Czech Republic criticised over Roma situation

21.02.2013 - 15:13

The Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, released on 21 February his report on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic, finding that it poses “some of the most serious and urgent human rights challenges that the Czech authorities are called on to deal with.”

The report was based on Muižnieks’ visit to the country in November last year.

In particular, the commissioner expressed his concern about the segregation of the Roma population, which was estimated to represent between 1.4 and 2.8% of the total population in the country (around 150 000-300 000).

According to the findings of the report, Roma children remained segregated in the education system, while a significant number of them were still provided less demanding education in schools intended for children with “mild mental disabilities” or in Roma-only schools or classes.

In addition, Muižnieks is worried about the increasing territorial segregation of Roma in marginalised communities. More specifically, the human rights commissioner emphasised that “the local authorities’ autonomy in housing matters cannot justify the territorial segregation of Roma or their discrimination in the allocation of social housing.”

Apart from segregation of Roma in the country, the CoE commissioner expressed concern also about the fact that Roma remained particularly vulnerable to racism and discrimination and find themselves in a situation of exclusion and marginalisation that affected practically all areas of their life. The results of a recent study showed that 32% of Roma respondents in the Czech Republic considered that they had been victims of ‘racist’ in-person crime.

According to Muižnieks’ report, blogs and social media in the country were used for the dissemination of anti-Roma materials as well as for mobilising support for the public events organised by these groups. In that respect, he urged the Czech authorities to strengthen their initiatives aimed at ensuring that the media do not promote anti-Gypsyism (including enforcement of penalties against those media who incite to discrimination, hatred and violence against the Roma).

The report recommended that the authorities also encourage the professional bodies of the media to offer journalists specific training on questions relating to Roma and anti-Gypsyism.

In addition, the commissioner noted that that a pig farm built in the 1970s on the site of the former Lety (South Bohemia) concentration camp for Romani people has not as yet been removed by the authorities, reportedly because of the costs involved. In that respect, Muižnieks called upon the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm on the site where many Roma lost their lives during World War II.