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Czech watchdog report, 16 July – 31 August 2013

Watchdogs stood up against anti-Romany marches and rallies all over the Czech Republic

Civil protest against rasists in PilzenOn 24 August, Czech neo-Nazis and their supporters held marches and rallies “against gypsy racism, police brutality” and the like in eight cities: Ostrava, Duchcov, České Budějovice, Jičín, Plzeň, Brno, Děčín and Varnsdorf. Several watchdogs and civic initiatives organized counter-demonstrations or tried to block the marches.

The most dangerous situation was in Ostrava, where armed neo-Nazis attempted pogrom when several hundreds of them approached a house inhabited by Romanies and attacked it with stones and bottles. The incident ended up in a battle with the police and detention of more than 60 racists. Peaceful gathering “Peace Among the People” protesting against the racists was attended by around 600 people (mostly Romanies) and had been dismissed before the clashes of neo-Nazis with the police.

In Plzeň (Pilsen), Civil Protest against Racist Demonstration and March (https://www.facebook.com/events/502286539858010/?fref=ts) was attended by 250 citizens, around 150 took part in the racist march. Some 25 persons tried to block the way of the racist march (on the picture), but after they refused to leave, the police detained all of them.

The most successful anti-racist initiative was in Brno where more than 90 activists took part in a previously announced happening against racism and violence. They prevented the neo-Nazis from entering the quarter partly inhabited by Romanies.

In České Budějovice, local initiative Budějovice Against Violence „welcomed“ a hundred of neo-Nazis by previously prepared anti-racist writings on the pavements, such as „A.C.A.B. – All Colours are Beautiful“ (http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/na-trase-pochodu-v-c-budejovicich-se-objevily-protestni-napisy).

In total, around 1.500 neo-Nazis and their supporters took part in the racist events and there were around 1.000 participants of the counter-demonstrations

(http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/na-nenavistne-protiromske-pochody-v-osmi-mestech-prisla-asi-tisicovka-lidi,http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/bilance-protiromskych-pochodu-101-zadrzenych-1500-neonacistu-a-jejich-priznivcu-1000-lidi-se-postavilo-nenavisti).

For the whole day, a watchdog organization In Iustitia ran a helpline providing legal support for victims and witnesses of hate crimes. The support was offered also the non-violent activists taking part on anti-racist events (http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/in-iustitia-spustila-v-souvistlosti-s-protiromskym-pochody-linku-na-pomoc-obetem-nasili-z-nenavisti).

In Prague, prankish initiative “We don’t want Czechs in the Czech Republic” performed a march against Czechs, protesting against the racist marches and rising anti-Romany mood in the country. The pranksters emphasized stereotypical thinking by symbolical hanging of typical Czech – a stupid person wearing socks and sandals, drinking beer and bringing a supermarket plastic bag

(http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/cechy-cechum-nedame-prahou-prosel-pochod-proti-cechum).

Europe Roma International movement reacted by announcing demonstrations for respecting human rights and against rising neo-Nazism in front of 20 Czech embassies, and also in Prague in front of the Cabinet Office (http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/zahranicni/europe-roma-chysta-demonstrace-proti-neonacismu-pred-ceskymi-ambasadami-po-celem-svete). The events should take place at the beginning of September.

As a reaction to the series of neo-Nazi marches recently being held virtually every weekend, a new platform Blokujeme! (“We Block!”, www.blokujeme.cz) was formed. The platform already joined a peaceful protest against neo-Nazi march in Vítkov, though not attempted to block it(http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/platforma-blokujeme-neblokujeme-lidi-ale-rasistickou-myslenku-poklidne-shromazdeni-podpori-romy-z-vitkova).

When informing about anti-Romany march and pogrom attempt in Ostrava on 24 August, Czech Television broadcasted a statement of Jiří Siostrzonek, alleged sociologist engaged in Romany issue. In fact, Siostrzonek defended the racists attacking Romanies. Immediately, a public complaint was written by Czech documentary film-maker Apolena Rychlíková and joined by hundreds. (http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/stovky-lidi-protestuji-proti-ct-dala-prostor-odbornikovi-obhajujicimu-utocici-rasisty).

