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Czech Rep, nationalists disturb act marking Czech Romany wartime victims

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi


Five members of the far-right Czech National Party (NS) disturbed a commemorative event marking the victims of the wartime Nazi internment camp for Czech Romanies in Lety today. Nationalists got into a verbal clash with the organisers.

The police interfered and expelled the nationalists from the place. During a mass, the NS members displayed banners recollecting Czech policemen who guarded Romanies in the camp and died of typhoid then. The NS banners included slogans as “300,000 Czech victims of Nazism often without a single memorial,” “German labour facility – German responsibility,” and “Czech policemen – victims of typhoid epidemic in the labour camp.”

The nationalist argued they only wanted to remind of forgotten victims of Nazism. However, participants in the commemorative event, including junior ruling Greens deputy Ondrej Liska, said it was a provocation.

Cenek Ruzicka, chairman of the Committee for Compensation of Romany Holocaust (VPORH), organising today’s event, recalled that 326 prisoners, including 240 children, perished in the Lety camp. Part of them died of typhoid, some of hunger, he added.

The VPORH has been in the long run demanded that the pig farm in Lety, built on the premises of the wartime camp for Czech Romanies, be removed. Romany activists point out that it defames the victims’ memory. The EP also called on the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (for Greens), who took part on today’s act of commemoration in Lety, pushed for the removal of the pig farm as well. “Since it is undignified to have a pig farm at the place where people were dying.

No other reason is needed,” Schwarzenberg told reporters. The Czech state negotiated with the AGPI company, owning the pig farm complex, in the past, most recently in 2005 under the Social Democrats (CSSD)-led government, but in vain. The current centre-right government originally also planned to purchase the farm.

Though the price was not officially releases, speculation emerged that it could amount to hundreds of millions of crowns. Minister in charge of minority agenda Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens) said previously that the government would not have finances for the purchase.

PM Mirek Topolanek (ODS) confirmed it a month ago. He said that a new memorial should be build next to the pig farm. However, the VPORH opposes the idea. According to historical documents, some 1,308 Romanies were deported to Lety during WW2, while 326 people perished there and more than 500 of its inmates ended up in the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech, romany activist insists on illegality of eviction

31 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi


The statement by ombusdman Otakar Motejl that the demolition of a house inhabited by Romanies and their removal to a new one was legal is incorrect, Czech Romany activist Jan Rac told CTK today.

A few days ago, Rac sent a comprehensive report on the course of the Romanies’ eviction from the dilapidated house to Motejl. Rac says that the houses in the Vsetin neighbourhood Poschla, to which some families have been removed, are going mildewy and are not consistent with sanitary regulations. Rac had also a detailed study on the eviction of unadapted families in Vsetin drafted.

“I have sent it to the ombudsman. We will certainly change his mind. The eviction from the dilapidated house also related to the families that regularly paid the rent. This amounts to violation of human rights. No one has the right to do this,” Rac told CTK. Rac said that it was not true that the houses to which the Romanies had been moved fulfilled the conditions of the construction law.

According to the paper Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), Motejl said that the relocation was consistent with the construction law. Rac said that the flats were going mildewy. The Vsetin town hall started the demolition of the ramshackle house last October. It ejected the local rent-defaulters, mostly of Romany origin, to other houses, some of them outside the town.

At that time, the town hall was led by current Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek. Thirteen criminal complaints have been lodged against Cunek over the case.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech hospital must apologise to Romany woman for sterilisation

19 Gennaio 2007 Commenti chiusi


The management of the Ostrava´s Vitkovice Hospital has to apologise to 24-year-old Romany woman Helena Ferencikova who sued the hospital for unwanted sterilisation, the High Court in Olomouc ruled today. The court confirmed thus verdict of a lower instance court that Ferencikova should receive an apology, but not financial compensation.

Ferencikova welcomed the verdict. “I´m glad they decided like this that they won´t continue in this practice. The money is not important. Nobody will give me children. I´m young and I believe that I would have had more children,” she said. Ferencikova was sterilised six years ago when she gave second birth at the age of 19.

The hospital doctors said that the woman already had her second C-section and another delivery would mean a risk. They argued that she was offered sterilisation and she agreed. Judge Jaroslav Hykl said that the hospital acted against law because it proposed sterilisation to Ferencikova only during her second labour, without any prior information or consultations. Ferencikova said she had not known what she had been signing because of labour pains.

