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Czech Government rejects bill to compensate victims of illegal sterilizations

1.10.2015 9:35
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier prior to the cabinet session on 30 September 2015. (PHOTO:  www.vlada.cz)
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier prior to the cabinet session on 30 September 2015. (PHOTO: www.vlada.cz)

Victims of illegal sterilizations perpetrated over decades apparently will not be receiving compensation from the Czech state according to a proposal developed by the team of Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD). Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD), after a nighttime cabinet session, told journalists early this morning that the Government disagrees with the proposal, but would not give details.    

According to the bill, the women concerned would have been compensated as much as CZK 300 000 (EUR 11 000). Prior to today's meeting, some ministries were already against the proposal.  

The ministries said victims had been able to sue for compensation in the courts and that it should be enough that the state has already expressed regret for the incidents and changed the rules according to which such surgeries are performed. Czech Deputy Human Rights Minister Martina Štěpánková said yesterday on Czech Television that objecting that the women concerned should sue is incorrect because the statute of limitations has expired in most cases.  

Štěpánková also expressed doubts as to whether the communist regime would ever have permitted court hearings of such cases. Moreover, many social barriers obstructed the afflicted women's access to the courts.

Without the aid of nonprofit organizations, most of the forcibly sterilized women have been unable to figure out how to even bring a case. During the legislative commentary process prior to yesterday's meeting, several ministries raised objections to the bill.

The Czech Agriculture Ministry said the amount of compensation is disproportionately high compared to compensation paid to victims of the communist regime, who received CZK 100 000 (EUR 4 000). The Czech Finance Ministry was concerned that some cases might fail to meet the "burden of proof".

The Finance Ministry also said it would not give the Health Ministry additional money for the work of the proposed commission to administer compensation requests. Some other ministries asked for a more precise estimate of the total costs.

As of now, compensation is estimated at between CZK 79 million and CZK 2.5 billion (EUR 3 million and EUR 92 million). Štěpánková responded to all those commentaries in yesterday's interview with Czech Television.

She said the amount of compensation is based on decisions by both the Czech courts and the European Court of Human Rights in such cases. She also acknowledged that the "burden of proof" could be a problem because some of the cases happened decades ago.

As far as the budget for compensation was concerned, she explained that it cannot yet be made more precise because the actual number of illegally sterilized women will not be clarified until individual applicants begin to come forward. For the time being only estimated numbers of the women affected are available.

Suspicions of forced sterilization in the Czech Republic, primarily of Romani women, were brought forward by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in 2004. Dozens of women then contacted the Czech ombud

Some women have also successfully sued. Czech Ombud Otakar Motejl first systematically investigated the issue in 2005.

The Czech Government's Committee against Torture proposed compensating the victims of forced sterilization in 2006, and in 2009 the Czech Government issued a general expression of regret for the illegally-performed surgeries. International organizations have criticized the Czech Republic because the state has not yet compensated the victims of these human rights violations.

ČTK, mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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