The watchdogs fulfilled their alerting and intervening functions responding to the very dangerous racist activities and promoted a requirement of non-discrimination stipulated by Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, according to which any discrimination based on any ground such as race, colour, ethnic or social origin, or membership of a national minority is prohibited.

Watchdogs are looking for illegally sterilized Romany women

Czech Helsinki Committee and League of Human Rights announced they search for the Romany women, who were illegally and involuntarily sterilized between years 1972 and 1991. The watchdogs intend to help the women to pressure on the government to adopt a law launching financial compensations for such women. During the aforementioned years, there were cases of sterilization performed during childbirth or closely after it. The mothers were sometimes given approval to be signed right before the childbirth, when they weren’t fully aware of what they actually sign; sometimes they were not informed about the intervention at all. Czech Republic has been repeatedly criticized by the EU and UN for inability to provide compensations for illegally sterilized women. Moreover, there were some similar cases even after 1991 (http://helcom.cz/tiskova-zprava-chv-vyzva-sterilizovanym-zenam/, http://llp.cz/tag/sterilizace/).

Czech home birth cases to be solved by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

Two Czech women with the help of the League of Human Rights filed a complaint against Czech Republic to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Their right to freely choose a place of childbirth was violated as they were prevented from giving home childbirth assisted by a midwife. In a similar case against Hungary, the court already stated that the state is obliged to create conditions for accessible healthcare during home childbirths (http://llp.cz/2013/08/ceske-domaci-porody-miri-ke-strasburskemu-soudu/).

TERNOVSZKY v. HUNGARY here:

http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-102254#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-102254%22]}

 

Czech Arms Play Significant Part in the Bloody Conflict in Egypt

Arms exports from Czech Republic to EgyptCzech watchdog NESEHNUTÍ (Independent Social Ecological Movement) informed that arms and ammunition from the Czech Republic was most likely used during August military actions against demonstrators in Egypt leaving hundreds dead. According to the statistics the Czech Republic has long been arming Egypt and is one of its biggest suppliers of ammunition for small firearms. The NGO works on the issue of arms exports from Czech Republic into the countries with non-democratic regimes (http://nesehnuti.cz/vystupy/czech-arms-play-significant-part-in-the-bloody-conflict-in-egypt/). After European Union stopped the arms exports to Egypt, NESEHNUTÍ called on abolition of arms exports to some other non-democratic countries violating human rights, such as Algeria, Ethiopia, Bahrain or Azerbaijan. According to the annual report of arms exports published short time ago, Czech Republic supplies military material to all of the above mentioned countries and many more. NESEHNUTÍ calls on principal change of the arms export policy (http://nesehnuti.cz/vystupy/nesehnuti-po-zastaveni-vyvozu-zbrani-do-egypta-musi-nasledovat-i-dalsi-zeme/).

 

Czech Republic: Decline and resignation

At the beginning of August, Czech coalition Social Watch published a national monitoring report related to the development of fight against the poverty and equality of men and women. This year’s conclusions are not encouraging. The economy is stagnating under steps of the right-wing government that fell after several corruption scandals. Situation of the most of the citizens has deteriorated; the most endangered are people with low income and women. One of the results is anti-Romany mood leading up to the pogrom attempts. According to the report, long-term decline of the state is accompanied by resignation of the most of the citizens (http://nesehnuti.cz/vystupy/ceska-republika-upadek-a-rezignace/). By preparing skilled analysis, the watchdog fulfilled its expert function and contributed to the intent to combat social exclusion and poverty stipulated by Article 34/3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The biggest Prague Pride

Prague Pride ParadeAround 20.000 people took part in the rainbow parade Prague Pride this year, which made it the biggest pride in the Czech Republic ever. Ironically, the media publicity of the event was much smaller as there was no significant criticism from the president or other important politicians as in the past years. Unlike former president Vaclav Klaus who used to speak about “homosexualism” and called LGBT “deviants”, president in the office Miloš Zeman didn’t want to comment on the event. Watchdog In Iustitia that took part in the event ran a helpline for victims of homophobic and transphobic violence and organized a public discussion about coming-out

(http://zpravy.ihned.cz/c1-60436570-prague-pride-pruvod-praha-putna-putin-letna,http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/in-iustitia-nikdo-nesmi-byt-napadan-pro-to-koho-miluje,

http://www.praguepride.cz).

