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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Czech Republic is systematically violating refugees' rights, Czech President is a xenophobe

23.10.2015 7:24
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (PHOTO:  www.un.org)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (PHOTO: www.un.org)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has charged the Czech Republic with systematically violating the rights of refugees who have been arriving there since August. Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein also made it known that he is disturbed by the "xenophobic public pronouncements, including Islamophobic remarks" made by Czech President Miloš Zeman.

The statement from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was issued yesterday with the heading "Zeid urges Czech Republic to end detention of migrants and refugees". The UN official explained his opinion by asserting that it is customary for Czech authorities to detain immigrants for anywhere between 40 and 90 days, to subject them to personal searches, and to confiscate their money in order to pay for the costs of their stay in facilities for foreign nationals.

The High Commissioner said he is disturbed by the conditions in which asylum-seekers are living in these facilities. He said there is no justifcation for detaining children in them.

"According to reliable reports from various sources, these violations of the human rights of migrants are not about isolated or random incidents, but is a systematic practice:  It seems to be an integral component of a Czech Government policy that aims to deter immigrants and refugees from entering the country or from remaining there," the Jordanian diplomat said his communiqué.

Czech Republic wants to deter refugees through harsh methods

"Many of these people are refugees who have suffered horribly in their countries of origin, as well as during their journey to the Czech Republic," the High Commissioner said. "International law is absolutely clear that the detention of immigrants must be exclusively a measure used only in extreme circumstances. As far as children are concerned, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has emphasized that the detention of children just on the basis of their status as migrants, or of their parents, is a violation [of law], is never in their best interest, and is unjustifiable."

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Czech authorities should adopt alternative solutions in accordance with the upholding of human rights, the Czech Republic's international obligations, and the recommendations of Ombudsperson Anna Šabatová. In the context of discussing the "detention policy" of the Czech Republic, he also very briefly expressed his concern not just over Czech President Zeman's public remarks, but also over a public petition against immigration initiated by former Czech President Václav Klaus.

Prague Castle:  A campaign against the Czech Republic is escalating 

The Office of the Czech President is convinced that a campaign against the Czech Republic is being escalated because of the position it has taken on the migration crisis. According to the President, it is completely inappropriate to criticize the Czech Republic this harshly for violating the rights of refugees.

Jiří Ovčáček, spokesperson for President Zeman, said as much in his response to the crticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ovčáček says Zeman is standing by his words about Islam.

"One of the most important achievements of the events of November 1989 is freedom of opinion and speech. Such a declaration absolutely contravenes that spirit. This is not the first such verbal assault on the President of the Republic and it is, therefore, absolutely apparent that a campaign is being escalated against the Czech Republic because of our position in the matter of the migration crisis," Ovčáček said.

"The President of the Republic has long warned against the danger of Islamist fundamentalism. He insists on his opinions and does not intend to change them under pressure from abroad. The Czech Republic does uphold human rights and the laws. To castigate a sovereign country in this way is, therefore, completely inappropriate," the President's spokesperson said.  

ČTK, mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Miloš Zeman, refugee, UN, Xenophobia



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