into effect in Germany requiring all parents to vaccinate their children against measles or face a fine of up to €2,500 ($3,000 £2,160).
France and Italy have also changed their vaccine rules following a measles outbreak in recent years, while similar suggestions were made in England amid falling uptake of the MMR jab in England in 2018-19.