Proliferation of Hate Speech by Politicians, Hostile Rhetoric against Journalists, Lack of Judicial Independence, Discrimination against Roma, and the Migration Policy Dominate the Discussion
18 October 2019
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of the Czech Republic on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Committee Experts discussed the proliferation of hate speech on social media against Roma, migrants, Muslims, Jews and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, including by high-level politicians. They were extremely concerned about the increasing allegations of hostile rhetoric and threats against journalists, including by high-level politicians such as the President himself who, at a press conference in 2018, had brandished a fake gun marked “for journalists”.
Especially problematic was the encouragement of public perception of immigration as a threat to public security and the use of the media to instil fear of migrants and strengthen stereotypical prejudices because of ethnicity or religion. The political atmosphere was hostile to refugees; the Prime Minister had stated in 2018 that the Czech Republic would not take a single refugee and urged European Union to clearly state that it was closed for refugees. How was the no refugee policy compatible with the country’s obligations under the Covenant, the Experts asked?
Citing reports of interference of the executive and the legislature in the judiciary and political influence in high-profile cases, the Experts urged the Czech Republic to set up a judicial selection and appointment procedure according to international standards. The independence of the Prosecutor General, “the advance watchdog for human rights”, was an indispensable corollary to the independence of the judiciary, they stressed.
The Experts denounced discrimination against, and territorial segregation of Roma, the country’s largest minority, and particularly the growing number of declarations of housing benefit-free zones in many municipalities, which were designed to put pressure on Roma to move from mainstream areas into segregated enclaves.
In their responses, and in the introductory statement presented by Andrea Baršová, Director of the Human Rights and Minority Protection Department in the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, the delegation said that criminal legislation contained the offences of hate crime and hate speech, which in their most serious forms could be punished as crimes against humanity. The proposed expansion of prosecuted grounds to include sexual orientation and gender identity had been turned down by the authorities in 2016. A new unit for public relations in the Ministry of Interior had been set up to provide the public with reliable information about migration and to debunk migration myths.
Ms. Baršová said that the new Migration Policy Strategy had been in place since 2015. It fully endorsed legal migration and international protection of refugees in line with international law. The authorities were tackling illegal migration in line with the country’s legal commitments, including the principle of non-refoulement. The detention of migrants was the last resort, especially for unaccompanied minors and families with children.
The detention of families with children was in line with the European Union law and occurred solely for the purpose of transfer to the country of entry under the Dublin procedures, the delegation said. The conditions governing the detention of unaccompanied minors were very strict and allowed the detention only in case of extreme threat to public security. Therefore, in practice, the detention of unaccompanied minors did not happen at all.
The resettlement programme had indeed been postponed, partly due to the worsening security situation in Europe; at the moment, there was no intention to reinstate it, especially in the absence of an agreement on new asylum rules at the European Union level.
Ms. Baršová stressed the importance of the independence and impartiality of courts and informed the Committee that the procedure for selecting and nominating judges and public prosecutors was being currently reformed to strengthen their independence. Another delegate said that the Act on Public Prosecution was being amended to further strengthen prosecutorial independence, including by introducing a compulsory selection procedure by a five-person selection committee.
The Czech Republic had been tackling the question of Roma for more than 20 years, said the delegation, stressing that the key to the future was the education of Roma children. The Ministry of Labour was very vocal about the risks associated with the establishment of housing benefit-free zones. Equal access to housing for all was guaranteed and the Government was allocating 1 billion dollars annually for the purpose.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Baršová said that the Czech Republic would consider the Committee’s concluding observations in its efforts to address the challenges such as to address hate crimes more effectively, increase Roma integration, and strengthen the protection of migrants and refugees.
Ahmed Amin Fathalla, Committee Chairperson, expressed hope that the legal amendments to strengthen the judicial and prosecutorial independence would soon be agreed upon and adopted and urged the Czech Republic to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
The delegation of the Czech Republic consisted of representatives of the Office of the Government, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Regional Development, and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of the Czech Republic at the end of its one hundred and twenty-seventh session on 8 November. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.
All public meetings of the Human Rights Committee are webcast live at http://webtv.un.org/ while the meeting summaries in English and French can be accessed at the United Nations Office at Geneva’s News and Media page.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today 18 October to continue its reading of draft General Comment No. 37 on article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right of peaceful assembly.
The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of the Czech Republic (CCPR/C/CZE/4).
