Tag Archives: Czech Republic

Czechs Divided On Human Rights

A recent poll revealed the Czech people have rather limited interest in issues of human rights within their own society although they wish their government took a vigorous stand in dealing with human rights in the world. A mere eight percent of respondents believe the Czech Republic should do more to maintain the human rights of minorities in the nation. Those conducting the survey were shocked at the lack of interest in issues such as the rights of Roma citizens who face discrimination and persecution on a daily basis. Few people appear concerned about recent right wing extremist attacks on Romas in the city of Litvinov. As one Amnesty International official commented: “This is one of the most urgent human rights issues in our country, but there is only silence on the part of Czech officials.

Perhaps, the history of being part of a multicultural nation impacts the thinking of Czech people. Most witnessed the end of the multicultural nation of Czechoslovakia and apparently those in the Czech Republic do not appear to be disappointed the nation divided into separate ethnic and cultural groups. In the meantime, minorities such as the Roma daily encounter repression and denial of human rights.

Although, Czech people appear to support human rights in a general way, a recent poll indicates this issue no longer has the importance it once held in the nation. The poll reveals ordinary citizens believe their government should be concerned about human rights in the world outside but only a small percent are concerned about human rights issues in their own nation. Those who conducted the survey were distressed at the low number of people who supported minority rights such as those of Roma citizens. An Amnesty International spokesperson commented, “it’s a negative trend, and it’s worrying” coming after right wing bigots clashed with police while trying to drive out Romas from their community.

Of course, Czech citizens once were part of a multicultural nation that was torn asunder over issues of rights and this might impact their rather cool attitude toward dealing with minority issues in their own country. Amnesty International officials noted the lack of interest or concern with plight of the homeless in the Czech Republic. Of course, a higher percent of homeless come from minority groups and this might account for the limited interest in the topic.

Squatting In Europe Is Legal–Sometimes!

Squatting in Europe has grown extensively during the past fifty years arising originally from lack of available housing. Squatters in Prague often make agreements with owners of the buildings in which they squat, and in the Czech Republic if permission is granted, squatters can occupy the premises. Squatters argue they take otherwise unusued, dilapidated buildings and put them to use. In Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, squatters enjoy varying degrees of legal protection. Free Christiania in Copenhagen is a former Army barracks that has been occupied by squatters since 1971. This month its occupants filed a legal challenge to prevent the Danish government from demolishing the building.

Some estimates claim up to on-sixth of the world’s population is living in a form of squatting due to lack of housing or inability to pay for housing. One can only wonder if more American businesses go under as a result of the recession will their buildings wind up becoming sites for squatters?

Racial Tension In Czech Republic As Neo-Nazis Riot

It was the 19th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which freed people from control of the communists and it should have been a day in which people gathered to celebrate the joys of freedom. However, 600 right wing extremists confronted 1,000 police in the town of Litvinov where they had come to protest what they termed the inability of local authorities to handle its Roma population. The black-clad bullies and thugs who apparently desired to emulate their Nazi heroes, clashed with the police in their attempt to break through a barrier which separated them from the Roma population of the city. By the end of the day, seven police officers and seven of demonstrators were injured.

If not for the police there would have been serious injuries on both sides since the Romas were determined to fight back. The sad aspect of the story is the continued inability of a democratic society to recognize they can not establish democracy as long as some members of the community are treated like second class citizens.

Czech Bigots Attempt To Attack Romas

The presence of Romas in many European nations invariably arouses the ire of right wing fanatics and bigots who have never abandoned Nazi-style approaches to dealing with people who are different from themselves. A gathering of the neo-Nazi Czech Workers Party nearly turned into a massacre of Romas due to efforts of police. About 500 thugs gathered in the town of Litvinovfor a march when they suddenly made a turn and headed for the Roma section of the community. Mob members were armed with Molotov cocktails, machetes and pitch forks which they intended to use against innocent people but were prevented due to the presence of about 1,000 police. In the melee about 300 Roma men also were present ready to defend their community against mob violence.

The gangsters who term themselves a “worker’s party,” threw flaming bottles and attacked police who stood in their way of carrying out violence. A police spokesperson said, “we discovered weapons–sticks, guns, pitchforks, machetes and other things in the cars of extremists and also Roma people.” A growing tragedy in Europe is the rising hatred against Romas. After all, they are a minority and have some differences.

Roma Czech Woman Sterilized Against Will

In a surprising development the Czech High Court over-ruled a decision to award a Roma woman damages for being sterilized against her will. In 1997, Iveta Cervenakova went to the hospital to have a Cesarean section procedure and while going through this experience was urged to sign a consent agreement which allowed the hospital to sterilize the young woman. The hospital argues sterilization was in accord with the law which allows such procedures if the patient gives consent. Actually, her case was one of several that have been taken up by the Sterilized Women’s Association(SZPS) which believes several hospitals have been forcing young women to go through the sterilization procedure. The Olomouc High Court overturned a 2007 ruling which awarded her financial damages for the procedure. The court ruled she had to file her case within three years after the event and since it came past that date, she could not receive financial compensation.