Ferencikova will not be compensated as she filed her complaint against the hospital after more than three years and it thus comes under the stature of limitations. A dozen of Romany women attended the court proceedings today who said that they were in the same situation as Ferencikova. They told CTK they did not have enough money to file their own complaints. Eva Rozkova from the Human Rights League said that Ferencikova´s has been the first such complaint in the Czech Republic. She said that three other complaints have been filed, but the cases have not yet been dealt with.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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European Court to decide again on case of Czech Romany children

19 Gennaio 2007 Commenti chiusi


The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today dealt with the appeal of 17 young Czech Romanies, whose complaint against the Czech Republic over alleged discrimination was rejected by the Court last year, and the final verdict can be expected in a couple of weeks or months, the Court´s press section has told CTK.

The Romanies from Ostrava, aged 16-22, complained in Strasbourg that they had been placed into special schools in 1996-1999 under circumstances that violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The Strasbourg court ruled last February that the European convention had not been violated in the Romanies’ case. Though the court admitted that the complaint was based on some serious arguments, it concluded that the Czech school admission rules were nor racially tinged.

The complainants appealed the verdict, saying it was a restrictive understanding of discrimination. The Grand Chamber of the Court today only heard arguments of both parties in dispute and now it will assess the situation, the court´s press section has announced.

The Czech government was today represented in court by government envoy Vit Schorm, while the complainants´s rights were defended by British expert in human rights Lord Lester of Herne Hill and U.S. lawyer James Goldston, who works in the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest.

The Grand Chamber is the European Court´s supreme body. It deals with cases in which difficulties of interpretation or application of the Convention, or serious issues of general importance are involved. The Court´s verdicts are binding on the Council of Europe member states, including the Czech Republic.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Republic, medal for romany activist: positive discrimination or not

11 Novembre 2006 1 commento


Was it an act of positive discrimination when President Vaclav Klaus bestowed the Medal of Merit on Czech Romany Milan Horvat on October 28, or was it correct to award Horvat? the weekly Tyden asks in its latest issue. MEP Hynek Fajmon (Civic Democrats, ODS), former mayor of Lysa nad Labem, central Bohemia, says that his party colleague Horvat deserves the medal.

“I´ve know him for ten years. Cooperation between Romanies and the Lysa town hall is an example for other Czech towns and municipalities thanks to him,” Fajmon told Tyden. However, other Lysa inhabitants were reluctant to make any official statement for the weekly about Horvat´s decoration.

“Well, Horvat is a good chap, but I don´t want to comment on it…” one of them said. In Lysa, people make jokes that he received a Dance Shoe Order as he organiser an annual national Romany ball that the president´s wife, Livia, has repeatedly attended, Tyden says. But Horvat, 53, a widower a father of five, a member of the ODS of which Klaus is honorary chairman, is active in many other areas. He among others does business in construction and organises a Romany festival. Horvat founded a Romany association in Lysa and took part in a project of asylum housing for released prisoners. He has been a local representative and last week he was elected a town councillor, the weekly writes.

It says that Horvat may be considered a good example for the members of the country´s Romany community: a self-made man who offers jobs to Romanies and even educates them, allegedly persuading others to regularly send their children to school.

“He is a hard-working, honest and nice man who always handed in proper accounting of all subsidies he received,” Tana Hlavata from the Nadace Via foundation said. Horvat was recently awarded the Via Bona prize for significant philanthropists as he funds some of the activities of the Romany association in Lysa. But Hlavata said she believes Horvat should have not been awarded the medal as he has not done enough to deserve a state decoration.

“I know tens of people like him and it is rather an exaggerated gesture of appreciation,” she told Tyden. Historian Dusan Trestik shares her doubts. “State decorations should reflect merits concerning the state, not any excellent performance,” he said. Trestik, nevertheless, said he considers the choice of Horvat as candidate for a state decoration was rather good.

The weekly notes that Klaus decorated a man who leads a Romany community that is exceptional in the Czech Republic in one aspect: Lysa Romanies mostly take part in elections, they support the Civic Democrats, and admire the president. A Romany activist was also awarded in 2002 by former president Vaclav Havel who bestowed the Medal of Merit for the Czech Republic upon Karel Holomek, chairman of the Association of Romanies in Moravia. Holomek helped establish the Museum of Romany Culture in Brno.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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