Presentation of the Report
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Human Rights and Minority Protection Department in the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, stressed the importance of the independence and impartiality of courts for the Czech Republic and informed the Committee that the procedure for selecting and nominating judges and public prosecutors was currently being reformed to strengthen their independence. A special act defined the powers and provided for the staff, office and budget of the Ombudsperson, an independent body contributing to the protection of human rights. This body, Ms. Baršová added, could receive individual complaints, inquire into infringements of the law, and recommend improvements and remedies. It complied with most of the Paris Principles. The Government was working on filling a possible lacuna in the mandate of the Ombudsperson to enable her accreditation.
The Anti-Discrimination Act protected against discrimination in the areas and on the grounds covered by European Union law. The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, a part of the constitutional order, contained an open-ended list of discrimination grounds. International laws, including the Covenant, took precedence over national laws and could be directly applied by national courts.
The Czech Republic had adopted special strategies to promote and improve the position of some groups in the society, on an equal basis with others, Ms. Baršová continued. The Strategy for Gender Equality 2014-2020 included topics such as the ender pay gap, work-life balance, equal representation in decision-making positions, domestic violence and gender stereotypes. The Government was working on raising awareness about domestic and gender-based violence to facilitate the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
The Roma Integration Strategy to 2020 strove to improve the situation of this minority in housing, education, employment, health care and services, and to aid the development of Roma culture and language. It also included actions to fight discrimination and hate crimes and support social cohesion. The reform of education system in 2016 had reinforced equal access for Roma children, while the inclusion of the obligatory year of pre-school education prepared them better for primary education. Pupils with special educational needs were provided with support measures and by 2018, all had undergone a reassessment of their educational needs. As a result, said Ms. Baršová, the number of Roma children outside mainstream education was steadily declining.
The Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs and a coordinator for Roma affairs in the regions supported the integration and participation of Roma, while the Agency for Social Inclusion continued to provide expert assistance to municipalities with socially excluded minorities. A major step had been achieved in the commemoration of the Roma Holocaust with the purchase of a farm near Brno where a new memorial would be built, under the auspices of the Museum of Roma Culture.
One of the priorities for the Government of the Czech Republic was the fight against racism and xenophobia, Ms. Baršová stressed. The law allowed for the prosecution of hate speech and hate crime based on race, religion and other motives. Victims of hate crimes were treated as very vulnerable under the Act on the Victim of Crime and were entitled to free counselling and legal assistance. The annual Concept for Combatting Extremism and Prejudiced Hatred was based on five pillars: communication with the general public, education and awareness raising, mutual cooperation, expertise and assistance to victims. Recently, the police and prosecutors had focused intensively on hate crime on the Internet and social networks. A special web hotline would encourage the public to report hate crime online.
The main feature of the Campaign against Racism project had been the Hate Free media campaign which had created more than 300 hate free zones around the country. Its follow-up project, A place for All, would continue to build and expand the activities.
The new Migration Policy Strategy had been in place since 2015. It fully endorsed legal migration and international protection of refugees in line with international law. The authorities were tackling illegal migration in line with the country’s legal commitments, including the principle of non-refoulement. The detention of migrants was the last resort, especially for unaccompanied minors and families with children.
In closing, Ms. Baršová reiterated her country’s firm commitment to upholding its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Questions by the Committee Experts
At the beginning of the dialogue, a Committee Expert welcomed the steps that the Czech Republic was taking to address the concerns raised during previous dialogues and to implement its concluding observations. They noted with concern the lack of funding for human rights advocacy and monitoring in the country, which limited the involvement of civil society organizations in the implementation of the Covenant.
Secondly, the Czech Republic had not implemented 26 of the Committee’s views. Some of those were very old, and most dealt with nationality-based discrimination in the restitution of property. The disagreement of the State party with the substance of the cases and the rejection of the Committee’s legal findings did not sit well with its duty to carry out in good faith any obligations under international law – in this case, the Covenant and its Optional Protocol.
Turning to the human rights machinery, the Experts noted that the Czech Republic had been taking a very long time to expand the mandate of the Public Defender of Rights, the Ombudsperson, and fully establish it, and ensure that this national human rights institution could receive accreditation in line with the Paris Principles. The amendment to the Public Defender of Rights or the Ombudsperson Act had been rejected and the negotiations were currently ongoing on the extension of its mandate. Were there any plans to establish a Children’s Ombudsperson and what had happened with the Ministry for Human Rights?
