Health Ministry to investigate allegations that Romani women were sterilised without their consent

After talks with state ombudsman Otakar Motejl, Health Minister Milada Emmerova has agreed to establish a special commission to investigate fresh allegations that Romani women were sterilised without their consent in the past decade. The birth rate among the Roma is significantly higher than the general population and documented evidence shows that from 1959 to 1990 the former Czechoslovakia encouraged Romani women to undergo sterilisation by giving them cash payments, and in some cases doctors performed the operation without the women's consent. The practice was condemned by international human rights groups as racist and halted as official policy. Charges that sterilizations continued in recent years have been brought forth by the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre, along with two Czech civil society groups which are representing the legal interests of about 10 Romani women.

Doctor's Association board against 'general' privatisation of hospitals

The board of the Czech Doctors' Association, meeting on Saturday, has backed calls to prevent the privatisation of regional hospitals until a law on non-profit hospitals is passed. Association president David Rath said the board has no objections to private hospitals supplementing health care, but was against the "general" privatisation of existing state-run hospitals. In related news, representatives of a patients' rights association said over 77,000 people in Central Bohemia have signed on to a petition against privatising Czech hospitals.

Czech pilots begin testing Gripen fighters

Two Czech test pilots have begun training on JAS-39 Gripen fighters in Sweden. The men will return home as pilot-instructors themselves in a few months time to begin training their Czech colleagues. The Czech government agreed to lease the Swedish jets for the next ten years. As of May 2005, the Czech air force will decommission the fleets Russian-made MIG-21s.

Otto von Hapsburg becomes honorary citizen of Franstiske Lazne

Otto von Hapsburg, the son of Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I, was granted honorary citizen of the spa town of Frantiske Lazne on Saturday in recognition of his efforts to promote the peaceful unification of Europe. He was also on hand to unveil a statue of his ancestor, Emperor Franz Joseph I, who founded the spa town in 1793. Von Hapsburg, a former Member of the European Parliament from Bavaria, had gone against many in his party by objecting to preconditioning Czech membership in the European Union to the abolishment of the so-called Benes Decrees, which led to the post-WWII expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.

'Beer for blood' donor drive under way

A "beer for blood" campaign which got underway in Prague on Friday as part of a fair dedicated to St. Wenceslas at the Vystaviste exhibition grounds, is now travelling to other parts of the country. The initiative's organiser, who is the editor of a Czech beer magazine, told AFP the campaign's objective is to recruit new regular blood and bone marrow donors. Thos participating in the "beer for blood" campaign will receive two half-litre glasses of beer in return.

Havlat to play for Znojmo during NHL lockout

Ottowa's winger Martin Havlat has confirmed he will play for Znojmo, a Czech hockey team which plays near his native Brno, until the National Hockey League lockout is over. In recent weeks, several big name Czech players such as Jaromir Jagr have already returned home from North America to the play for local Czech teams. If the NHL season resumes, Havlat said he would return to Ottawa immediately.


More rain is expected throughout the day on Sunday, with daytime highs of 15 degrees Celsius