CZECH REPUBLIC 2021
There were concerns over the independence of public broadcasting media. Parliament voted for a bill to compensate thousands of Roma women who were unlawfully sterilized in the past. Authorities denied that police officers were responsible for the death of a Roma man during a police intervention against him.
Throughout the year, the government adopted socio-economic measures to support individuals affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. They included 14 days’ compensation of wages for those undertaking compulsory quarantine.
Freedom of assembly
Authorities restricted the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in response to Covid-19. In December 2020, Parliament announced a state of emergency which lasted until 11 April. During this period, gatherings were restricted to a maximum of 500 people. The decision led to protests in January under the slogan “Let’s open the Czech Republic”.
Freedom of expression
There were concerns over the independence of public broadcasting media. In March, the European Broadcasting Union stated that it had observed increasing politicization of the governing body of Czech Television. In May, Reporters Without Borders expressed concerns about the risk of increased political pressure on the public broadcaster following the election of new members of the Czech Television Council.
Roma children continued to experience discriminatory segregation in schools.
A Roma man, Stanislav Tomáš, died during a police intervention against him in the town of Teplice on 19 June. According to video footage from the arrest, published by the news server Romea.cz, three police officers used force against him. The video showed Stanislav Tomáš lying on the ground while one of the officers knelt on his neck during the entire intervention.1 On 26 July, the Police Inspectorate informed Amnesty International that the police intervened because of Stanislav Tomáš‘s “aggressive behaviour that escalated and turned against the intervening police officer.” The minister of interior stated in July that the autopsy identified drug overdose as a possible cause of death, and that the police did not restrict breathing or blood flow. In December, the deputy Public Defender of Rights published her investigation into the case, which found that police officers made significant errors during the intervention. In particular, she noted that the police failed to ensure that their coercive methods did not cause disproportionate harm.
In July, the Senate voted for a bill to compensate thousands of Roma women who were unlawfully sterilized by the authorities between 1966 and 2012.2 Survivors of unlawful sterilizations will each be eligible for compensation of 300,000 CZK (€11,800), which must be applied for through the Ministry of Health within three years of 1 January 2022, when the law enters into force.
In August, the Constitutional Court set aside an amendment to the law on welfare benefits on the grounds that it would be discriminatory and exclude certain categories of residents. The amendment allowed municipalities to declare zones of “socially pathological behaviour”, residents of which were barred from claiming some housing benefits. NGOs had criticized the amendment in the past as disproportionately targeting Roma and poor people.
In January, the Constitutional Court rejected a regional court’s proposal to amend a law that prevents recognition of adoptions from abroad by same-sex couples who live in the Czech Republic. The law permits adoptions by married couples only.
In April, the lower chamber of the parliament approved the first reading of a bill allowing same-sex marriage. The parliament did not further discuss the bill before the October elections.
Five years after signing the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), the Czech Republic had yet to ratify it. In March, the government plenipotentiary for human rights stated that, following the October parliamentary elections, the new government will decide whether to propose ratification to the parliament.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
In August, the government accepted 170 Afghans as part of the Czech Republic’s evacuation operations from Afghanistan. Also in August, the Minister of Interior stated that the government’s priority was to ensure that the tension in Afghanistan “would not lead to another migration wave” and to prevent a “crisis on the external EU borders”.
In September, during the parliamentary election campaign, then prime minister Andrej Babiš used billboards with anti-immigration messages stating “I will defend you from illegal migrants. To my dying breath.”
The government continued to refuse to participate in any relocation efforts within the EU and the resettlement programme remained “frozen”.