Czech Govt to discuss response to UN on criticisms of discrimination
At its cabinet meeting on Wednesday the Czech Government should discuss how it will respond to criticisms made last year by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Czech Republic was criticized at that time over the fact that Romani children continue to be disproportionately enrolled into the so-called "special schools", that the Government has not adopted sufficient measures to prevent municipalities from improperly evicting Romani people, and that the Government has not yet compensated Romani women who have been illegally sterilized.
CERD monitors the promotion of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The former Czechoslovakia signed the convention in 1966 an promulgated it into Czech law in 1974. The Czech Republic assumed the obligations of the convention after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
Last year the Committee said it "remains disturbed by the limited effectiveness of the Government's response" toward the approach taken by municipalities when evicting Romani people from municipally-owned apartments and the distribution of such housing in general. The Committee recommended the Government adopt measures to ensure that municipal decisions in this area do not prevent the Czech Republic from meeting its obligations to fight discrimination. In its draft response, the cabinet has stated that the state cannot order municipalities or regions to maintain a certain number of apartments or schools, but can only support the establishment of such public goods.
In its draft response, the Government points out that municipalities must respect the laws and the Convention, and that the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion is supposed to help them with that. "A municipality cannot terminate a lease or forcibly evict anyone for anything other than legal reasons," the draft response reads. The Czech Interior Ministry can suspend controversial municipal ordinances and propose they be annulled by the courts. If a municipality discriminates against people applying for housing, they must defend themselves in court on their own.
The Committee was also disturbed last year by reports of the ongoing disproportionate enrollment of Romani children into "special schools" for pupils with light mental disability. The Committee recommended the Government take steps to eliminate segregation from the schools. The draft response says that the Czech Republic adopted an inclusive education plan in 2010 and claims that the guidance given by educational psychologists, the evaluation of children's capacities, and the practice of enrolling children into the "special schools" are all slated to change. Parents must express their informed consent when enrolling children into such schools.
The draft response also states that the adopted plan supports the attendance of children in nursery schools or preparatory classes, which should be free of charge. There were 189 such facilities open during the last school year. A total of 458 teaching assistants also worked in the schools last year. The "special schools" and the educational guidance centers have been monitored by the Czech School Inspection Authority, which will publish the results of its investigation into the guidance centers this fall. The draft response to the UN also says that in future, the Romanes language should also be taught in the schools as an elective subject.
The Committee also recommended compensating Romani women who have been illegally sterilized, introducing measures to make sure similar cases are not repeated, and eliminating the three-year statute of limitations in such cases. The Government's draft response states that the Czech Government Human Rights Council has already recommended compensating the victims of these abuses. The compensation would concern women whom the authorities sent to medical facilities for sterilizations prior to 1991 who have not been able to seek compensation through the courts because the statute of limitations has expired. "The Czech Government Human Rights Council's motion is now being discussed by the Government and has not yet been adopted," the draft response says. The advisory body's recommendations are not binding on the cabinet.
The Czech authorities are also informing the UN that sterilizations in the Czech Republic have been legislated by a new law on "specific health care services" since April of this year. Patients must give their informed consent to such surgeries. The form to be signed has been translated into the Romanes language.
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