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Title:  Czech Republic Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                          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 "velvet 
revolution."  Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, is an 
internationally recognized advocate of human rights and social justice.  

The Ministry of the Interior oversees the police.  The civilian Internal 
Security Service (BIS) is independent of Ministry control, but reports 
to Parliament and the Prime Minister's office.  Police and BIS 
authorities generally observe constitutional and legal protection of 
individual rights in carrying out their responsibilities.  However, 
there were occasional reports of abuses by some members of the police.

The market-based economy showed solid growth in 1995, with over two-
thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP) produced by the private 
sector.  Most macroeconomic indicators (budget surplus, low inflation 
and unemployment, continued export growth) were favorable.  A 
significant trade deficit developed which was financed by strong capital 
inflows.  The work force was employed primarily in industry, 
trade/retail, and construction.  Leading exports were intermediate 
manufactured products, machinery and transport equipment, primarily to 
European Union countries.  GDP per capita reached about $4,400.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens.  
However, popular prejudice and violence against Roma posed a continuing 
problem, despite increased government engagement, as did the 1992 
citizenship law.  Other human rights problems include the law on 
lustration (screening), which forbids certain pre-1989 Communist 
officials and secret police collaborators from holding certain 
positions, and the laws criminalizing defamation of the state and 
presidency.  There is increasing public awareness about violence against 
women.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

  A.  Political and other Extrajudicial Killing

Frantisek Kahanek, the confessed rapist and murderer of a 10-year-old 
child, was found dead in his jail cell while 

awaiting trial in April.  A government investigation failed to rule out 
the negligence or complicity of his prison guards in the death, and the 
national chief of prison guards was subsequently removed from his post.  
Four wardens have been charged with assault and abuse of public office 
and are currently being tried (see Section 1.c.).  There were no other 
reports of possible political or extrajudicial killings.

In two separate instances from 1994, police caused the death of German 
tourists in roadside altercations; in 1995, one of the policemen 
received an 8-month sentence for accidental shooting.  The other case is 
still under investigation.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

There were no reports of such practices.  Torture is prohibited by the 
Constitution, and in 1995 the Czech Government lifted a ban, in place 
since 1988, against visits by the U.N. Committee Against Torture.  
However, Frantisek Kahanek died while in official custody under unclear 
circumstances (see Section 1.a.).

In May police in Brno were accused of using excessive force in breaking 
up a late-night party outside a theater.  The investigation is 
continuing.  According to press reports, in October the same officers 
harassed and injured Radek Necas, who had given evidence against them in 
connection with the May event.  The police allegedly sprayed tear gas in 
Necas' eyes, beat him with a truncheon, and tied him down in a jail cell 
for 3 hours before a doctor secured his release.

The police force has undergone significant restructuring and have 
brought many new officers onto the force.  In 1995 they continued to 
have a poor reputation among the public, in part a heritage from the 
Communist era.  There have been reports of police shakedowns and 
anecdotal stories of physical abuse and malfeasance, often directed at 
foreigners and Roma.  An Interior Ministry initiative is attempting to 
bring more Roma into police work.

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors, although on occasion 
with significant bureaucratic delays.  According to the Justice 
Ministry, prisons are at 107 percent of capacity; prison authority data 
show that a quarter of prisons are 25-50 percent over capacity.  The 
elimination of forced labor has left many prisoners unemployed.  In its 
1995 annual human rights report, the Czech Helsinki Committee called 
attention to overcrowding in some prisons.  According to the prison 
service, the ratio of employees to prisoners is somewhat below the 2:1 
ratio recommended under European guidelines.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the 
Government observes this prohibition.  Authorities may hold persons 
without charge for 24 hours, during which time they have the right to 
counsel.  There was no evidence of incommunicado detention or protective 
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 custody is necessary pending 
trial.  The law does not allow bail for certain serious crimes.  
Pretrial custody may last as long as 4 years for criminal charges, and 
in such cases monthly appearances before a judge are required.  Since 
1989 the average length of pretrial detention has increased from 89 days 
to over 200 in 1995.  According to the prison service, the average time 
before a case goes to trial is 222 days, and 42 percent of prisoners are 
currently awaiting trial.  The lack of experienced judges and 
investigators, working in a still-evolving legal environment, has led to 
a backlog of court cases.  Attorney and family visits are permitted.  
The authorities follow these guidelines in practice.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and it is 
impartial and independent in practice.  Judges are not fired or 
transferred for political reasons.  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.  The shortage of qualified 
judges is being gradually overcome.  Nonetheless, public opinion polls 
indicate that about half the population does not fully trust the courts 
and observers ascribe this attitude in part to suspicions left over from 
40 years of manipulation of the judical system by the Communist 
Government.