Welcoming the national action plan on equal opportunities of persons with disabilities, the Experts asked whether it had improved the situation of rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those whose legal capacity was limited, regarding the enjoyment of the right to vote. The Czech Republic had just adopted a Civil Code that still allowed for the restriction of legal capacity of persons with disabilities. How did the State party ensure that this was used only as a last resort?
What concrete steps were being taken to end the excessive use of force by the police, including the behaviours reported in 2018 by the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture, namely kicking, baton blows and verbal abuse, including racist and xenophobic verbal abuse. The Committee had previously raised concern about practices of strip-searches and handcuffing detained persons to wall fixtures and similar objects – what was being done to address those concerns?
The Committee recognized that, in developing its anti-discrimination legislation, the Czech Republic was led by the European Union directive and its six prohibited grounds. Some regulations, such as the Labour Code, included additional grounds. The Public Defender had been given additional functions to act as an equality body, but only for the six prohibited grounds of discrimination.
What was the impact of the implementation of the actions contained in the Strategy for Gender Equality 2014-2020? Had the guidelines for a unified approach to sexual harassment in all Government bodies been put in place? Was there a strategy to address sexual harassment in schools? Despite the measures to ensure gender equality in decision-making positions, the participation of women in public and political life continued to be very low.
In May 2016, the Czech Republic had signed the Istanbul Convention, but it had not yet ratified it. Furthermore, there were reports of rather acrimonious debate regarding the Convention domestically, whereby it had been portrayed as a “threat to traditional family.”
The Committee was worried about the proliferation of hate speech on social media against Roma, migrants, Muslims, Jews, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, including by high-level politicians. There were also physical attacks against such individuals. Especially problematic was that the authorities seemed to encourage the public perception of immigration as a threat to public security. Media outlets were being used to instil fear of migrants and strengthen stereotypical prejudices because of ethnicity or religion.
The delegation was asked about measures to increase the investigation and prosecution rate for such crimes, address incitement to hate online, and ensure the implementation of the Fight against Extremism Strategy. Did the Czech Republic intend to revise the Criminal Code to cover a wider range of grounds on which hate speech and crimes were based?
Roma were the country’s largest minority, numbering some 250,000, the Experts said, and raised concern about their forced evictions and territorial segregation. Municipalities were apparently using the housing benefit-free zones to put pressure on Roma to move from mainstream areas into segregated enclaves. About a year ago, a group of Czech senators and victims had initiated legal action against the housing benefit-free zones in the Constitutional Court. What measures, including temporary special measures, were being taken to strengthen the participation of Roma in political life?
Between the 1960s and as late as 2004, many women had been coercively sterilized, in particular Romani women, women with disabilities, older and trans women. An Expert questioned the statute of limitation with respect to forced sterilization claims, and asked what was being done to provide pecuniary and non-pecuniary compensation to victims whose claims had lapsed?
The Constitutional Court had found that prohibiting individuals in a registered same-sex partnership to adopt a child was unconstitutional. Was the relevant legislation being accordingly amended and what was the status of the marriage equality bill which had been introduced to Parliament well over a year ago?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Public Defendant of Rights, the Ombudsperson, had been established in the model of a traditional parliamentary ombudsperson; however, in following years, its mandate had been expanded. Today, it was the equality body in line with the European law and the monitoring body for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Ombudsperson had its own staff, office and budget and in many aspects, was compliant with the Paris Principles. The Government was examining the issue and a course of action to ensure it had a Paris Principles-accredited national human rights institution.
The Constitutional Court could tackle any ground of discrimination and not only that listed in the anti-discrimination legislation. The scope was wider than the civil procedure code in terms of burden of proof and this issue was being addressed in the current legal revision.
The same-sex marriage bill was an initiative of some members of Parliament and it was still being debated. The rules for legal gender recognition required mandatory diagnosis and mandatory surgery. To date, initiatives to change those rules had not been successful.
Hate Free, the Government anti-racism campaign, was rather successful. It was present in public spaces and in schools. In 2015, the Government rejected a bill on extra-judicial compensation, which meant that victims of forced sterilization still had to address the courts to get compensation.
The Ministry for Human Rights had never existed as an institution, rather, a member of the Cabinet had been the Minister for Human Rights. The Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection in the Office of the Government was now in place. Non-governmental organizations were being supported from the State budget and there were specific funds that supported specific human rights issues, for example the rights of persons with disabilities or Roma integration.
