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Czech prosecutor said Amnesty International report about discrimination of Roma in schools was "pseudo-research"

9.3.2016 19:07
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The Czech daily Právo published a news item today citing an official notification released by State Prosecutor Zdeňka Galková last year in the matter of a report of suspected criminal behavior filed against the leadership of Amnesty International (AI) by the head of the Department of Education and European Funds at the Prague 9 municipal department, Martin Odehnal, who was previously the director of the Special Education Department at the Czech Education Ministry. Odehnal contacted police because of an AI report published last year called "Must Try Harder - Ethnic Discrimination of Romani Children in Czech Schools" ("Chce to více snahy - Etnická diskriminace romských dětí v českých školách").

Galková:  AI leadership has not committed a crime, but report allegedly contains "false data" 

According to the state prosecutor, no crime was committed, but the AI report is allegedly "pseudo-research" that presents "false data". Galková did not state in her notification which specific data in the report were "false".

Amnesty International published the report on 22 April 2015, which found that daily discrimination against Romani children in the schools persists in the Czech Republic because the Czech Government has not yet managed to come to grips with the deeply-rooted bias against Roma in education. One month later, Odehnal filed his motion with the state prosecutor to review whether the AI leadership had committed a crime.

"From the content of the documentary material provided by you, no specific behavior can be seen that rises to the level of the crimes specified by that particular section of Act No. 40/2009, Coll., Penal Code; therefore, the criminal justice authorities will not pay further attention to your submission and it will be shelved without any further action being taken in the matter," Galková's notification states. However she went on to state in her notification that it is possible to agree that the research report "clearly contains false, distorted and demeaning information that is presented as if it were objectively-established fact, but under no circumstances can these allegations and baseless accusations be evaluated as accusations that the political representation, public institutions or citizens of the Czech Republic have committed the crime of apartheid and discrimination against a group of people under Section 402 paragraph 1 Penal Code, which is committed by anyone who applies apartheid or racial, ethnic, national, religious or class segregation or other similar discrimination against groups of people. No such accusation is made by the pseudo-research work of Amnesty International. It can only be considered an unfounded, unjustified, blunt criticism of the activities of state institutions and their employees, and ultimately as an unfair 'labeling' of citizens of the Czech Republic who do not belong to the Romani community," the state prosecutor's notification states.

Galková:  Mere criticism of the Government's actions is not a crime

"Mere criticism of the Government's actions, specifically, criticism of the actions of state institutions and their employees, even criticism that is unfounded, unwarranted, rude and demeaning, does not rise to the level of felony false accusation per Section 345 Penal Code, nor does it rise to the level of any other felony specified in that specific segment of the Penal Code. The opposite conclusion, i.e., the conclusion that felony false accusation had been committed in this case, would clash with the constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of speech and expression. The Government, as the high executive body of the state, has enough powers to implement its policies, and it would not be appropriate to defend the Government from criticism of its actions or lack thereof using criminal law. It is up to the Government and its institutions to know how to face this degrading campaign with substantive arguments, and it will certainly have enough appropriate means, including media coverage, through which to do so," states the notification, which news server has seen.

"The work of Amnesty International, for more than 50 years, has been based on relevant, reliable research in the area of human rights, and AI follows its own clear rules," Martina Pařízková, press spokesperson for the Czech branch of AI, told news server She said AI's research is never performed by a citizen of the country under investigation in order to preserve the maximum degree of objectivity.

"This research took place at several schools, it maps the environment both in the schools and outside the schools in the work of the Government and nonprofit organizations. Its aim is to draw the attention of the Czech Republic to the gaps that exist in its provision of equal access to education and it is an attempt to contribute to the elimination of systemic discrimination in the long run," Pařízková said.

"We perform such work not just in the Czech Republic, but all over the world. Our task is to warn of human rights violations and to attempt to see them remedied. Our research is received positively, for the most part, and to a great degree it contributes to the work of state institutions on these issues, to laws, etc.," said the AI press spokesperson.

"We do not intend to argue with Madame State Prosecutor about the quality of our work, which she terms 'pseudo-research'," Pařízková told news server According to a co-author of the research published by AI last year, Barbora Černušáková, the Czech Republic's own legislation on education is not being implemented in practice.

Any cases of the successful inclusion of Romani children into mainstream schools in the Czech Republic are, according to Černušáková, an outcome of the efforts and work of individual teachers and principals, not a result of systemic pressure. The AI research team visited 24 mainstream schools and four practical schools during 2014 in Ostrava, České Budějovice, Děčín and Brno.

Researchers spoke not only with dozens of Romani pupils and their parents, but also with teachers and principals. "This extensive segregation of Romani children is an example of systematic, prejudicial behavior. The schools teach these children what discrimination is at a very early age," said Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, during the release of the research report in Prague last year.

"Because the Czech Government has not sufficiently addressed this problem, it is not just violating European human rights legislation, but also limiting the life chances of tens of thousands of Czech citizens. Let's call things by their correct names:  This is racism, pure and simple," Shetty said.  

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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