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Czech Human Rights Minister says USA's human rights report about the Czech Republic is correct and factual

15.4.2016 15:13
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier prior to the cabinet session on 30 September 2015. (PHOTO:
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier prior to the cabinet session on 30 September 2015. (PHOTO:

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) says the report issued by the US State Department on the state of human rights in the Czech Republic is correct and factual. In the document, which the American authorities publish annually, reservations were expressed regarding the situation of Romani people and the remarks made by political representatives about the migration crisis, including remarks made by Czech President Miloš Zeman.

The Office of the President has said such criticism from allies is unnecessary. "I consider this assessment of the Czech Republic to be correct and factual. The facts described are known to me and to the Government and we are doing our best to address them," commented Human Rights Minister Dienstbier.

The position of Romani people in the Czech Republic has already been mentioned in the annual report several times. "We are very well aware of the need to address the position of Romani people in all crucial areas of life. We are following the situation and assessing it. Last year the Government approved the Romani Integration Strategy 2015-2020, which I submitted, the aim of which was to reverse negative trends in the development of the situation of Romani people in the Czech Republic by 2020. This especially concerns the areas of education, employment, housing and social affairs. The Strategy differs from its predecessors in that it does not focus just on the situation of Romani people in excluded localities, but sees the process of integration as a comprehensive synchrony of necessary events that must happen throughout all of society, both on the side of this minority and on the side of the majority," Dienstbier said.

The US State Department, as it did last year, mentions Zeman's controversial opinions, specifically his declaration that Muslim refugees will not respect local customs and laws but will want to introduce Islamic sharia law instead. The report also recalls Zeman's appearance on 17 November in Prague side-by-side with the head of the extremist "Bloc against Islam" organization, Martin Konvička.

"As far as the remarks of some political representatives are concerned, I would like to emphasize that the vocabulary of hate cannot be allowed to dominate the public space," Human Rights Minister Dienstbier said. "Some might believe such rhetoric 'just' excludes refugees. However, once we begin excluding, we can be sure it will not end with just one group. The answer to fear of refugees is to build a cohesive society that does not exclude anyone, not our own poor, nor foreigners who eventually seek asylum here. The answer is to build a functioning state that people will be able to rely on, including in cases of crisis. Then they will not be afraid even when we begin discussing receiving people from abroad."

Zeman's spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček said he considers the US criticism unnecessary. "This creates the impression that the entire passage concerning the Czech Republic is just comprised of several reports from nonprofits and media headlines. It's absolutely unnecessary for a country that is an ally to proceed in this way against a fellow ally," he told the Czech News Agency.

Petr Fiala, the chair of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), doesn't like the reservations expressed by the USA either. "I would welcome greater restraint and a sense of reality from our American allies in their assessments of the Czech Republic. Recently I have the feeling that if anything is increasing anti-American sentiments in society, it is criticism and recommendations such as these," Fiala said.  

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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