The Czech Republic had signed the Istanbul Convention and was now waiting for Parliament to decide on the ratification. Meanwhile, the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection was working on raising awareness and convincing the general public that this instrument did not present a danger for society.
There was indeed a stagnation in the representation of women in the government, particularly at the national level. The situation was different at other levels, where small advances had been made. Measures such as voluntary quotas in political parties did not lead to impressive results. Women represented a majority in judges, but not in higher courts, where men made up the majority.
The Czech Republic had adopted a new action plan on domestic and gender-based violence, whose main themes were prevention, support to victims, and access to justice.
The Czech Republic had been tackling the question of Roma for more than 20 years. The Concept up to 2020 was being implemented, and the new one was being developed. Efforts were ongoing to involve Roma in the monitoring of the implementation of this plan. Key to the future was the education of Roma children and the Czech Republic had already achieved some progress in this regard.
The educational reform in 2016 prioritized the education of pupils with special education needs in mainstream schools and established the system of individual support. The reform had also abolished separate education programmes for pupils with mild mental disabilities, where the number of Roma children had dropped from 2,631 in 2016 to 953 in 2018. This programme would be completely abolished next year, and all children would be educated in mainstream schools. The reform had also introduced an obligatory year of pre-school education which had additionally increased readiness for school, particularly among Roma children.
The 2011 act set out a mechanism for the execution of judgements of the European Union Court and the implementation of recommendations of human rights treaty bodies, which, according to the European Union, represented an example of good practice. Clearly, this mechanism could not guarantee the implementation of each decision of the European Union Court nor the treaty bodies’ views.
As for this Committee’s views, the Government was consistently of the view that the restitution legislation would not be amended, a delegate said, noting that providing compensation for the non-resituated real estate would require significant financial resources. The discussion on the implementation of those views should not go on indefinitely and the Committee and the Czech Republic should agree to disagree, said the delegate.
As for the regulation of hate crime and hate speech, there were relevant offences in the criminal legislation and the most serious of such crimes could be punished as crimes against humanity. In 2016, the Ministry of Justice had proposed the expansion of prosecuted grounds to include sexual orientation and gender identity, but this had not been approved by other authorities which considered the current legal framework adequate.
The 2014 changes to the Criminal Code addressed the issue of the restriction of legal capacity. Since then, no one could be completely deprived of acting legally. Legal capacity could only be restricted by the court for a maximum of three years, or exceptionally for five years. Supported decision making was available.
The Ministry of Interior was the responsible body in the field of asylum and migration. It monitored prejudices against migrants and asylum seekers, which were widely promoted by certain far-right deputies. A new unit for public relations specifically working in the field of migration had been established to provide reliable information to the public and address their fears and migration myths.
Any ill treatment of detained persons was unacceptable, said the delegation. Strip-searches were only carried out on a case-by-case basis and only when absolutely necessary. Persons were handcuffed to fixed objects very rarely and for very short periods of time.
The Ministry of Labour was very vocal about the risks associated with the establishment of housing benefit-free zones. In 2017-2018, some 60 such zones had been set up and 17 in 2019, while 30 municipalities were currently discussing the adoption of housing benefit-free zones. The Czech Republic guaranteed equal access to housing for all and was allocating $1 billion annually for the purpose.
In follow up-questions, the Committee noted that the Czech Republic had reached the critical mass of competencies of the institution of Ombudsperson that would enable it to file for accreditation under the Paris Principles. Was there a timeline?
Citing an Amnesty International report, an Expert raised concern about arms exports to third countries as arms manufactured in the Czech Republic did end up in countries with dubious human rights records. Additionally, in 2017 at an arms fair in Brno, the President had declared that there should be no restrictions on arms exports. There were, in addition, concerns about the extent to which the Czech arms export regime was water-tight.
What remedies were available to victims of discrimination?
Housing benefit-free zones were meant to remove Roma from urban centres. They were not only problematic in terms of housing but also in creating barriers to access to other public services. Could the courts overturn decisions declaring such zones?
The delegation said that next year, the Czech Republic would analyse the situation concerning a national human rights institution, with a view of establishing a separate body in line with the Paris Principles.
