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TITLE:  CZECH REPUBLIC HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                         CZECH REPUBLIC


The Czech Republic came into existence on January 1, 1993, when 
the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic dissolved and its 
constituent republics became independent.  It is a parliamentary
democracy.  Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and his Civic Democratic
Party lead the coalition Government.  The Czech Republic has 
essentially completed the reform of political and economic 
structures initiated after the 1989 revolution.

The Ministry of the Interior oversees the police.  The Internal 
Security Service (BIS) is independent of ministry control, but 
reports to Parliament and the Prime Minister's office.  Foreign 
intelligence is under the authority of the Interior Ministry.  
Military intelligence agencies are integrated into the Ministry 
of Defense.  Police and BIS authorities observe constitutional 
and legal protection of individual rights in carrying out their 
responsibilities.

Pursuing a consistent policy of transforming the former 
centrally planned economy, the Government had privatized some 
80 percent of the economy by year's end.  The nation 
experienced moderate economic growth in 1994, and macroeconomic 
indicators (balanced budget, low inflation and unemployment, 
current account surplus) were favorable.

The most important human rights problem is popular prejudice 
against the Roma minority, and the inability (or unwillingness) 
of the Government to counteract it.  The Citizenship Law, whose 
provisions limited the access of many Roma residents to Czech 
citizenship after midyear, is the most celebrated example of 
such discrimination.  Roma have also been victims of "skinhead" 
violence.  Other human rights problems include the Law on 
Lustration (screening) which forbids certain Communist secret 
police collaborators from holding high public office, and the 
law criminalizing defamation of the State or the Presidency.  
Women's issues, including violence against women, are still 
rarely raised in mainstream political debate.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of such practices.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Czech Republic assumed Czechoslovak laws governing arrest 
and related rights.  Courts issue arrest warrants.  The 
authorities may hold persons without charge for 24 hours, 
during which time they have the right to counsel.  There were 
no instances of incommunicado detention or preventive 
detention.  A person charged with a crime has the right to 
appear before a judge for arraignment.  At arraignment, if the 
prosecution files charges, the judge determines whether bail 
will be granted pending trial.  The law does not allow bail for 
certain serious crimes.  Pretrial detention may not exceed 
1 year, and in such cases monthly appearances before a judge 
are required.  Counsel and family visits are permitted.

There have been occasional reports of police shakedowns and 
anecdotal stories of physical abuse and malfeasance, often 
directed at foreigners.  According to press reports, police 
killed five persons not in detention, including two separate 
cases in which they shot and killed German tourists in roadside 
altercations, but the courts have not yet judged these cases.

The law prohibits forced exile, and the Government does not 
practice it.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system consists of district, regional, and high 
courts.  The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal.  In 
addition, a Constitutional Court rules separately on the 
constitutionality of legislation.  Military courts, which have 
jurisdiction over police, intelligence, and military matters, 
were abolished at the end of 1993, and civil courts took over 
their functions.

The judiciary is impartial and independent.  Judges are not 
fired or transferred for political reasons.  Justice Ministry 
officials and press observers noted that the shortage of 
qualified judges (a problem under the Czechoslovak federation) 
is slowly being overcome.

The law stipulates that persons charged with criminal offenses 
are entitled to fair and open public trials.  They have the 
right to be informed of their legal rights, of the charges 
against them, to consult with counsel, and to present a 
defense.  The State provides lawyers for indigent defendants.  
Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence and have the 
right to refuse to testify against themselves.  Defendants may 
appeal any judgments against them.  These rights are observed 
in practice.

Foreign and domestic human rights groups expressed concern 
about the continued existence of the 1991 Lustration Law, which 
bars former Communist officials, members of the People's 
Militia, secret police, and collaborators from holding a wide 
range of elected and appointed positions for a period of 5 
years.  The law is rarely enforced.  Although the Czechoslovak 
Federal Constitutional Court in 1992 eliminated the largest 
category from the Law, those listed as collaborators but who 
may only have been intelligence targets, observers continued to 
criticize it in principle for embracing employment 
discrimination and the concept of collective guilt.  In perhaps 
the most celebrated lustration case, the Government in 
September dropped lustration charges against former federal 
parliamentarian Jan Kavan.  News reports indicated that nearly 
all those who challenged lustration judgments in court cleared 
their names.

Although a 1993 law defining the pre-1989 Communist regime as 
criminal and lifting the statute of limitations for crimes 
committed by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia during its 
40-year rule remained on the books, the Government rarely 
invoked it.  Human rights monitors criticized this law, too, 
for adopting the principle of collective guilt.  However, the 
Constitutional Court in December 1993 upheld the law.