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 in criminal and some civil cases through the bar 
association.  However, the international Helsinki Committee reported to 
the implementation meeting in Warsaw in October of the Organization for 
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that many eligible parties 
fail to complete the demanding process of applying for such 
representation.  Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have 
the right to refuse to testify against themselves.  They may appeal any 
judgments against them.  The authorities observe these rights in 
practice.

Foreign and domestic human rights observers expressed concern about the 
extension of the 1991 lustration law, which bars many former Communist 
Party officials, members of the people's militia, and secret police 
collaborators from holding a wide range of elective and appointive 
offices, including appointive positions in state-owned companies, 
academia, and the media, for a period of 5 years; some other employers 
have also required applicants to produce proof of noncollaboration.

Late in 1992 the Czechoslovak federal Constitutional Court eliminated 
the largest category of offenders from the law (those listed as 
collaborators but who in fact may only have been intelligence targets).  
Some of those accused of collaboration have submitted themselves to the 
lengthy appeals process; of approximately 500 appeals, over 75 percent 
have been won.  In January 1996, Jan Kavan, a former member of the 
Czechoslovak Federal Assembly and longtime dissident publisher in London 
who had been accused of collaboration with the Czechoslovak secret 
police, was completely exonerated by the court.  Many of those unjustly 
accused of collaboration feel they have suffered diminished career 
prospects and damaged personal reputations.

The screening process was criticized because it was based on the records 
of the Communist secret police, records many suspected were incomplete 
or unreliable.  International criticism of the screening law was muted 
in 1995, as most organizations who had criticized lustration in the 
past, such as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe 
(CSCE, now the OSCE) and the Council of Europe (COE), rarely if ever 
received complaints from aggrieved parties.  Still, the law continued to 
be criticized as a violation of human rights principles prohibiting 
discrimination in employment and condemning collective guilt.  In 1995 
Parliament voted to extend the law to the year 2000, overriding a veto 
by President Havel.  

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, it was rarely invoked.  Several charges filed by the office 
responsible for the law were criticized by human rights activists for 
adopting the principle of collective guilt.  Many were also dismissed by 
the state Prosecutor's Office for procedural errors or lack of evidence.  
The anti-Communist law was upheld by the Constitutional Court in 
December 1993.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

Electronic surveillance, the tapping of telephones, and interception of 
mail require a court order.  The Government complied with this 
requirement.

Allegations that the apartment of Green Party leader Jaroslav Vlcek was 
bugged, made after a meeting there in July between Civic Democratic 
Alliance President Jan Kalvoda and Social Democratic Party President 
Milos Zeman, led to an investigation which found no evidence of 
surveillance.  There were no other cases of possible electronic 
surveillance reported in 1995.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  Individuals can and do speak out on 
political issues and freely criticize the Government and public figures.  
However, "defamation" of the state and presidency are forbidden under 
provisions of the Criminal Code upheld by the Constitutional Court in 
1993.  In 1995 Pavel Karhanek was given a 9-month suspended sentence 
under the law on defamation of the state for displaying posters in a 
local government office calling the President a former alcoholic, a 
swindler, and a Communist collaborator.  After he pulled down pictures 
of the President from the walls of the same office, he was again charged 
and may face a prison sentence of up to 2 years.  Also in 1995, two 
persons were charged under a separate law on the defamation of the 
President.  One was given a suspended sentence of 18 months, and the 
other a suspended sentence of 4 months.

A wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals publish without 
government interference.  The capital, Prague, is home to at least a 
dozen daily newspapers with national distribution, as well as a variety 
of entertainment and special interest newspapers and magazines.  These 
publications are owned by a variety of Czech and foreign investors.  
Some newspapers are still associated with the interests of a political 
party; others are independent.

The electronic media are independent.  There are 4 television stations, 
2 public and 2 private, and more than 60 private radio stations in 
addition to Czech Public Radio.  The leading television channel, Nova, 
is privately owned, partially by foreign investors.