Questions by the Committee Experts
In the next round of questions, Committee Experts asked the delegation about steps taken to improve the identification of victims of trafficking and their assistance, particularly when the network of accessible services for victims of crimes, including human trafficking, would be completed. Trafficking crimes were sometimes prosecuted under the pimping statute, resulting in significantly lower sentences, including no prison at all.
Echoing concerns expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, an Expert inquired about actions taken to tackle the growing number of cases of online child sexual exploitation.
Unaccompanied minors travelling through the Czech Republic were at high risk of human trafficking and they could also be sent to detention centres. It had been reported that 106 out of 132 children had escaped in 2015, a very high proportion, especially in light of their vulnerability to human trafficking.
The Czech Republic was the only country in Europe to castrate sex offenders. The last castration had been carried out in 2018, while 84 had been carried out during the 2000 to 2018 period. What safeguards were available for surgical castration and how was this practice, which was irreversible, compatible with the Covenant?
The Committee was concerned about the detention of juveniles, including in remand, and asked about measures to limit the remand detention of juveniles, including by empowering courts to deliver non-custodial sentences. How many children were in detention, including in remand?
According to the Czech Asylum Act, asylum-seeking children must not be detained; however, the Foreign National Act allowed for the detention of children pending their age assessment. Children aged 15 to 18 were thus frequently detained, often together with adults. The Committee insisted that asylum-seeking children should never be detained. What alternatives were available to the detention of families and didn’t the law provide that detention only be the last resort? What was the role of private security companies in the detention of asylum-seekers?
The Committee remained concerned about criminal proceedings for minors, especially in pre-trial proceedings during which they did not seem to enjoy all safeguards fully. Children under 15 represented one-third of the juvenile justice caseload. Additionally, the Juvenile Justice Act contained sentences such as the deprivation of liberty, children’s homes and psychiatric hospitals. In practice, the deprivation of liberty was not used as a last resort.
It seemed that representation in the media of refugees and asylum-seekers as a threat and danger did not represent a violation of the Television, Radio and Broadcast Act. The Committee was extremely concerned about the increasing allegations of hostile rhetoric and threats against journalist, including by high-level politicians. The President of the Czech Republic had brandished a toy gun for journalists at a press conference. The Czech Republic’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index had dropped from 23 in 2017 to 40 this year.
What was the current policy in issuing residency permits and identity documents to stateless persons, considering that they did not have a passport to render in order to receive identity documents, as required by procedures? What was the legal status of stateless persons and how could they access benefits?
The national resettlement programme had been suspended in 2017 and the number of persons who had received refugee status over the past several years was very low, only a handful of people. The political atmosphere was hostile to refugees; the Prime Minister had stated in 2018 that the Czech Republic would not take a single refugee and had urged the European Union to do the same. Was the no refugee policy still applicable in the Czech Republic and how was it compatible with the country’s obligations under the Covenant?
Turning to the independence of members of the judiciary, the Committee referenced the 2016 and 2019 Council of Europe GRECO (Group of States against Corruption) reports which were critical of the Czech judiciary. The reports had, inter alia, raised concerns about cases of bribery and about political influence in high-profile cases, which were seemingly linked to lack of transparency of career advancement of judges. Did the Czech Republic accept those reports and consider them a useful tool for reforming the judiciary?
Judges were appointed by the President and allocated to a particular court by the Ministry of Justice, thereby allowing for the interference of other organs of the State in the judiciary. The Experts called for the setting up of a selection and appointment procedure according to international standards, and safeguarding of the independence of the judiciary from the executive and the legislature. They stressed that the independence of the Prosecutor General, “the advance watchdog for human rights”, was an indispensable corollary to the independence of the judiciary. How would the concerns relating to judicial and prosecutorial independence be taken into account in the future judicial reform?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that so far this year, 14 victims of trafficking had been referred to support services, together with 17 victims in 2018. Judicial training on human trafficking had a long tradition and it mostly took place through courses and programmes in the judicial academy. Consular officers were also trained, as were law enforcement officers and field social workers.
Cybercrime had been defined as a new threat and a priority. In 2017, the Ministry of Interior had supported the activities of the National Centre for the Fight against Organized Crime that aimed to curb child online abuse.
On the detention of migrant children and migrant families with children, the delegation explained that the Czech law divided foreigners into two main categories, those under the Foreigners Act and those under the Asylum Act, which excluded from detention asylum-seekers, children and pregnant women.