There were no known political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Electronic surveillance, telephone tapping, and interception of 
mail require a court order, and the Government complies with 
this requirement.  There were no known cases of electronic 
surveillance reported in 1994.  There were no reports of 
arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Czech law provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government generally respects these rights.  Individuals may, 
and do, speak out on political and other issues and freely 
criticize the Government and public figures.  However, the 
Constitutional Court in December 1993 upheld a provision in the 
Criminal Code forbidding "defamation" of the State and the 
Presidency.  The law was not applied at any time in 1994, but 
represents a potential restriction of freedom of speech and 
press.

A wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals publish 
without government restriction or interference.  The Civic 
Democratic Party (ODS)--the leading party in the ruling 
coalition--became embroiled in controversy in September when 
the editor of the nominally independent Denni Telegraf was 
dismissed by the paper's board, which said it had lost 
confidence in him.  Other newspapers claimed that the firing 
took place on the Prime Minister's orders, noting that the 
editor and several board members were ODS members.  The Prime 
Minister denied any role in the dismissal.

The electronic media are independent and free of censorship.  
Most television and radio stations are publicly funded and 
independently managed.  The Television and Radio Council 
oversees these stations under parliamentary supervision.  A 
leading television channel, Nova, is privately owned, partially 
by foreign investors.

The law provides for academic freedom but also forbids 
activities by established political parties at universities.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the right of persons to assemble 
peacefully.  Some public demonstrations require permits, but 
the Government rarely refuses to issue them.  Police generally 
do not interfere with spontaneous peaceful demonstrations for 
which organizers lack a permit.

Nonetheless, domestic press editorials sometimes criticized 
police behavior.  In a July commemoration held at the former 
concentration camp of Terezin (Theresienstadt), witnesses said 
that police stood by or even encouraged rightists who objected 
to the idea of reconciliation with Sudeten Germans transferred 
to Germany after the Second World War.  The rightists disrupted 
the ceremony and destroyed wreaths and other property.  The 
authorities fired five district police chiefs after this 
incident.

The law provides for the right of persons to associate freely 
and to form political parties and movements, and this law is 
respected in practice.  The Interior Ministry or local 
officials register organizations, associations, foundations, 
and political parties, but this procedure is routine.  The 
Communist Party is represented in Parliament and in local 
government and continues to own considerable assets throughout 
the Republic.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the 
Government respects this right in practice.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict domestic or foreign travel, 
emigration, or repatriation.

Refugees and asylum seekers are treated according to 
international norms and are not forcibly repatriated.  Most 
migrants use the Czech Republic as a transit route to the 
West.  The law outlines lengthy procedures for granting refugee 
status and eventual citizenship, but very few of those who make 
applications remain in the country long enough to complete the 
procedure.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government by 
democratic means.  Those over the age of 18 are eligible to 
vote by secret ballot in nationwide and local elections.  
Opposition groups, including political parties, function openly 
and participate without hindrance in the political process.

The Constitution mandates parliamentary elections at least 
every 4 years, based on proportional representation within 
eight large electoral districts.  There is a 5-percent 
threshold for parties to enter Parliament.  The President is 
elected by Parliament for a 5-year term.  He has limited 
constitutional powers but may use a suspensive veto to return 
legislation to Parliament, which has the right to override the 
President's veto.

The Constitution also calls for an upper house of Parliament, 
the Senate, which in 1994 had yet to be constituted; the first 
senatorial election may take place in 1996, although 
legislation defining its procedures remains to be adopted.  As 
long as no Senate is created, the Czech Republic's 
parliamentary system could be open to accusations of operating 
extraconstitutionally.

There are no restrictions, in law or in practice, on women's 
participation in politics.  However, they appear to participate 
less in politics and government since the overthrow of the 
Communist regime, which used quotas to include women in large 
governing bodies such as the Federal Assembly.

Relatively few women hold high public office in the Czech 
Republic, though 19 of 200 parliamentary deputies are women.  
In the November local elections, voters elected a woman mayor 
of Brno, the Republic's second largest city, and women serve on 
both the Supreme and Constitutional courts.  Women achieve the 
same educational level as men and attend institutions of higher 
education in roughly equal numbers.

The country's two significant minorities--Roma and Slovaks--are 
not represented in Czech politics.  No minority leader holds 
significant elective office at the national level.  The 
estimated 300,000 Slovaks are primarily "Czechoslovaks" who 
elected to live in the Czech Republic after the split, and who 
largely define their interests in the context of Czech politics 
rather than along ethnic lines.  Many serve in high positions 
in the civil service.

