Czech Helsinki Committee and ROMEA send open letter to political parties on Human Rights Day
The Czech Helsinki Committee (Český helsinský výbor - ČHV) and the ROMEA civic association have sent Czech political parties an open letter on the occasion of Human Rights Day detailing current deficiencies in the human rights area at the level of the Government and Parliament. Below is a translation of the letter and responses from the three political parties that have responded to it.
Open letter to political parties
Dear Madame, Dear Sir,
We are turning to you in your capacity as representatives of the political entities that succeeded in the early elections to the Chamber of Deputies and who therefore have the opportunity to participate in both shaping the new government and in drafting and implementing its program declaration. As nonprofit, non-state organizations that have long been striving for the fulfillment and protection of basic human rights in the Czech Republic, we call on you not to forget about human rights protections in your activities and program for the next four years, and for you to use every means to make it a priority of the incoming government to see through the fulfillment and protection of the human rights of particularly vulnerable groups in the population such as children, persons living with disabilities and senior citizens.
We see the resolution of the following concrete problems and essential areas as particularly urgent:
At the institutional and systemic level:
·The current failure to staff the position of Government Human Rights Commissioner / Human Rights Minister and the politicization of that position;
·The lack of a long-term strategy and vision in the area of human rights protections in the Czech Republic;
·The lack of independent institutions focused on monitoring the state of human rights in the Czech Republic according to the so-called Paris Principles;
·The implementation deficit in relation to the fulfillment of international human rights conventions, in particular the Convention on the Rights of Persons Living with Disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national action plans and concepts adopted for the implementation of international human rights conventions;
·The lack of subsidy programs through various ministries or regional administrations focused on supporting projects targeting the area of human rights protections;
·The lack of a law on free legal aid to facilitate access to justice by vulnerable groups;
·The predominance of an institutional approach to care for minors, persons living with disabilities and senior citizens;
·Reductions to social security and access to social rights, including the refusal to ratify the Revised European Social Charter;
·The adoption of a law on social housing;
·Persistent discrimination on the basis of age, disability, race and sex and the malfunction of the Anti-Discrimination Act;
·Adoption of a law on compensating illegally sterilized persons;
·Long-term, systematic neglect or violation of the fundamental human rights of persons in institutional care (children, clients in residential social services facilities, patients in psychiatric care facilities) and prisoners, as well as the failure of the monitoring mechanisms implemented by the management of these institutions;
·The lack of a long-term, more in-depth collaboration and dialogue between civil society and the public administration to address human rights topics.
We would like to emphasize that we are prepared and willing to collaborate and participate with you on all of these topics. We would also like to ask you to state whether and how your political party intends to see through improvements to human rights protections in the Czech Republic over the next four years and what priorities and problems you consider to be the most pressing.
Táňa Fischerová, chair, ČHV
Lucie Rybová, board member, ČHV
RESPONSE FROM TOP 09
Dear Ms Fischerová, Dear Ms Rybová,
To begin with, I would like to emphasize that TOP 09 has from its inception dedicated itself to human rights through its basic principles and values and considers adherence to human rights principles and protections to be a basic prerequisite for the functioning of human society. The TOP 09 program describes the fundamental premise on which our future steps in this area will be based; please permit me to quote it:
"TOP 09 respects the equality of citizens with respect to their freedom and rights at all levels, as well as solidarity with those who find themselves in adverse living situations. We are of the opinion that the starting point for the solution to such situations must be the individual will to mobilize one's strength and that a natural source of aid is one's family and circle of intimates. Aid from civil society entities comes next, and only then should the state be a source of outside protection. Adhering to the principle of subsidiarity this way protects all of society from abusing generally-allocated state support. With respect for the dignity of each person, we can aid those who demonstrably need assistance. At the same time, however, we stand by our conviction that one bears responsibility for caring for one's own family, health, security in old age, and work activities."
Even if our party does not participate in the government and finds itself in opposition in the Chamber of Deputies, we will pay attention to promoting these codes and principles. On the question of human rights we will be a constructive opposition force, whose main interest will not be to criticize the governing coalition's steps at any cost, but primarily to defend the interests of the citizens of the Czech Republic.