Repeated local referendum about moving the main railway station in Brno?

Three NGOs in the second largest city in Brno, Masarykova demokratická akademie (Masaryk’s Democratic Academy), Děti Země – Brno (Children of the Earth) and Hnutí DUHA – Brno announced they want to repeat local referendum about moving the main railway station out of the centre of the city. The first referendum about the case took place ten years ago; although the vast majority of the voters supported proposal of the local initiatives not to move the station and reconstruct it in its current position, the voter turnout was too low to make the decision binding for the local authorities. The main argument is the relocation of the station would worsen the smooth running of the public transport as the city centre would be less accessible. There is a suspicion the relocation plan is partly run by private investors hoping to commercially use the plots nearby the new location. Unfortunately, some civic initiatives from “Coalition Station in the Centre” that has been working on this case for years don’t agree with the campaign for the referendum, stating such effort are counter-productive. They accused a representative of the referendum initiative Jakub Patočka being motivated just by igniting disputes inside the Czech Social Democratic Party (http://www.detizeme.cz/zprava.shtml?x=2386376).

Arnika demands monitoring of benzo[a]pyrene

Environmental watchdog Arnika sent an open letter to the Ministry of Environment requesting to add benzo[a]pyrene to the list of chemicals obligatory monitored by Integrated Register of Pollution. It means all the producers would have to submit the data about the emitted amounts of this chemical. Benzo[a]pyrene is created when fossil fuels are burned imperfectly, or during production of steel or coke. The chemical pose a threat especially for children as it negatively influences birth weight, increases amount of mutations in umbilical blood, increases number of infections of the upper respiratory tract and is carcinogenic. In six weeks since the letter was sent, the ministry has not responded. Arnika urges the ministry to add benzo[a]pyrene to the list of the monitored chemicals(http://arnika.org/o-emise-latky-ktera-ohrozuje-zdravi-zejmena-deti-se-ministerstvo-nezajima). The watchdog fulfilled its exerting pressure and reminding function by urging particular legal action should be performed; the initiative complies with Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union stating a high level of environmental protection must be ensured.

Fossil billionaires: jet planes, mansions, golden orders and repressions

Environmental watchdog Hnutí DUHA published an informational graphics about who profits from the Czech reliance on fossil fuels. According to the initiative, Czech “fossil barons” turn hundreds of billions of Czech crowns every year into mansions, luxury cars, private jet planes or generous gifts to politicians. There are also Asian fossil barons profiting from Czech reliance on fossil fuels: in Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, they spend on persecution of the journalists and political opposition, pay for espionages or buy themselves golden orders with diamonds. In the campaign Velká výzva (The Big Challenge), the initiative promotes solution in the manner of the Great Britain: to adopt a law reducing consumption of the fossil fuels and putting investments into clever solutions in the motion: energy-efficient buildings, public transport or domestic production of electricity from renewable sources(http://www.hnutiduha.cz/aktualne/fosilni-miliardari-tryskace-vily-zlate-rady-represe, http://www.hnutiduha.cz/sites/default/files/publikace/2013/08/infografika_fosilni_baroni_hnuti_duha.pdf).

Logo funduszy szwajcarskich, Ecorys oraz Euroregion Bałtyk.

 

This text is a result of a research prepared within the project “Powerful Watchdogs” supported by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union. The report aims to show the up-to-date information regarding activity of watchdog organizations in a given country. The author refers to the classification on watchdog functions, to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the international concepts of the transparent governance.

 

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