Hate speech, anti-Semitism, and racial discrimination in sports were also discussed
19 August 2019
Roma’s access to education, employment, and adequate housing, as well as the emergence of new forms of extremism were among topics broached by Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as it considered the twelfth and thirteenth periodic report of the Czech Republic on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Alexei S. Avtonomov, Committee Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, commended the country’s efforts but deplored the continuing discrimination against Roma: they often held low-paid jobs in the informal economy, lived in segregated settlements where they were at high risk of forced evictions, while Roma children were disproportionately represented among special education pupils.
According to official figures, there were 5,135 Roma in the Czech Republic, but the estimates were as high as 250,000. Such inconsistency in figures might partly explain the discrimination against this population group, the Rapporteur said.
Other Experts remarked that municipalities had to shoulder the bulk of responsibilities in providing education and housing services to Roma and asked how the Government assumed its burden. They asked whether the Czech Republic would consider putting in place nation-wide affirmative action programmes for Roma and to what extent Roma women were represented in the commission that was examining the question of forced sterilization of Roma women.
During the dialogue, the Experts took note of the increase in anti-Semitic incidents, including hate speech against Jews, and raised a concern about a low number of investigations into those crimes.
The Experts discussed at length the methods of data collection on national minorities, especially concerning unemployment among Roma and the schooling of Roma children, and emphasized the importance of accurate data on the composition of the population for the correct implementation of the Convention.
At the beginning of the dialogue, Andrea Baršová, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection of the Czech Republic, presented her country’s report under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
She said that in Czechia, the prohibition of racial and other types of discrimination was enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which was part of the constitutional order, while the Anti-Discrimination Act governed conditions for protection against discrimination in key areas of life. The procedural shift of the burden of proof was already applied in all cases of racial discrimination, she stressed.
The Act had established the Public Defender of Rights, or the Ombudsperson, as an independent equality body that contributed to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. The Czech Government was aware of the difficulties faced by some ethnic minorities in having equal access to their rights, acknowledged Ms. Baršová.
The Roma Integration Strategy aimed to improve the situation of the Roma minority in housing, education, employment, health care and services, and to foster the development of the Roma culture and language.
The inclusive education system introduced in 2016 continued to be implemented and pupils with special educational needs were provided with support measures. Roma pupils could also profit from social assistance measures like the provision of free school lunches for children from poor families.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Avtonomov, Committee Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, welcomed the constructive nature of the dialogue and urged the delegation to read the Committee’s recommendations concerning special measures which were sometimes needed to provide rehabilitation vis-à-vis historical injustices.
Ms. Baršová, in her conclusion, said that her delegation was happy to share the experience of the Czech Republic in the fight against discrimination. The Czech Republic was aware of the remaining challenges, in particular concerning social inclusion, equal employment opportunities for Roma, and compensation for victims of forced sterilization.
The delegation of the Czech Republic consisted of representatives of the Office of the Government, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Regional Development, and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work during this session, including reports submitted by States parties, are available on the session’s webpage. The Committee’s public meetings are webcast live at http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The concluding observations on the report of the Czech Republic will be issued at the end of the ninety-ninth session on 29 August, when the Committee’s next public meeting will take place.
The Committee has before it the combined twelfth and thirteenth periodic report of the Czech Republic (CERD/C/CZE/12-13).
Presentation of the Report
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection of the Czech Republic, said the report drew on input from public authorities, the Ombudsperson as the equality body, and representatives of civil society and academia working with the Human Rights Section at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. As the report had been submitted to the Committee in 2018, she would inform the Committee of recent developments in the Czech Republic.
The prohibition of racial and other types of discrimination was enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which was part of the constitutional order, as well as in international treaties, including the Convention. The Constitutional Court oversaw the compliance of all legislation with this prohibition.
The Anti-Discrimination Act governed conditions for protection against discrimination in key areas of life, such as employment, housing, social protection, health care, education, and access to goods and services. It set out the means of protection against discrimination, including judicial proceedings aimed at bringing an end to discrimination, remedying its consequences and compensating victims. It should also be noted that the procedural shift of the burden of proof was already applied in all cases of racial discrimination.