Not all the estimated 200,000 Roma have integrated into Czech 
society, and the party that represented their interests 
immediately following the demise of communism, the Roma Civic 
Initiative, is in disarray.  Other local Roma political 
groupings have not gained national prominence, although they 
continue to strengthen their ties with international Roma 
groups.  The political culture of the Czech Republic generally 
defines Roma as outsiders, and the Roma themselves have been 
unable to unite behind a program or set of principles that 
would allow them to represent their interests within the 
country's democratic structures (see Section 5).

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government encourages the activities of domestic and 
international human rights organizations.  The presidency of 
former dissident and human rights monitor Vaclav Havel serves 
as an important symbol for these groups, which work without 
government restriction or interference.  Government officials 
generally cooperate with official and unofficial visits by 
foreign human rights monitors.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The law provides for the equality of citizens and prohibits 
discrimination, and the Government respects this law.  In 
practice, Roma face discrimination in such areas as education, 
housing, and job opportunity.

     Women

The law provides for equality for women, and they receive pay 
equal to that of male colleagues for the same job, although the 
median wages for women in 1994 lagged significantly behind 
those of men.  Women appear to be concentrated in professions 
in which the median salary is generally low:  medicine, 
teaching, and white-collar clerical jobs.

Violence against women does exist, but public debate about the 
problem is rare, despite the efforts of a handful of women's 
groups to bring this and other issues to the attention of the 
public.  According to 1993-94 police statistics, 12 percent of 
Czech women over the age of 15 have experienced some sort of 
sexual assault, and only 3 of every 100 women raped report the 
crime.  Gender studies experts say that women are ashamed to 
speak about rape and that the police are not equipped, either 
by attitude or training, to help.  Police and human rights 
groups sometimes link violence toward women with economic 
hardship and excessive drinking but without concrete 
substantiation.  Human rights groups acknowledge that the 
Government effectively enforces laws against violence.

A more public issue--and one that has gained considerable 
attention in the press--is the growth of prostitution, which 
has become increasingly visible.  For the most part, 
prostitutes are in business for themselves, but police report 
that underground elements, often also involved in smuggling and 
petty crime, coerce some women into prostitution.  The law does 
not explicitly protect prostitutes against trafficking and 
sexual exploitation.

     Children

The Government is committed to children's welfare through 
programs for health care, compulsory education, and basic 
nutrition.  However, some Roma children do not receive these 
benefits owing to the Government's inability to counteract 
cultural differences and instances of social prejudice.  Child 
abuse as a social problem received growing attention in the 
press.  According to the Ministry of Justice, courts judged 164 
cases of child abuse in the first 6 months of 1994.  An 
independent organization claims that 50 Czech children die at 
the hands of their parents each year, but this number could not 
be confirmed.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Roma population, estimated at about 200,000, is the most 
significant minority.  Roma live throughout the country but are 
concentrated in the industrial towns of Northern Bohemia, where 
many of them settled more than 40 years ago in the homes of 
Sudeten Germans transferred to the West.  They suffer 
disproportionately from poverty, crime, and disease.  Efforts 
by foundations and government education and health workers to 
improve their living conditions, especially the conditions of 
Roma children, have had only minimal impact.  Efforts by local 
leaders to mobilize local Roma communities, especially in the 
north, generally have failed.

Roma suffer from serious popular prejudice and from 
discrimination, particularly in employment, housing, and 
everyday life.  The central authorities have intervened to 
eliminate overt discrimination by local jurisdictions; for 
example, the Constitutional Court invalidated the anti-Roma 
decrees adopted in 1992 by the Jirkov (northern Bohemia) town 
council.

Local authorities have been unable (or, according to some Roma, 
unwilling) to curb skinhead intimidation and violence against 
Roma.  In December perpetrators accused of anti-Roma violence 
were acquitted by a court in Pisek, and the next day skinhead 
assailants attacked Roma there.  The Government has denounced 
such violence, but has failed to prevent it.  Human rights 
organizations and articles in the Czech press accuse the 
Government of serious neglect in this area.

International legal and human rights organizations and Roma 
activists strongly criticized the discriminatory impact on Roma 
of the 1992 citizenship law, which required Czechoslovaks 
living on the territory of the Czech Republic to apply for 
citizenship by June 30, 1994.  Slovaks had to prove they had a 
clean criminal record over the previous 5 years and had lived 
in the territory of the Czech Republic for 2 years.  Czechs 
were automatically granted citizenship.  Because the majority 
of Roma were considered Slovaks, based on a 1969 Communist law, 
the Czech citizenship requirements have had a disproportionate 
impact on them.  No accurate estimates are available on the 
number of Roma who were unable to obtain Czech citizenship; 
Roma activists and human rights groups cite figures in the tens 
of thousands.  No deportations or large-scale refugee 
migrations have been documented as a result of the law, and 
Czech authorities note that those who fail to obtain 
citizenship are granted permanent resident status and can 
receive state benefits.  But they are also denied the right to 
vote or serve in the government, the military, police, or the 
judiciary.  The Conference for Security and Cooperation in 
Europe has criticized this law as contrary to human rights 
norms, noting that it is inconsistent with Article 11(2) of the 
1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

