Czech Helsinki Committee releases report on human rights


On Monday, the Czech Helsinki Committee presented its report on Human Rights in the Czech Republic in 2001. According to the report, government efforts to improve the living conditions of the Roma community had failed. In total, some 70,000 Roma have apparently left the country, feeling that the rest of Czech society was not interested in accepting its Roma minority. The Helsinki Committee also pointed out that officials were not qualified to deal with the growing number of asylum seekers - the number has doubled in the course of last year - and that the processing of asylum applications was slow, at times taking several years. Out of 18,082 applicants, only 83 were successful and officials were criticised of rejecting requests that fulfilled all requirements or asking for written proof of political persecution. The Czech police force was also not spared, the committee claims that corruption within the force has remained a problem. Insufficient social services and the lack of ample state-provided care for the elderly has contributed greatly to domestic violence on mainly women and the aged. Dita Asiedu spoke to Selma Muhic of the Czech Helsinki Committee:

"We don't only monitor the actual situation but we also monitor the legislative situation and we also have different projects which are very specific and focus on different problematic groups within society, namely Roma, prisoners, seniors and so on. We are trying to find out how they see their problems and to give that feedback to the governing bodies and to public opinion so that they can see what consequences a certain law can have."

The government's human rights commissioner, Mr Jarab thinks that the figure stated, 70,000 Roma who have left the country, is very high and Deputy-Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said that he finds the report superficial.

" Most of the authors are people who have dealt with these issues for a very long time and with specific and concrete people. Unfortunately, I don't think that someone like Mr Spidla who is so high in this public administration has an opportunity to communicate with the people who have these problems. As for the numbers, the fact is that an absolutely majority of Roma want to leave this country. Even if it was not 70,000, they are the victims of institutional racism which is fostered by the government and by public administration."