The Anti-Discrimination Act had established the Public Defender of Rights, or the Ombudsperson, as the equality body. The Ombudsperson advised victims of discrimination on how to defend their rights, conducted research, and issued recommendations on the prevention of discrimination. The Ombudsperson had recently issued recommendations concerning equal access to education and conducted research on joint education for Roma and non-Roma children.
As detailed in the report, the Ombudsperson was an independent body contributing to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. Her powers were regulated by a special Act providing her with her own staff, office and budget. The Ombudsperson had the authority to receive complaints from individuals, to inquire about infringements of the law or encroachments on the rights of persons, and to make recommendations to the authorities and other entities.
She presented her observations in analytical reports and comprehensive recommendations, which she then placed at the disposal of the Government, Parliament and the general public. The Paris Principles had thus, for the most part, been implemented by the Ombudsperson. The possibility of accreditation was being discussed at the moment with the Ombudsperson and her staff.
The Czech Government was aware of the difficulties faced by some ethnic minorities in having equal access to their rights. The Roma Integration Strategy aimed to improve the situation of the Roma minority in housing, education, employment, health care and services, and to foster the development of the Roma culture and language.
Equal access to education for Roma children was one of the most important prerequisites in the pursuit of successful integration. The inclusive education system introduced in 2016 continued to be implemented. Pupils with special educational needs were provided with support measures. Teachers, counsellors and other pedagogical staff were trained in new teaching and assessment methods.
The special curriculum for the education of pupils with a mild mental disability had been abolished in 2016 and their education had been integrated into the standard curriculum. Roma pupils could also profit from social assistance measures like the provision of free school lunches for children from poor families.
At present, due to favourable economic conditions, the unemployment rate was one of the lowest in Czech history. Despite this, some groups, including Roma, still faced challenges in the job market due to prejudice and indirect discrimination, combined with a lack of appropriate education or training. Recent research showed that general measures of active employment policy might not be able to help people vis-à-vis long-term unemployment and other disadvantages.
The new Social Inclusion Strategy, which was currently in preparation, would focus on new forms of pro-employment measures creating suitable employment opportunities. These measures would help Roma and other groups in a similar position to gain the necessary skills and practical experience for their future employment in the general labour market.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms gave everyone the right to decide freely their ethnicity. It was prohibited to collect information about the ethnicity of specific individuals and create any public personal registers including such information. Accordingly, Czech law allowed the collection of ethnic data in an anonymous format not linking it to specific individuals and with due respect for their ethnic self-determination.
At present, various scientific research projects were being implemented to find ways to collect ethnic data in line with the constitutional principles as well as to encourage the Roma population to openly declare their ethnicity.
Public authorities were required to work together to detect and prosecute hate crimes. Recently, the police and prosecutors had focused on hate crimes on the Internet, notably on social networks. A special hotline would encourage the general public to report hate crimes online. The Ministry of the Interior and the Police of the Czech Republic were currently working to make this tool more user-friendly.
The expertise of law enforcement authorities in the fight against hate crime continued to be based on appropriate training for judges, prosecutors and police officers. The Judicial Academy held regular courses, training sessions and workshops on hate crime for judges, prosecutors and other members of the judiciary.
The law enforcement authorities were focusing on improving the detection and prosecution of hate crimes. Analytical documents and guidelines for investigations of hate crimes made it possible to introduce new work techniques. The Police of the Czech Republic had been working with other partners on improving hate crime monitoring and recording.
Since 2014, the Campaign against Racism project, run by the Government Agency for Social Inclusion, had played an important role in public awareness-raising. Its main feature had been the “Hate Free” media campaign. On the campaign’s blog, there were over 1,600 contributions on various issues connected with tolerance, diversity and multiculturalism. Almost 66,000 people had “liked” or followed the campaign’s Facebook page. Mediation activities in schools were also ongoing.