A parliamentary commission has broad oversight and power to approve or 
reject candidates for the Television and Radio Council.  The Council has 
limited regulatory responsibility for policymaking and answers to the 
parliamentary media committee.  The Council can issue and revoke radio 
and television licenses, and monitors programming.  

At year's end, Parliament was wrestling with two proposed media laws:  
one for print and one for broadcast media.  New laws are needed because 
the print law on the books dates from 1966 and the current broadcast 
law, dating from 1991, did not envision private media.  The print media 
law has gone through several drafts in the process of working its way 
through various parliamentary committees.  Czech journalists criticize 
the draft law for not affirming the right of a journalist not to reveal 
sources and for not requiring government officials to supply information 
to the media.

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.  
Permits for some public demonstrations are required by law but are 
rarely refused.  However, the law forbids political party activity at 
universities (see section 2.a.).  Police generally do not interfere with 
spontaneous peaceful demonstrations for which organizers lack a permit.

Police behavior at assemblies occasionally came under fire for being too 
restrained, specifically at gatherings of extremists.  At an October 
congregation of skinheads in Ceske Budejovice, youths making the heil 
Hitler salute--a punishable offense under the law--met with no 
interference from police, according to press reports.

The right of persons to associate freely and to form political parties 
and movements is also provided for by law, and the Government respected 
this right in practice.  Organizations, associations, foundations, and 
political parties are required to register with local officials or at 
the Interior Ministry, but there is no evidence that this registration 
is coercive.  The Government moved in 1995 to disband approximately 30 
smaller political parties and movements that failed to meet the legal 
requirements for continued registration, chiefly an annual financial 
disclosure statement.  The Communist Party, although fragmented, is 
represented in Parliament and in local government.  Following the May 
murder of the Rom Tibor Berki (see Section 5), the Interior Ministry 
reviewed the registrations of organizations that could be called 
extremist.  Two such groups were publicly identified; their 
registrations were examined but not revoked.  

The leaking of internal security service lists of extremist 
organizations by Parliament in the summer led to a protracted public 
discussion of the definitions used by the Ministry of Interior.  Much 
controversy centered on the inclusion of environmental groups on this 
list.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The law provides for religious freedom, and the government respects this 
right in practice.  The State provides support to all religions that are 
registered with the Ministry of Culture.  There are currently 21 
registered churches.  A church must have at least 10,000 adult members 
to register.  Two Christian political parties, the Christian Democratic 
Party and the Christian Democratic Union-Czech Peoples Party, are junior 
members of the governing coalition.

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

There are no restrictions on domestic or foreign travel, emigration, and 
repatriation.  Passports are readily available to all wishing to travel 
abroad.  Czechs who emigrated during the period of Communist rule 
frequently return to visit, or even to settle, and are able to regain 
Czech citizenship if they wish, though to do so they must relinquish 
claim to any foreign citizenship.  Citizenship is not revoked for 
political reasons.  Nonetheless, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
has expressed concern to the Government that its 1992 citizenship law 
has created a stateless problem which may lead to irregular movements 
(see Section 5).

Refugees and asylum seekers were treated according to international 
norms.  Most migrants used the Czech Republic as a transit route toward 
the West; however, the country is becoming the final destination for 
increasing numbers of migrants.  According to the Ministry of Interior, 
acceptance rates for asylum applications have decreased from over 35 
percent in 1991 to just over 3 percent in 1995.  This trend reflects the 
country's increasingly restrictive attitude toward accepting economic 
migrants.  There are 4 refugee camps and 10 integration centers.  In 
addition, there are officially 1,330 refugees from the former Yugoslavia 
in country.  Refugee status is granted for 5 years, after which refugees 
may apply for residency.  A lengthy procedure for naturalization is also 
open to them.  Nongovernmental organizations work closely with the 
Interior Ministry to ease refugees' transition into society.  In 
practice, however, most potential refugees choose to apply for permanent 
settlement elsewhere.

In 1995 the Government devoted increased attention to illegal migration 
into the country and took steps with its neighbors to control the 
movement of people across its borders.  The Government has signed 
repatriation agreements with Romania, Hungary, and Germany.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government by peaceful democratic means, and citizens exercise this 
right in practice.  Citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in 
republic-wide and local elections.  Voting is carried out by secret 
ballot.  Opposition groups, including political parties, function openly 
and participate without hindrance in the political process.  No 
republic-wide elections were held in 1995, but free and fair municipal 
elections took place in November 1994 throughout the country.  However, 
international observers have noted that former Czechoslovaks who elected 
representatives to the Czech National Assembly in 1992 and whose current 
citizenship is unclear continue to lack voting rights (see Section 5).

