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Forum to Canadian Ambassador: Roma are not equal citizens in the Czech Republic

Prague, 18.3.2011 19:11, (ROMEA)

The Roma association Forum has sent a letter to Ms Valerie Raymond, the Canadian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, claiming that the Czech Republic does not behave like a democratic country in which the rule of law applies when it comes to Roma people. The letter warns that the manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, segregation and anti-Gypsyism have shifted in the Czech Republic to the institutional level. This fact is dangerous for Roma people, because it means that local municipalities are trying gain support in legislation for anti-Roma measures. The letter is published below.

Esteemed Madame Ambassador,

We Roma, citizens of the Czech Republic and members of the Forum Roma association, are writing to communicate to you that the Czech Republic is neither a democratic country nor a country where the rule of law applies when it comes to Roma people! We would like to emphasize that state policy with respect to Roma national minority affairs does not exist in practice. The steps and actions taken to date by the advisory bodies to the Czech Government are only of a declaratory character. We are convinced that the Czech Republic is merely delivering an alibi to the international community to create the impression that it is "actively concerned" about the issue of the Roma national minority. Even 22 years after the Velvet Revolution this country has not succeeded in ensuring that Roma in the Czech Republic become equal citizens. This country is not capable of guaranteeing Roma people all of their constitutional and civil rights to the same extent that they are guaranteed to and enjoyed by citizens of the majority society.

We are calling on you with great urgency to appeal to your country's government to lift the visas for Czech citizens as soon as possible because this country is dangerous for Roma people! We believe it is not possible that Roma people continue to be denied the right to freely leave this country. For many people this is the only hope of escaping and getting away from the rising expressions of institutional racism, racial discrimination and racial persecution to which we are exposed every single day in this country.

Anti-Gypsyism in Czech society, at the local level and at the level of the authorities and institutions is achieving a critical level. Currently these problems are evident in the town of Nový Bydžov. On Saturday 12 March 2011, more than 500 neo-Nazis from the Workers' Social Justice Party, the Autonomous Nationalists and members of the banned National Resistance organization marched through the town with the assistance and support of the local municipality. During this event, 20 Czech neo-Nazis physically assaulted three Roma people. One of the victims was rendered unconscious and was then hospitalized. The Police of the Czech Republic did not manage to prevent this brutal attack by Czech racists. It is outrageous that the extremists who were arrested in connection with this attack were charged only with "rioting". Even though the racial subtext of this attack is completely evident, the police have not qualified it as racially motivated.

The extremist movement in the Czech Republic has dozens of dead Roma people on its conscience. It is very sad that Czech President Václav Klaus has himself endorsed the extreme right by publicly support Mr Ladislav Bátora, a former candidate for the extremist National Party, as a nominee for the position of Deputy Education Minister. Mr Bátora is now slated to take up a position as adviser to the Czech Education Minister on 1 April 2011.

We must emphasize that expressions of racism, racial discrimination, segregation and anti-Gypsyism in the Czech Republic have now shifted to the institutional level. This fact is dangerous for Roma people, because there is now an effort underway for the anti-Roma measures designed by local municipalities to be backed by national legislation. Dozens of mayors and municipal representatives have designed and signed an anti-Roma "Document", according to which towns and villages should have the right to deprive Roma people of permanent residency. The mayors of these towns and villages have entrusted Czech MP Ivana Řápková (Civic Democrats -ODS) with seeing through these legislative changes.

Yours faithfully on behalf of the members of the Forum Roma association

Ondřej Giňa, Miroslav Kováč, Ondřej Giňa Jr., Iveta Bílková, Ladislav Bílý, Antonie Burianská

Gwendolyn Albert, Call of the Forum Roma association to the Canadian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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