In addition to the Roma minority, there were 13 other national minorities represented in the Council for National Minorities, namely the Slovak, Polish, German, Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Greek and Vietnamese minorities. The Office of the Government also promoted the use of minority languages and cultural activities of national minorities through a subsidy scheme implementing the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Turning to the illegal sterilization of Roma women, Ms. Baršová said that, in the end, the Czech Government had not adopted a special law on extrajudicial compensation of illegally sterilized persons in 2015. The Government viewed court action as the primary means of redress for victims, and this position remained unchanged. The court would assess the situation and award damages to victims if their rights were breached.
Though the claim was subject to a limitation period, the court had to disregard the expired limitation and award the damages if required by the principle of good morals. The Czech Republic had also reformed its health care laws in 2012 to prevent illegal sterilization in the future, as described in the report.
Regarding the rights of foreign nationals living in the Czech Republic, Czech law was based on international obligations under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and European Union law in conjunction with human rights law, including the Convention and other United Nations human rights treaties.
Since 2015, the Czech Government had been implementing its new Migration Policy Strategy, which fully endorsed legal migration and international protection to refugees in line with international law and also strengthened the fight against illegal migration.
The Czech Republic accepted legal migrants and tried to facilitate their way through entry processes. The Czech Republic supported mainly the migration of high-skilled workers to support the national economy. Recent national and global economic developments had also created gaps in the local labour market, which could be filled by selected immigration from some countries.
At the same time, the Czech authorities were trying to tackle illegal migration and other connected phenomena like labour exploitation and human trafficking. The fight against labour exploitation was one of the priorities of the National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings 2016-2019. Victims of trafficking could benefit from the Programme to Promote and Protect Victims of Human Trafficking, which had assisted around 250 victims in its 15 years of existence.
Education about human rights, equality, democracy and connected issues was firmly rooted in the Czech education system. Framework educational programmes for the education of children from six to 18 years of age included measures to introduce these topics to schoolchildren in a manner appropriate to their age and abilities.
All schools were obliged to include these topics in their educational programmes to achieve the set educational goals for their pupils. At present, the framework programmes were undergoing a thorough revision to adapt them to the educational needs of present-day society.
The Czech Republic remained determined to comply with its commitments under the Convention and to be an active and devoted player in combatting racial discrimination.
Questions by the Country Rapporteur
ALEXEI S. AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, thanked the delegation for being present. The periodic report had been submitted almost on time: the Committee had suggested that it be submitted on 1 January 2019 and the report had been sent on 13 April of the same year.
There were still some institutional gaps, notably the absence of a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. The Ombudsperson’s mandate was limited as it could not file a public action or represent a person in court.
It was also regrettable that, in court, the burden of proof was still shared between the victim and accused person and that racial discrimination still appeared to be insufficiently addressed by the courts. The Committee would be very interested in receiving the delegation’s comments in this regard and on the proposed changes to the anti-discrimination legal framework.
The Rapporteur emphasized the importance of accurate and detailed data on the composition of the population for the implementation of the Convention and in this context wondered if Moravians and Salesians were considered ethnic minorities. He noted that Ukrainians were the dominant segment of the immigrant population and that Jews lived in the country for a very long time and then requested updated information on the number of immigrants from the various ethnic groups.
Mr. Avtonomov remarked that, according to the official statistics, there were 5,135 Roma in the Czech Republic, but according to unofficial estimates, the number reached 250,000. While this might be an exaggerated figure, all estimates were significantly higher than the official statistics. This discrepancy in numbers might partly explain the discrimination against Roma in the Czech Republic, he said.
Despite the efforts by the Government, discrimination against Roma continued, in particular in the areas of employment, housing and education: Roma were often employed in the informal sector of the economy, they were at particular risk of forced evictions, there was a high number of Roma children in special schools and their dropout rate was high as well. What were the results of the Roma Integration Strategy 2014-2020, especially in the labour market?
He pointed out that the State party had said it was ready to ratify the International Labour Organization convention on domestic workers. These workers were often vulnerable as they were more dependent on their employers than other types of workers. Could the delegation provide up-to-date information on this?
The Committee commended the efforts made by State party, but the Roma still faced discrimination on the housing market. They were often employed in the informal sector of the economy. They were at particular risk of forced evictions. There was a high number of Roma children in special schools and their dropout rate was high as well. He would be grateful for any comments and up-to-date information on this matter. Censuses were conducted every ten years, but monitoring was a constant process. Censuses did not give the full picture, so to speak, on this matter.