We will be contributing our own proposals for measures resulting in social solidarity as a relationship based on our mutual human responsibility for the dignified life of all citizens. We will collaborate with NGOs, whom we consider an essential component of civil society whose role should be strengthened.
We will continue to accentuate human rights topics in dialogue with such groups. This is related to the topics you raise.
I perceive the failure to staff the position of Government Human Rights Commissioner to be a problem. I am convinced this position is of enormous significance and TOP 09 will gladly be involved in discussing how it should be filled.
I also consider it important to elaborate strategies in the area of human rights protections in the Czech Republic which could lead to an improved system for monitoring human rights. We completely support compensating persons who have been illegally sterilized.
As for the deficiencies mentioned by you with respect to fulfilling our international obligations, I agree here that progress is needed. TOP 09 would support such steps in its position as a parliamentary party.
In the case of subsidy programs, I would prefer to see greater initiatives on the part of municipal and regional governments than state support. Some of the other problems you mention touch less on human rights than they do on politics.
For example, the question of institutional care may not be currently addressed in the best possible way, but you yourselves have not yet defined how to better address it. Similarly broad topics require expert and political discussions which we as a party are willing to lead.
This also applies to the norms on discrimination against individuals - the current state of affairs may prompt certain doubts, but that is exactly why we would welcome alternative proposals to consider from various groups. This is linked to yet another of the problems you mention, that of a lack of dialogue.
Blame lies on both sides in that case. TOP 09 supports mutual collaboration, but it must be emphasized that dialogue requires a partner.
Finally, I do not want to neglect the law on social housing - we are already intensively working on that law, discussing it with the Platform for Social Housing and readying it for submission. We will be pleased to hold a dialogue with the Czech Helsinki Committee on concrete questions and your proposals for their solution.
Ing. Markéta Adamová
Deputy of the Parliament of the Czech Republic for TOP 09
RESPONSE FROM THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF BOHEMIA AND MORAVIA (KSČM)
We are glad the Czech Helsinki Committee is turning to us on this question. The KSČM is aware that numerous declarations do not automatically guarantee the fulfillment of human rights.
Both the current legal arrangements and practices are insufficient. We view human rights in a broader context, which we means we base our approach on protections not for just political rights, but primarily for economic and social ones.
On the occasion of the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we are a preparing a conference on this topic. It will not discuss just the enforceability of traditional rights, but also the development of next-generation rights in the context of the development of our civilization (in ecology, information).
We are convinced that the continuity of the so-called Helsinki process is playing a key role in the development of all of Europe. We welcome any and all collaboration in that area.
During the next four years we intend to concentrate as a priority on the matters listed in our electoral program for this year's early elections, i.e., not just on political rights and the functioning of parliamentary democracy, but also on questions of the availability and quality of dignified housing, job offers and public services. We will not neglect anti-discrimination legislation in general, a dignified life for handicapped persons and senior citizens, equal opportunities for women, or the rights of the child.
In the future, please approach either the KSČM group in the lower house or the party section for the management of expert issues about these matters. We consider civil society representatives to be irreplaceable, natural partners for addressing these questions.
Vice-Chair, civil sector and expertise, Central Committee of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
RESPONSE OF THE CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (ČSSD)
Dear Madame Chair Fišerová,
Dear Ms Rybová,
Mr Chair Mgr. Bohuslav Sobotka has asked me to respond to your e-mail regarding priorities in the area of human rights protections in the Czech Republic. As you certainly know, the former chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Anna Šabatová, is the chair of our expert Commission for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and the Family.
Michaela Marksová Tominová, currently our Shadow Government Spokesperson for Human Rights and the Family, is a member of that same commission. We believe you are still in contact with the former chair and that the Czech Helsinki Committee's propositions will, therefore, make it onto the agenda of our expert commission, to be precise, that of the Shadow Government.
I would like to thank you for your list of priorities. We will send them through our secretariat to all of the members of the commission as background material for further discussion.
With kind regards,
PhDr. Běla Hejná
Superintendent of the Secretariat of the Chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party
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