Human Rights Commissioner urges the Czech authorities to adopt bill on reparations for involuntary sterilisation of Roma women
The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks today urged the Czech authorities to adopt a bill on reparations for the involuntary sterilization of Roma women. “I regret the Czech government’s decision not to proceed with the adoption of the law allowing the granting of compensation to the Roma women who were victims of forced sterilisations,” he said after publishing a letter he addressed to the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr Bohuslav Sobotka, on 6 October.
The involuntary sterilisation of Roma women without their full and informed consent has been a persistent problem in the Czech Republic. In his 2011 report, the previous Commissioner for Human Rights, while welcoming the expression of regret by the Czech authorities for this unlawful practice, deplored the lack of an effective domestic mechanism to enable victims to seek and obtain compensation for the harm they had suffered.
According to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, such practices violate the human freedom and dignity of the victims, thus constituting serious human rights violations, and therefore governments are obliged to establish accessible, effective mechanisms to obtain reparations. Commissioner Muižnieks was informed earlier this year that the Czech authorities had prepared a new bill allowing for a review of individual compensation claims of involuntarily sterilised women.
“I believe that this piece of legislation, if adopted, has the potential, even belatedly, to provide adequate redress to the Roma women who were victims of forced sterilisations,” said the Commissioner. Today his office also released the full response he received from Sobotka yesterday.
In that response, the PM says he agrees that the violations at issue are serious and says the Czech Republic has been concerning itself with the issue since the Ombudsman issued a legal opinion on the matter in 2005. He also noted that the Government expressed its regret for these violations in 2009 and adopted legislation improving the regulation of the provision of consent to such surgeries in 2011.
However, the Prime Minister maintains that the victims of these harms have had the option of suing in court, although he acknowledges that the statute of limitations for bringing such a lawsuit is three years from the date the harm occurred. "The possible establishment of a supplementary compensation mechanism would thus have been exclusively an ex gratia act, i. e. an accommodating step going beyond the international law obligations of the Czech Republic towards those illegally sterilised who either had not made any use of the available effective means of redress at all or who had used them too late," he writes.
It is just such an ex gratia mechanism that the Government has now decided not to establish. Even though the overwhelming majority of those harmed cannot sue because their claims have expired, the PM insists that "a court action therefore remains the way to the award of damages for the victims of illegal sterilisations."
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