Turning to the trafficking in persons, he said criminals were using the Czech Republic as a transit country and people were trafficked from Czechia and in Czechia. He requested information on the implementation of the strategy that had been devised by the Government to address this issue, as well as a preliminary evaluation of it.
The Rapporteur said he would be very grateful for information on the application of section 100-68 of the Penal Code, including the number of convictions and the penalties applied. What were the requirements that a victim had to meet to be admitted to the Government’s programme to support and protect victims of trafficking in persons?
How had the Government’s programme helped persons belonging to vulnerable groups to find employment? Turning to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, he said that the State party’s programmes based on an individualized assessment of skills and needs should be commended. How did the Government tackle discrimination and prejudice against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers?
He requested comments on the Constitutional Court’s decision related to Hotel Brioni. This hotel had decided not to admit Russian nationals and later required that Russian nationals make a statement on the annexation of Crimea to be admitted.
Questions by Committee Experts
GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, recalled that the Committee had adopted concluding observations on the Czech Republic in August 2015 and had expected an interim follow-up report within one year, which had been submitted one year late. The Committee attached great importance to this procedure, as well as to the timeliness of submissions, stressed the Rapporteur and reminded the delegation that in its upcoming concluding observations, the Committee would again choose issues that it deemed important and ask the State party to submit a follow-up report on these issues within one year.
Other Committee Experts pointed out that various indicators, notably some related to housing and education, were revealing trends that were not positive for the Roma. A lot of responsibilities in that regard had to be shouldered by municipalities. What initiatives could the Government take to ensure that the burden to address these issues was not only assumed by municipalities?
They asked if the Government would consider implementing nation-wide affirmative action programmes to foster Roma’s access to public sector jobs, notably in the health sector. Regarding the forced sterilization of Roma, the Experts requested information on the representation of Roma, notably women, on the commission that was examining the policies related to this issue.
What could the Government do to reject the comments linking the increase in pork prices to the shutdown of the pig farm that was located on the site of a Nazi-era concentration camp for Roma? The Experts drew the delegation’s attention to the case of two Roma pupils who had been discriminated against and refused access to a school, based on their ethnic origin. Could the delegation provide information on this case as well as on the Government’s reaction to it?
There had been a large increase in anti-Semitic incidents related to people’s actual or perceived Jewishness. Why had there been only 15 investigations?
The Experts requested information on the transmission of nationality to children whose parents were stateless and children born outside of wedlock. Noting that a Togolese football player had become a star in the Czech Republic, the Experts asked about measures taken to address racial discrimination in sports in the country.
Returning to the issue of Roma children’s access to education, an Expert asked about the State’s strategy on this issue, notably with regard to special education.
Hate speech was present throughout the world and Czechia was no exception. How was the Government ensuring that there was the responsibility in that regard? Anti-Semitism was a continuing issue; the Jewish minority was a target of hate speech. What had been done in connection with the recent events in this respect? He asked if the Government carried out research studies or surveys to assess the state of racial discrimination in Czechia.
Another Expert said the notion of “extremism” referred to in some of the State party’s policy documents was rather vague, notably from a legal standpoint, in his opinion. How did the State party define “extremism”?
The time limit for reparations related to the forced sterilizations seemed rather short. Who was responsible for these illegal acts? The Government could put together an effective mechanism to notably address the time-limit issue.
Did the Government envisage reducing the age for mandatory education, to make it younger than five years of age?
ALEXEI S. AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, addressed the question of refugees and migrants, asking specifically about the eligibility requirements for pension schemes imposed on refugees and underlining the challenges faced by undocumented migrant women in accessing prenatal healthcare.
How did the State party participate in the International Decade of People of African Descent, he asked, noting that this commemoration concerned all countries regardless of the number of their inhabitants who were of African descent?
Replies by the Delegation
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection of the Czech Republic, said the concept of national minorities was a traditional one and dated back to the nineteenth century when there had been many “nationalities” in the same country. The term referred to a group of persons who had the same language and often lived in the same territory.