The ruling four-party, center-right coalition was formed in June 1992 
following Czechoslovakia's final nation-wide elections.  There are also 
a number of left-of-center opposition parties and one party of the 
radical right.  The Czech Constitution mandates elections to Parliament 
at least every 4 years, based on proportional representation in eight 
large electoral districts.  There is a 5-percent threshold for parties 
to enter Parliament.  The Constitution also calls for a Senate to be 
established.  The first senatorial election is scheduled for 1996.  
Until the Senate is established, the parliamentary system could be open 
to accusations of operating extraconstitutionally.  The President, who 
is elected by Parliament, serves a 5-year term.  The President has 
limited constitutional powers but may use a suspense veto to return 
legislation to Parliament, which can override the President's veto by a 
simple majority.

There are no restrictions, in law or in practice, on women's 
participation in politics.  Relatively few women nevertheless hold high 
public office.  The state attorney and the mayor of Brno are women, and 
there are 19 women parliamentary deputies in the 200-member Parliament.

The government-sponsored Council on National Minorities has 
representatives from all minority groups.  Slovaks, of whom there are an 
estimated 300,000, are almost all "Czechoslovaks" who elected to live in 
the Czech Republic after the split, and who for the most part define 
their interests in the context of Czech politics, not along ethnic 
lines.  Many serve in high positions in the civil service.

Many of the estimated 200,000 Roma have not been fully integrated into 
society, and the party that represented their interests immediately 
following the demise of communism, the Romani Civic Initiative, is no 
longer in the Government and is in disarray.  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 ideals 
that would allow them to represent their interests in the democratic 
structures of the country (see Section 5).  In 1995, however, the Roma 
became increasingly galvanized on the issue of interethnic violence 
against them.  There is one Romani deputy in Parliament.

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

Human rights groups operate without government restriction, and 
government officials are generally cooperative and somewhat responsive 
to their views.  The presidency of former dissident and human rights 
monitor Vaclav Havel serves as an important symbol for these groups.  
While the Government has demonstrated a willingness to examine and 
redress individual cases of human rights abuse, it has been less 
flexible when considering larger systemic changes.  Moreover, ministries 
occasionally exhibited some reticence to release statistics and other 
information potentially embarrassing to the Government.  Several 
speakers at the May seminar on tolerance sponsored by the OSCE and the 
COE in Bucharest, and at the October OSCE Human Dimensional Meeting in 
Warsaw, criticized the 1992 citizenship law for its disproportionate 
impact on Roma (see Section 5).

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

The law provides for the equality of citizens and prohibits 
discrimination.  Health care, education, retirement, and other social 
services generally are provided without regard to race, sex, religion, 
disability, social status, or sexual orientation.  In practice, Roma 
face discrimination in such areas as education, housing, and job 
opportunity.

  Women

The true extent of violence against women is unknown, and public debate 
about it is rare, despite the efforts of a handful of women's groups to 
bring this issue to the attention of the public.  The existence of any 
public discussion at all is a marked change since before 1989.  Official 
police statistics show a decline in violence against women since 1990, 
yet these statistics' reliability is uncertain.  Recent studies by the 
Sexology Institute have found that 12 percent of women over the age of 
15 have experienced some form of sexual assault in their lifetime and 
that only 3 percent of rape victims 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.  There 
are state-supported shelters that accept women in most major cities and 
towns.  According to nongovernmental organizations, the situation has 
improved in recent years, but there are still not enough spaces to meet 
demand.  

While prostitution is illegal, it is much in evidence, and the law does 
not explicitly protect women against trafficking and sexual 
exploitation.  In 1995 police found evidence of trafficking in women in 
clubs in several cities and closed several "erotic salons. 

