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May 31, 2020
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Czech towns criticize abolition of ordinances about sitting, advisor to Labor Minister references "inadaptable gypsies"

30.7.2017 8:52
The Janov housing estate in Litvínov, where Romani residents have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the local authority, local media, local police and social workers, property owners and ultra-right political groups for almost a decade. (PHOTO:  Google Maps)
The Janov housing estate in Litvínov, where Romani residents have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the local authority, local media, local police and social workers, property owners and ultra-right political groups for almost a decade. (PHOTO: Google Maps)

Earlier this month the Czech Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the ordinances adopted by towns in North Bohemia banning people from sitting outdoors on anything other than a bench. The decision has sparked many reactions of disagreement.

The court declared the parts of the ordinances issued by Litvínov and Varnsdorf that include such a prohibition invalid. The leadership in Litvínov intends to discuss its next move at the next meeting of the local council, while the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) members there who were behind the birth of the ordinances together with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) members are demanding the removal of Czech Public Defender of Rights Anna Šabatová (the ombudsperson) and the reinstatement of the ordinances.

According to the weekly magazine Homér, Litvínov is defending its ordinance by saying that it significantly reduced disruptions of public order, the destruction of both private and public property, and the consumption of alcohol and drugs in public spaces. "Through her approach to 'zero tolerance' the ombudswoman is making it absolutely clear that she considers it more important for an inadaptable citizen to be able to do whatever he considers appropriate in Litvínov, irrespective of the rights of those who uphold the laws, go to work, are not parasites on the social system and properly pay their taxes. For Anna Šabatová it is not important that those people be able to walk about their own housing estate in peace, a housing estate where, unlike their inadaptable neighbors, they are paying rent. For those people to get into the buildings where they live, they shouldn't have to pass through people sitting on the staircases and face their verbal assaults. A housing estate that was, before the arrival of these inadaptable gypsies from other parts of the country, one of the most beautiful in North Bohemia, should not be changed during warm weather into a camp of vagabonds where a decent citizen is afraid to go onto the street. Anna Šabatová and the Constitutional Court deciding at her instigation about the fates of the people at the Janov housing estate have not even the most basic knowledge about local conditions here. That is a fatal error that the ombudsman should not commit. For that reason, we are demanding she be fired and that Parliament shorten her term in office," said Martin Klika, who as Vice-Mayor for ČSSD, was behind the introduction of the "zero tolerance" ordinances that included the ban on sitting.

Klika is currently an advisor to Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová. Thomas Sebastien Müller, a current local councilor for the ČSSD there, told the weekly:  "We do not want to allow inadaptable citizens to terrorize their neighbors. The court should rehear the case ... The town must not give up and should defend the rights of decent people through all available means. 'Zero tolerance' in Litvínov has reduced social tensions which previously escalated even to the point of unrest at Janov. The ombudswoman is trying to trip us up in an effort to satisfy the activists who feed off of the situation at Janov. We want to convince the other local councilors to stand their ground and to defend the decent citizens of this town."

The town of Most also does not want to adapt its own so-called "bench ordinance" in light of the court ruling. "That is an instrument that we gave our local police to use especially during the spring and summer months. I believe it has proven effective and there is no reason to rescind it now," Mayor Jan Paparega told Czech Television.

According to constitutional lawyer Aleš Gerloch, the decision by the Constitutional Court is meant to be binding on all towns in the country. On the other hand, the abolition of the ordinances in the two towns involved in the case does not impact what other towns do.

"If other municipalities do not adjust their own ordinances by themselves, it is primarily up to the Interior Ministry to initiate a correction," Gerloch said. The ordinances will be checked by ministry bureaucrats beginning in September.

If the ordinances are found to be worded unconstitutionally, the ministry will instruct the municipalities concerned to adjust them. "The Interior Ministry respects the finding of the Constitutional Court and we will guide the municipalities toward correcting the generally applicable ordinances already published," spokesperson Ondřej Krátoška told Czech Television.

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Litvínov, Most, Soud, Varnsdorf


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The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma is deeply saddened by the death of Holocaust survivor and Roma civil rights activist Raymond Gurême

26.5.2020 9:20
The French Holocaust survivor Raymond Gurême died on Sunday, 24 May 2020, at the age of 94. The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma mourns this outstanding personality of the Sinti and Roma civil rights movement in Europe.
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