The notion of the national minority was also linked to the work of the Council of Europe and Czechia had adopted a law on national minorities. It was not very important how many people comprised the group that identified as a national minority; a national minority was a group of people that had Czech citizenship and were different from the majority.
The Roma were considered a national minority. The social and economic situation of the other national minorities was, however, better than that of the Roma. The Government had detailed studies on localities, which could help better understand the situation of the Roma.
On the Moravians and Salesians, it was generally understood to refer to regional identity. This issue could be debated, however. One could nevertheless self-identify as Moravian or Salesian in the census, as the list of national and ethnic affiliations included therein was not closed. One could also self-identify as belonging to more than one ethnic group or national minority.
The delegation said the Ombudsperson was the national preventive mechanism under the Convention against Torture and the monitoring mechanism under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, amongst others. The Ombudsperson had its own office, staff and budget. It communicated directly with the public and the Parliament, which elected the Ombudsperson and to which she submitted reports.
The Ombudsperson participated in public events such as conferences and was in close contact with various Government bodies and non-governmental organizations such as tenants’ associations. The Ombudsperson was already fulfilling most of the requirements of the Paris Principles. The delegation recalled that it was the institution itself that had to apply to receive accreditation based on the Paris Principles. Perhaps she did not feel secure enough to do it yet.
Regarding the burden of proof, it was shifted for all racial discrimination cases.
On the notion of extremism, the delegation remarked that extremist discourses were based on the rejection of democratic States that were based on the respect of human rights and the rule of law. The proponents of such ideas were sometimes willing to use violence to promote their goals. They sometimes had the ambition to change the system and were typically linked to traditional totalitarian ideologies.
However, today, there were attacks based on prejudice or hate that were not necessarily rooted in ideologies but rather in new kinds of populism or hate that targeted Muslims or refugees, for instance, without necessarily being linked to extremist elements. The Government was monitoring these new phenomena. The focus was no longer solely on traditional forms of extremism but rather on all kinds of attacks and instances of hate speech. The Government had published a handbook for experts in the police and other officials to help with the identification of hate speech and hate-related incidents. Efforts had been made to address this issue in sports.
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection of the Czech Republic, addressing questions related to the integration of the Agency for Social Inclusion in the Ministry for Regional Development, explained that this Ministry, in addition to functioning as a coordinating body in the area of regional development, also helped municipalities obtain European funds. The change would not lead to the worsening of the situation of the Agency for Social Inclusion.
It was true that the Government did not have large-scale affirmative action programmes for Roma employment but many regional programmes targeted this population group. Cultural or language programmes targeting Roma did not represent affirmative action but were measures that aimed to uphold minority rights.
Another delegate explained that two nation-wide survey of socially excluded localities had been conducted and added that the increase in the number of such localities was due to a change in the methodological approach. The definition of socially excluded localities had been broadened in the most recent survey.
The Agency for Social Inclusion had started developing a typology of social exclusion to help the general public, as well as professionals working on the issue, understand the scope of this problem and improve their grasp of the various characteristics of such localities.
A tool had been developed to map housing status, social exclusion indicators and educational background that would help municipalities decide where to build social housing. An ongoing pilot project would be broadened by the end of next year, while a strategy on socially excluded localities should be finalized in the fall and subsequently submitted for approval to the Government.
The delegation noted with satisfaction that the economic situation in the country was very good and the labour market was excellent shape - the unemployment rate was the lowest in the European Union which allowed the Government to focus on long-term unemployment. Today, whoever wanted to work, could work; there were 360,000 available jobs and 200,000 unemployed individuals, a quarter of whom were out a job for longer than 12 months.
The data that the Government gathered on long-term unemployment was objective; data were gathered on age and occupation of those individuals but not on their ethnic origin. That was why the delegation could not say with certainty how many Roma were unemployed, however, they represented a significant percentage amongst the long-term unemployed. Roma often suffered from various disabilities, which was a germane factor.
A public interest jobs programme, notably within municipalities or churches, fostered the creation of jobs related to gardening, cleaning and clearing out the snow. In 2018, the Government has supported 16,000 such jobs, aiming to help the long-term unemployed get back into the habit of having a routine.
