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Czech ombudsman opposes residency ban for misdemeanors

Prague, 26.11.2011 23:07, (ROMEA)

Czech Public Defender of Rights Pavel Varvařovský (the ombudsman) disagrees with a bill which would introduce the sanction of banning residency for those who commit certain misdemeanors. Speaking at a session of the Social Affairs Committee of the Czech lower house on Thursday, the ombudsman pointed out that freedom of movement and residency are fundamental human rights. The committee discussed the bill, submitted by a group of governing coalition MPs led by former Mayor of Chomutov Ivana Řápková (Civic Democrats - ODS), with the final result that it "acknowledged" the submission.

The ombudsman labeled the effort to address every possible problem through new legislation "flawed". In his opinion, greater sanctions will not resolve the problem of people's behavior and morality. Opposition MPs on the committee also criticized the bill, calling it a demagogic invention that would not solve anything but would simply shift the problem from one municipality to the next.

For her part, Řápková defended the bill. She emphasized that mere fines are ineffective in some cases because people don't even pay them. "That is why more sanctions are proposed. The state must know how to sue for its rights," she said.

The bill proposed that authorities be able to ban residency for the misdemeanors of begging, consuming alcohol, or soliciting prostitution in places where such activities are prohibited by municipal decree. Řápková put forward a similar bill previously but withdrew it before it could reach the first reading phase in the lower house.

According to the current bill, authorities in towns and villages would be able to ban people who repeatedly commit misdemeanors from residing on their territory for up to three months. Řápková's original bill demanded the option of banning such persons for up to one year. The current bill says the sanctions would not be applicable to anyone who is a permanent resident of the place in which the misdemeanors have been repeatedly committed. Persons violating the residency ban would then be guilty of committing obstruction of an official decision. The authorities could also forgive the perpetrators up to half of the maximum residency ban, which would not apply to juveniles.

In its official standpoint rejecting the bill, the Czech executive labeled the ban on residency "excessive". That standpoint also mentioned that the bill would most probably clash with rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Committee of the Regions has not yet adopted a ruling on the bill. The Constitutional Law Committee will now review it. The submitters of the legislation intend to introduce some formal adjustments to the bill at that time.

ČTK, František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, fk, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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