The court did rule the hospital had to apologize to the woman. Cervenakova said she didn’t even know she had been sterilized until fairly recently when she tried having a child. One can only wonder how many middle or upper class women were urged while going through a medical procedure to undergo a sterilization process. We suspect only poorer women are asked such questions.

Czech Republic May Check US Missile Base

President Bush’s plan for missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic may encounter problems as the Czech government reconsiders its agreement with the United States. In return for allowing construction of missile bases on its territory, the Czech government was to receive American support for its scientists who are working on military related activities. However, recent regional elections went overwhelmingly to opposition candidates who are ready to join groups which oppose ratification of the agreement in parliament. It is uncertain how Czech members of parliament react to hostile threats from Russia which is violently opposed to the missile bases.

Hopefully, newly elected president Barack Obama will veto the missile bases and reach out to establish friendly relations with Russia. Such a move will make moot any need to get treaties through hostile parliaments.

Adoption-National Or International?

Local institutions in the Czech Republic are advocating changes in adoption laws that would allow children to be taken by people from throughout the world. A recent panel of European experts agreed while primary focus should be placed within their own nation, but if the best place is elsewhere. Since 2000, only 277 Czech children have been adopted by families outside of their nation. In reality, the majority of children who are adopted by parents living outside of the Czech Republic, were of Roma background. A theme raised at the conference was that “Czech parents are very picky. They practically require a warranty with their adopted child. They expect guarantees that the child will be always healthy, extremely talented, get good marks at schools and to to university. foreign parents are much more tolerant.”

A common complaint was the lack of interest on the part of the Czech government in regard to issues of adoption. They place bureaucratic blocks in the way of adoption which results in many children facing the prospect of remaining in an institutional setting. One study indicated Czech children who were placed with Italian parents are very happy and more relaxed.

Shocking Anti-Roma Czech Republic Proposal!

The Czech Republic Regional Development Minmister, Jifi Cunek, has proposed an unheard of plan which would classify each and every Roma family in the nation into one of three categories. Under this idea, a government would decide who does or does not fit into a slot and proceed to decide how best that family can live in the Czech Republic. One group of Romas would be allowed to live as they presently do on ground they have displayed an ability to function without government assistance. A second group would be Roma citizens who require some form of financial and social assistance and the third group would be subject to regular supervision by social workers and moved into government owned hostels. Cunek’s adviser, Josef Balaz, said, social workers who engage with Romas “realize these people are on different levels and therefore have very different needs.”

Ivan Vesely, deputy head of the government council of the Roma community, responded by noting “to categorize Roma citizens into groups is against the Czech constitution and social laws, and it violates the ideas and message of the Velvet Revolution.” Of course, at no place in this proposal is there any reference for dividing up other people in the Czech Republic into categories. Or, is the assumption, only Romas need government supervision and planning? Are there any non-Romas who live in poverty?

Prague Charges Russia Plots To Halt Missile Bases

During the past year, President Bush has been pushing for construction of missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Many people in the Czech Republic have opposed the bases and some polls indicate the number in opposition may represent about half the population of the country. A supporter of the bases, Jan Vidim claims Czech intelligence has evidence Russian spies are operating to stir up opposition to the planned bases. He cites evidence from the Czech Security Information Service(BIS) that Russian agents are openly “trying to influence the public. they have to be pretty sure about it.”

For some reason, members of parliament such as Vidim consider it perfectly appropriate for American agents and political leaders to propagandize for bases but if other nation try to implement similar plans they become “agents” and “spies” bent on destroying the Czech democracy. The United States spends millions trying to influence public opinion in dozens of nations so why should it be surprising that Russia is engaged in similar activities?

Czech Republic Urges Creating Totalitarian Institute

The famous French author, Albert Camus, once said to have lived in Europe during the 20th century was to have experienced every form of totalitarianism known to humanity. The Czech Republic is urging the European Union to establish a new body whose task would be the study of authoritarianism as it has impacted Europe and the world. Pavel Zacek, from the Prague-based Institute for Totalitarian Studies, hopes “the institution could cover our totalitarian past from Portugal through Greece to the Baltic States.” The Czech Republic experienced both a Nazi occupation and after being liberated control by the Communist Soviet Union. Its leaders are urging creation of a day of remembrance on August 23 in order to have the contemporary world recall what happened under Nazism and Communism.

As the world recedes from the dark days of Nazism and Communism, younger people have less and less understanding of what happened in Europe and the world. Perhaps, remembering the past will aid in avoiding in the present what once occurred.