Turning to domestic work, the delegation remarked that, generally, all types of jobs were regulated by the labour code. Most domestic jobs were held by independent workers provided by agencies. It was almost impossible for the Government to monitor these jobs due to the right to the inviolability of private life. That was why the Government was not considering adopting the International Labour Organization Convention 189 on Domestic Workers. The reopening of this issue was not being considered for now.
On the right to a pension, notably for refugees, the general criterion was having worked for 35 years but there were exceptions. Most Czechs usually met those criteria quite easily.
Housing in the Czech Republic followed the principle of equality: all people, including foreigners, had the same rights to access housing. The relationship between landlords and tenants was strictly regulated by the Civil Code, lease termination in particular. Even if a person lived in an apartment illegally, the landlord could not evict such an individual directly, but rather had to petition the court to do so.
Municipalities had an obligation to meet the needs of their population, including housing, which they did through various programmes, including the provision of social housing. All subsidized apartments had rents that were lower than that of the local market.
Healthcare could not be refused to women in labour or to individuals in need of emergency health care, regardless of whether they were participants in the national health care scheme. A project for people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, implemented in 14 regional centres through 56 interventions programmes, sought to strengthen prevention in the area of reproductive health, cancer and personal hygiene. It included the provision of personal intervention and awareness-raising activities.
The Czech Republic was aware of the Committee’s recommendations concerning forced sterilization and was examining it.
The country had lost a case before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the lack of educational provision for Roma children, said a delegate. Following this ruling, the Government had taken a series of measures to ensure a more consistent approach to inclusive education, compensation had been paid to all victims, and a mind shift on Roma education had occurred.
The Education Act had been significantly amended, the funding allocated to joint education programmes had been increased, and a system of support measures for students facing social challenges had been put in place. All the children had been re-diagnosed with a set of new diagnostic tools. In 2016, there had been 14,000 support measures reaching 5,400 socially disadvantaged pupils. It was no longer possible for a child to be placed in an educational programme without their consent or that of their parents. Learners or their parents could initiate a revision process at any point if they had any doubts regarding the adequacy of the support measures.
The Ministry of Education provided for specific measures for Roma pupils in the framework of six programmes, including the support for disadvantaged Roma students, the fight against school drop-out, the integration of Roma children into preschool, support for the transition to high school, and access to free school meals.
The authorities did not collect data on Roma pupils, explained the delegation, adding that the available data were based on qualified estimates by school headmasters and therefore not entirely reliable. The total number of Roma pupils in all basic school had gone up from 32,791 in 2016 to 34,767 in 2018. The increase in Roma pupils for that period was higher than the increase in the overall number of pupils.
The Government was planning to allocate more funds to increase teachers’ salaries. Their training would notably emphasize the need to apply the mainstream curriculum when addressing pupils with special needs. To further eliminate disparities across the country, the focus would be put on the disadvantaged areas and on supporting the children with insufficient command of the Czech language.
There had been 1,702 requests for international protection in 2018, the majority were Ukrainians, Georgians, Cubans, and Romanians. The Government had approved 42 asylum requests and had approved over a hundred requests for subsidiary protection. Those benefitting from international protection could access a wide range of services, including the provision of 400 hours of training in the Czech language over a period of 12 months and the accommodation assistance. A person under international protection could stay in an asylum centre for 18 months, a period that could be extended under certain conditions.
To combat prejudice and stereotypes, a body under the Ministry of the Interior organized events where the population could meet asylum seekers and refugees and engage in various activities, including cultural workshops. It also held regular meetings with mayors of towns and municipalities, carried out communications campaigns on social media, and shared best practices with international partners.
Turning to the Dublin Regulation, the delegation explained that individuals in an irregular situation could only be detained if there was a risk of them absconding. Undocumented pregnant women did not have to pay for maternity health care services. if the mother was the subject of a return directive or if she was being detained. In such cases, all necessary care was provided to them and the Government paid for it.