Women are equal under the law and in principle receive the same pay for 
the same job.  Women's median wages lagged significantly behind those of 
men in 1995, although the gap is narrowing.  Women are concentrated in 
professions in which the median salary is low:  medicine, teaching, and 
white-collar clerical jobs.  At the same time, women have made deep 
inroads into the private sector since 1989, and the number of women in 
agricultural work has fallen by 50 percent over the last decade.  Women 
have steadily represented roughly half of the labor force over the same 
period.  Unemployment among women is low at around 4 percent (2.5 
percent for men).  They enjoy equal property, inheritance, and other 
legal rights with men.

  Children

The Government is committed to children's welfare through programs for 
health care, compulsory education, and basic nutrition.  Some Romani 
children do not receive these benefits for a variety of reasons, and the 
Government's largely bureaucratic and administrative approach has been 
inadequate to the task of eliminating continued social prejudice against 
Roma in many municipalities.  In addition, some segments of the Romani 
community want as little to do as possible with "white" society.

Child abuse as a social problem received increased attention in the 
press in 1995.  A children's crisis center was founded and is 70 percent 
state-supported.  According to its director, around 1 percent of 
children are neglected, maltreated, or sexually abused, and police 
register about one-tenth of all cases.  An increase in the number of 
reported cases of child abuse appears to be the result of an increased 
awareness of the problem.  There is no evidence of a societal pattern of 
abuse.

Girls and boys enjoy equal access to health care and education at all 
levels.  According to the Ministry of Edcuation, Romani children 
comprise roughly 60 percent of pupils in special schools for those who 
suffer from mental and social disabilities.

  People with Disabilities

A heretofore generous government policy of support for the disabled is 
being reduced for financial reasons.  The disabled suffer 
disproportionately from unemployment (13 percent vs. the national 
average of 3 percent), and the physically disabled have unequal access 
to education, especially in rural areas.  This is less the result of 
government policy than of a lack of barrier-free access to public 
schools.  Numerous nongovernmental organizations are actively working to 
diminish these disadvantages.  The Government has not placed a high 
priority on the issue of ensuring access for the disabled, nor has 
discrimination against the disabled been the subject of significant 
policy or public debate.  The law encourages but does not require 
architects to take the needs of the handicapped into consideration.  
There is one disabled member of Parliament.

  Religious minorities

The Jewish community numbers a few thousand.  There were isolated 
incidents of vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, but many, including Jewish 
leaders, remained unconvinced that this was necessarily a manifestation 
of anti-Semitism.  In October two 17-year-old skinheads threw a Molotov 
cocktail through the window of a synagogue in Prague; there was no 
further damage.  The suspects have been apprehended and are awaiting 
trial.  A new history of the Catholic church was quickly removed from 
the Ministry of Education's recommended reading list for elementary 
schools after public outcry over allegedly anti-Semitic statements it 
contained.  The police confirmed the existence of over 20 underground 
magazines with small circulations propagating Fascism, racism, and anti-
Semitism.  

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

After ethnic Slovaks, the most significant minority is by far the Romani 
population, officially estimated at about 200,000.  Roma live throughout 
the country but are concentrated in the industrial towns of northern 
Bohemia, where many of them were settled more than 40 years ago in the 
homes of Sudeten Germans transferred to the West.  They suffer 
disproportionately from poverty, interethnic violence, illiteracy, and 
disease.  Efforts by foundations and individuals in the education and 
health fields to improve their living conditions, especially the 
conditions of Romani children, have had only minimal impact.  There is a 
Czech-language program for Roma on state television, although it is 
consistently broadcast at hours when most people are asleep.  Romani 
leaders have met with little success thus far in organizing their local 
communities, which are often riven by conflicting loyalties.

Roma suffer from serious popular prejudice, as is repeatedly affirmed by 
public opinion polls.  According to the state Attorney General and a 
1995 COE report, racially motivated violence against Roma, usually by 
skinheads, has risen steadily over the last three years.  Local 
authorities have been unable (or, according to some observers, including 
Roma, unwilling) to curb this violence.  In May four skinheads in Zd'ar 
Nad Sazavou forced their way into the home where Tibor Berki, a Rom, 
lived with his family.  Berki was attacked with truncheons in front of 
his wife and children and died shortly thereafter from his injuries.  
The central Government responded with unprecedented speed, forcefully 
condemning the attack.  The state attorney instructed prosecutors to 
pursue the strongest penalties available by law for racially motivated 
crime, and Parliament passed legislation to stiffen those penalties.  In 
December the regional court in Brno sentenced one of the four Berki 
assailants to 12 years in prison for murder, but failed to identify his 
act as racially motivated.  Police, state attorneys, and Romani groups 
criticized the ruling, as did the Prime Minister, and the State 
Prosecutor lodged an appeal.  A second assailant received an 18-month 
sentence; the other two received suspended sentences of 2 and 6 months.