Migrant families with children who were detained were those who were detained under the Dublin regulations and they were detained for purposes of transfer to the country of entry. This group represented the vast majority of detained families with children. Rarely were they detained for the purpose of return to their countries of origin.
The delegation insisted that the detention of families with children was in line with the European Union law, which the Czech Republic did not intend to change. Even families with children did not have the right to choose a country of destination and did not have the right to free movement within the European Union, they said.
The Czech Republic was working hard to improve conditions in detention centres for families with children. A new detention centre had been opened in 2018, not only for families with children but also for women and couples and unaccompanied minors. Since 1 August 2019, new alternatives to the detention of families with children were available. The police could impose an obligation to stay at a designated place, usually a reception asylum centre in the Czech Republic. Those centres were closed, except for families under this regime. Separate detention decisions for children and their families were issued to ensure the best interest of the child.
The conditions governing the detention of unaccompanied minors were very strict and allowed the detention only in case of extreme threat to public security. Therefore, in practice, the detention of unaccompanied minors did not happen at all.
The resettlement programme had indeed been postponed. The last project in this domain, operated by a private actor, combined with the worsening security situation in Europe, had led the Government to suspend the programme and at the moment, there was no intention to re-open it. It was important to take into consideration that, as of now, an agreement on new asylum rules at the European Union level had not been reached yet.
On the acceptance of refugees, the delegation said that it was important to consider different aspects. As far as spontaneous arrivals were concerned, the obligations of the Czech Republic were defined by the 1951 Refugee Convention and the country had a system in place to receive refugees under this instrument. The situation was different for asylum-seekers relocated from Greece, Italy and other European Union countries affected by the pressure. This was the group referred to by Prime Minister Babiš in his statements. Such movements did not fall under the 1951 Refugee Convention but were voluntary movements and the Czech Republic was awaiting a European decision in this regard.
The refugee recognition rate was influenced by nationality, the rate of absconding and the rate of repeated applications. The number of asylum-seekers in the Czech Republic was increasing: 1,450 in 2017, coming mainly from Ukraine, Cuba, Viet Nam and Armenia; 1,702 in 2018, principally from Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Cuba; and so far in 2019, there were 1,559.
Stateless persons were issued with travel certificates or identity cards and a long-term visa sticker, which enabled them to move and to access services. The Asylum Act did not require stateless persons to present their passport to obtain the recognition of statelessness.
As per the Act on Public Prosecution, no one could interfere in the work of the Public Prosecutor, the delegation said. The Act was being amended to further strengthen prosecutorial independence – this was being done partly in response to the GRECO reports. There was a complex debate about the content of the amendments between the judiciary, politicians and civil society. The amendment was expected to define the terms of office of the Head of Public Prosecution, who would thereon be removed only by disciplinary proceedings rather than a decision or a decree. There would also be a compulsory selection procedure by a five-person selection committee, whose composition was still to be decided.
Any violence against children was entirely inadmissible and corporal punishment was expressly prohibited in all institutions. As far as upbringing measures used by parents, physical violence was not acceptable. The data on violence against children was collected by the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs. Statistics were published annually and were available online. Data therein referred to physical and psychological violence against children, child pornography and child prostitution, and child neglect, which was collected by the local child protection authorities. It was important to stress, the delegate said, that this data only included registered children. The real number of children who suffered abuse was higher. Healthy family relations were at the centre of the family strategy which supported families at risk and helped parents develop their parenting skills.
Surgical castration was being carried in strict accordance with the law and with full application of safeguards, such as an expert panel and two independent opinions. It could be conducted based on a voluntary request by the concerned person, or when another treatment was not possible.
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Human Rights and Minority Protection Department in the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, in her closing remarks stressed the progress her country had made in the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the remaining challenges. More work was needed to address hate crimes more effectively, increase Roma integration, improve gender equality and the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as to strengthen the protection of migrants and refugees and protect children from all forms of violence. In addressing those issues, the Czech Republic would take into consideration the Committee’s concluding observations.
AHMED AMIN FATHALLA, Committee Chairperson, concluded by thanking the delegation for recognizing the remaining gaps and challenges and for the constructive dialogue. The Committee, he said, took note of the bills and legislative projects in the pipeline and expressed hope that the legal amendments to strengthen the judicial and prosecutorial independence would soon be agreed upon and adopted. The Chair urged the Czech Republic to ratify the Istanbul Convention, as one of the means to improve the political representation of women.
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