     Religious Minorities

The Jewish community numbers only a few thousand.  There were, 
however, isolated instances of public anti-Semitism.  For 
example, in April, 24 graves in a Jewish cemetery in the 
Moravian town of Prerov were defiled with Nazi markings; in 
June the far-right Republican Party called the new Culture 
Minister, who is of Jewish background, the "Jewish destroyer of 
Czech culture," for which the media roundly condemned the 
Republicans.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not place a high priority on ensuring 
access for the disabled, nor has discrimination against the 
disabled been the subject of significant policy or public 
debate.  The law does not mandate accessibility to public 
buildings and services for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The law provides workers with the right to form and join unions 
of their own choosing without prior authorization, and the 
Government respects this right.  For example, after trade union 
leaders protested a law drafted by the Government that would 
have forbidden civil service workers from joining unions, 
claiming that such a law violated not only International Labor 
Organization statutes but the Czech Constitution as well, the 
Government withdrew the proposal.  More than 50 percent of the 
work force is unionized, although the number of workers who are 
members of labor organizations continued to fall steadily.

Most workers are members of unions affiliated with the 
Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions (CMKOS).  CMKOS is a 
democratically oriented, nationwide umbrella organization for 
branch unions.  It is not affiliated with any political party 
and carefully maintains its independence.

The law provides workers with the right to strike, except for 
those in specific professions whose role in public order or 
public safety is deemed crucial, e.g., judges, prosecutors, 
members of the armed forces and the police, air traffic 
controllers, nuclear power station workers, workers with 
nuclear materials, and oil or gas pipeline workers.  The law 
also places some limitation on the right to strike of 
firefighters, rescue workers, telecommunications workers, and 
health workers.  The law requires that labor disputes be 
subject first to mediation and that strikes take place only 
after mediation efforts fail.  There were no major strikes in 
1994.

Czech unions are free to form or join federations and 
confederations and affiliate with and participate in 
international bodies.  This freedom is fully exercised.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for collective bargaining.  The basic 
collective bargaining instrument is the Law on Collective 
Bargaining.  It is carried out in a tripartite system, a 
voluntary arrangement in which representatives of unions, 
government, and employers set the guidelines for labor 
relations.  Union leaders complained repeatedly that the 
Government intended to sabotage the tripartite arrangement, and 
the Government stated repeatedly that the tripartite "steering 
process" had outlived its usefulness.  Despite such complaints, 
wages were set in free negotiations, although the Government 
imposed an upper limit on wage growth (levying penalties on 
inflationary increases).

Union leaders may file charges of antiunion discrimination in 
court.  Union and Labor Ministry officials reported that no 
such charges were filed in 1994.

The Czech Republic has one export processing zone.  Its workers 
have and practice the same rights to organize and bargain 
collectively as other workers in the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not 
practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code stipulates a minimum working age of 15 years, 
although children who complete courses at special schools 
(i.e., schools for the severely disabled) may work at the age 
of 14.  There are no legal limits on the hours children may 
work, although they may not work at night.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets minimum wage standards at roughly 
one-fourth of the average monthly wage.  The current minimum 
wage is about $75 per month.  This provides an adequate, if 
sparse, standard of living for an individual worker and, when 
combined with allowances available to families with children, 
provides an adequate standard of living for a worker and a 
family.  Major efforts at worker retraining, carried out by 
district labor offices, seek to provide labor mobility for 
those at the lower end of the wage scale.  The Ministry of 
Labor has the authority to enforce minimum wage standards and 
does so, as needed.

The law mandates a standard workweek of 42 1/2 hours.  It also 
requires paid rest of at least 30 minutes during the standard 
8- to 8 1/2-hour workday, as well as annual leave of 3 to 4 
weeks.  Overtime may not exceed 150 hours per year or 8 hours 
per week as standard practice.  The Labor Ministry enforces 
overtime regulations but reports that the rapid growth of the 
private sector, especially in small service enterprises, makes 
it very difficult to assess abuses and enforce the law.

Health and safety conditions in some sectors of heavy industry 
remain substandard, especially in those sectors awaiting the 
process of privatization, but industrial accident rates are not 
unusually high.  The Office of Labor Safety is responsible for 
enforcement of health and safety standards and carries out its 
responsibilities effectively.


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[end of document]

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