Two further incidents of violence against Roma in October led the Romani 
leadership to stage a peaceful demonstration outside the Prime 
Minister's office, the first protest of its kind by Roma.  By year's 
end, this demonstration had been followed by several other peaceful 
protests in cities and towns throughout the country.

The court system approached racially motivated crime with more vigor in 
1995.  In March the district court in Ceske Budejovice overturned the 
acquittal of 16 skinheads who drove Tibor Danihel, an 18-year-old Rom, 
into the river in Pisek in September 1993 and caused him to drown.  
However, in November the state investigator in Pisek decided to drop the 
charges, citing a lack of conclusive evidence against the accused.  In 
August the Liberec regional court sentenced four skinheads to 18 to 28 
months in prison for firebombing two Romani homes in the summer of 1994.  
Two women suffered burns in the attacks; one of them, a 12-year-old 
girl, was left permanently scarred.  In September the Prague municipal 
court gave the six members of the musical group Branik, which was 
disbanded in 1991, an 8-month suspended sentence for propagating racial 
hatred in their lyrics.  The lyrics were saturated with racist epithets 
referring to Roma.  The court has also charged the group's music 
publisher with inciting racial hatred.  The trial is scheduled to begin 
in early 1996.  In October nine skinheads attacked a group of young Roma 
in Karvina, threw three of the girls to the ground and beat and kicked 
them severely.  One of the victims was hospitalized with a concussion 
and a fractured skull.  Seven of the nine skinheads have been 
apprehended and charged.  Beginning in June 1995, the number of those 
charged with racially motivated crimes rose sharply, and state 
prosecutors sought stiffer sentences for them.

Central government officials became more engaged in problems affecting 
the Romani community in 1995.  The Government accepted visits by a COE 
delegation which had come to investigate the citizenship law.  Prime 
Minister Klaus met with Romani representatives in October to discuss 
their concerns. President Havel and three cabinet ministers attended a 
memorial service at the former concentration camp site of Lety to pay 
tribute to the Czech Roma who perished during World War II.  In October, 
when Roma Josef and Jarmila Polak were attacked by skinheads in Breclav-
-causing each to suffer a concussion and Josef Polak to lose an eye--the 
cabinet issued a swift denunciation of the attack.  Four suspects were 
charged in the Polak case and are awaiting trial.

Roma face discrimination in employment, housing, schools, and the rest 
of everyday life.  Unemployment among Roma is universally acknowledged 
to be high; nongovernmental organizations estimate credibly that it is 
as high as 70 percent in some areas.  In 1995, some restaurants and 
other venues throughout the country routinely refused service to Roma 
and posted signs prohibiting their entry.  In many cases, local 
authorities intervened to have the offending signs removed.

International legal and human rights organizations and Roma activists 
continued to criticize the discriminatory impact on Roma of the 1992 
citizenship law.  This law, created at the time of the Czech-Slovak 
split, gave Czechoslovaks living in the Czech Republic until the end of 
December 1993, later extended to June 1994, to apply for Czech 
citizenship under more favorable conditions than non-Czechoslovaks 
faced.  Unlike its Slovak counterpart, which awarded Slovak citizenship 
to all former Czechoslovak citizens living within its borders regardless 
of their previous nationality (after 1970, Czechoslovaks were required 
to choose whether they were "Czechs" or "Slovaks," a choice with 
virtually no significance at the time), the Czech law posed conditions:  
"Slovak" applicants were required to prove they had a clean criminal 
record over the previous 5 years and were resident in the Czech Republic 
for 2 years.  Romani leaders protest that these provisions of the 
citizenship law were designed to discriminate against Roma.  In a 
broader sense, the very fact that conditions were set whereby former 
"Czech" or "Slovak" nationality became the basis by which one qualified 
for post-1992 Czech citizenship quickly became the issue in 
international fora.  The practical result of the citizenship law was 
that an unknown number of former Czechoslovaks of Slovak nationality 
resident in the Czech Republic at the time of the split--nearly all of 
them Roma--found themselves without Czech citizenship.  Government 
sources estimate that there are about 10,000 "unresolved" cases of 
citizenship, and nongovernmental organizations estimate as many as 
24,000 or more.  The actual number is unknown. 