On the transmission of citizenship, the delegation recalled that the mother was always known, but the identity of the father could be uncertain. The children of Czech parents were given citizenship automatically. For children born out of a wedlock the paternity was established based on a declaration of both parents. Citizenship was granted to children born in the country to stateless parents and to children under the age of three who were found in the country. A child of a Czech mother had the right to a nationality, while in case of a child whose father was a Czech, the paternity was established based on a formal declaration by the parents.
On trafficking in human beings, the delegation said that, in 2017, there had been 24 persons who had used the Government programme for victims of trafficking. In 2018 that number stood at 17, and up to now, in 2019, at 13.
Questions by Committee Experts
ALEXEI S. AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, said that according to the provisions of the International Convention, State parties were called upon to adopt special measures to address historic and deeply rooted discrimination. What was being done in the Czech Republic in this regard and how was the country using the Convention to eliminate deeply rooted discrimination?
Another Expert was reassured to hear that the transfer of the Agency for Social Inclusion into the Ministry of Interior was seen as a positive move and stressed that affirmative action was part of the minority rights framework and it aimed to rectify the under-representation of minorities, particularly in the police and the judiciary. There were many ways to include them, such as internships and training schemes. Employing Roma would increase the legitimacy of institutions as well as the trust of Roma in institutions.
Residential segregation of Roma was the key to many other issues, the Experts stressed and acknowledged that this was an issue that was not easy to address. How was the Government addressing the resistance of non-Roma parents to integrating education that could block such efforts?
NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, asked about the Government programmes that sought to foster employment and their impact on the Roma community. Did these jobs lead to people to move up in society? What kinds of jobs were these? Were they merely subsistence jobs? Where the Roma able to apply and secure these jobs?
Replies by the Delegation
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection of the Czech Republic, said affirmative action measures were in place but were not being deployed on a large scale and agreed that, under certain conditions, affirmative action measures could lead to positive results. The initiatives related to minority cultures and languages were note considered as affirmative action since they were permanent.
On the Hotel Brioni case, the delegation explained that it could not comment on court decisions, but stressed that this case had been examined by the competent body.
On forced sterilization, the meeting of the Parliamentary Commission was the start of process and it was not possible to say when it would end and what the outcome would be.
The data on Roma students was a sensitive issue, the delegation explained. Data were collected notably through the census, the research surveys, and the assessment by headmasters, who were asked to estimate the number of Roma children in their schools. Thus the data were more tentative than representative. The Government also used data from the entities that provided specialized education.
On integrated education, the delegation said that changing the mind sets of the parents did not fall under the purview of the Ministry of Education, which could nevertheless do a lot on this issue. First, it could systematically apply pre-school education so that Roma children could grow up with other children - the State could play its role by securing places for all children and adequately training pre-school teachers. Secondly, the Government could create social pedagogue positions, which would bridge social and educational sectors, and had proven very effective. A pilot programme was in place and the Government was considering measures to make some of its components permanent. This was a very concrete means to address prejudice.
Moving on to racism and xenophobia in sports, the delegation said football clubs had launched disciplinary procedures to address this issue. The Ministry of Interior could also start an administrative procedure that could lead to the closing of the stadium or the imposition of fines.
The delegation explained that there were 350,000 job vacancies in the country, two-thirds of which only required low level or no qualifications. One-third of the people who were in a long-term unemployment position had disabilities. A lot of them only had a basic education. This in part explained why they had difficulty to re-enter the labour market.
ALEXEI S. AVTONOMOV, Committee Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, in his concluding remarks welcomed the constructive nature of the dialogue and urged the delegation to read the Committee’s recommendations concerning special measures which were sometimes needed to provide rehabilitation vis-à-vis historical injustices. They could also foster a change in attitudes. While Czechia had made progress in implementing the Committee’s recommendations, the struggle against racial discrimination remained constant.
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection of the Czech Republic, in her conclusion concurred with the Rapporteur on the progress the country had made and said that her delegation was happy to share the experience of the Czech Republic in the fight against discrimination. The Czech Republic was aware of the remaining challenges, in particular concerning social inclusion, equal employment opportunities for Roma, and compensation for victims of forced sterilization.
NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, warmly thanked the delegation in his concluding remarks.
For use of the information media; not an official record