In 1994 an official of the Karvina district office was found to have 
accepted improper payments to expedite citizenship applications, 
primarily from Roma.  Nongovernmental organizations assert that many 
applicants were unaware that this was an irregular procedure, but 
authorities believe otherwise.  A police investigation is scheduled to 
begin in early 1996.  Karvina officials subsequently revoked all 
citizenship papers signed by this individual.  As a result, upwards of 
300 people, according to the Ministry of Interior, had to begin the 
lengthy and expensive process of application for citizenship anew.  The 
Tolerance Foundation, a Czech nongovernmental organization, estimates 
the number of applicants adversely affected by this decision to be over 
600.  The official and her immediate superior no longer work at the 
district office, yet many of those whose citizenship was revoked face 
dire economic hardship until their cases are resolved.  Without 
citizenship or residency they do not have the right to work, health 
insurance, or any of the other social benefits enjoyed by nearly all 
citizens and residents.  Moreover, those with uncertain citizenship may 
not vote and could not participate in the coupon privatization program.

Application for both citizenship and residency are demanding processes, 
and social workers report that many formerly Czechoslovak Roma have 
difficulty obtaining the necessary documentation.  Workers at district 
offices where these applications are processed are not always well-
informed of the requirements or well-disposed toward Romani applicants.  
The clean criminal record requirement is interpreted inconsistently.  
Even applicants who have never visited Slovakia must produce proof of 
release from Slovak citizenship and that they owe no debts there.  
Nongovernmental organizations report that this requirement is also 
applied to school-aged children.

Fears that the situation would lead to mass deportations of Roma have 
thus far proven exaggerated, yet the Justice Ministry reported that 460 
persons had been deported to Slovakia since the passage of the 
citizenship law by year's end, generally following an arrest.  The rate 
of expulsion is growing.  Police who come across formerly Czechoslovak 
individuals without proper citizenship or residency papers have been 
known to expel them to Slovakia, and this is within their authority.  
While the criticism that persons had been deprived of the right to 
citizenship in the Czechoslovak successor state of their choice 
persisted, in 1995 Parliament passed an amendment to the Citizenship Law 
to expedite the citizenship applications from ethnic Czechs from the 
Volhynia region of Ukraine.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The law provides workers the right to form and join unions of their own 
choosing without prior authorization, and the Government respects this 
right.  The work force was 45 to 50 percent unionized in 1995, although 
the number of workers belonging to unions 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, 
republic-wide umbrella organization for branch unions.  It is not 
affiliated with any political party and carefully maintains its 
independence.

Workers have the right to strike, except for those whose role in public 
order or public safety is deemed crucial.  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 1995, 
although an estimated 50,000 union members took to the streets of Prague 
in March to protest proposed government social policies.  The Government 
narrowly averted a major railway workers' strike in June.  Some doctors 
and health workers staged an administrative strike in November.

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

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for collective bargaining.  The Law on Collective 
Bargaining is carried out in the tripartite system, a voluntary 
arrangement in which representatives of unions, government, and 
employers set the parameters of labor relations.  Wage regulation was 
abolished in 1995.

There are 11 free trade zones.  Their workers have and practice the same 
right 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 have completed courses at special schools (schools for the 
severely disabled) may work at age 14.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets minimum wage standards.  The current minimum wage is 
about $95 (2,500 crowns) per month.  The minimum wage 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 retraining, carried out by district labor offices, seek 
to provide labor mobility for those at the lower end of the wage scale.  
Because of a continuing tight job market, the enforcement of minimum 
wage standards was rarely an issue.

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 ordered by 
the employer may not exceed 150 hours per year or 8 hours per week as a 
standard practice.  Overtime above this limit may be permitted by the 
local employment office.  The Labor Ministry enforces standards for 
working hours, rest periods, and annual leave.

Government, unions, and employers have agreed to promote worker safety 
and health, but conditions in some sectors of heavy industry are 
problematical, especially those awaiting privatization.  Industrial 
accident rates are not unusually high.  The Office of Labor Safety is 
responsible for enforcement of health and safety standards.  Workers 
have the right to refuse work endangering their life or health without 
risk of loss of employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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