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UN: the Czech Republic is trying to introduce reforms beneficial to its Roma community
Radio Prague, April 7th -
United Nations' special envoy on racial discrimination says the Czech Republic is trying in earnest to introduce reforms beneficial to its Roma ethnic community which, if successful, could bring positive results in the shorter and long-term perspective.
The envoy, Mr. Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, presented his report on Thursday to the UN Human Rights Commission, now meeting in Geneva.
Mr. Glele-Ahanhanzo was on a fact-finding mission last year to the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary to investigate reports that Roma people in the three countries are subjected to systematic discrimination and suffer violence at the hands of ultra-right groups and frequently also the police.
Constitutional Court rules that Parliament should not have interfered with Maticni Street Wall
Radio Prague, April 6th - The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that the Lower House of Parliament does not have the right to interfere with the decision-making process of local councils. The ruling was made in connection with the case of the infamous Maticni Street Wall in Usti nad Labem, where Parliament ordered the local council to tear down a wall separating a predominantly Roma housing estate from white-owned houses opposite. Nick Carey has the details.
cni Street Wall made local and international headlines for much of last year. The local council in Usti nad Labem decided to build the wall after complaints from white home owners about the noise and rubbish from their predominantly Roma neighbours. The wall was criticised by both the EU and the Czech government. Despite this criticism, the council had the wall built last October. Less than two weeks later, under pressure from the government, Parliament intervened, ordering that the wall be torn down, and the houses of the residents who had complained be bought up.
The Constitutional Court in the Moravian capital of Brno, however, ruled on Wednesday that the Lower House had no right to contravene the local council's decision. As part of the ruling, a paragraph was removed from the law that allows Parliament to annul decisions made by local councils. Any such disputes, the Constitutional Court stated, will now have to be resolved in a court of law.
The court's decision met with unanimous approval in the Czech Republic, especially from local council representatives. The spokesman for the council in Usti nad Labem, Milan Knotek, said that the Constitutional Court had backed the principle that the town's council often applies, that in a democratic society, only an independent court can decide what is in accordance with the law.
The Czech Republic's human rights commissioner, Petr Uhl, welcomed the move, saying that as Parliament is a political body, it should not have the right to decide issues between the state and local administration. This, said Mr. Uhl, should be decided independently by a court of law.
Even members of the Lower House, who will be directly affected by the ruling, approved it. The deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for public administration, Tomas Kvapil, welcomed the measure, as it means that Parliament will never again be able to take on the role of judge and jury in such matters.
Amnesty International says Roma citizens discriminated
Radio Prague, April 6th - In its 1999 human rights report Amnesty International has criticized the Czech Republic for not providing minorities with adequate protection against various forms of discrimination.
The report says that Roma citizens in particular feel discriminated and even fear for their lives as local police frequently turn a blind eye on racist attacks. In cases when the culprits are actually charged it often happens that the racist character of the attack is not acknowledged and they get off with much lighter punishment than the incident merits, Amnesty reports.
Maticni Street Wall has finally found a good use
Radio Prague, April 5th - The Maticni Street Wall in the North Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem, originaly designed to separate Czech residents from who they and their city fathers not long ago described as unruly Roma dwellers, has finally found a good use.
I should explain that last year, this wall, or rather a ceramic fence with open gates, was erected and then quickly dismantled after this controversial project touched off an avalanche of international protests pointing to the plight of the Roma ethnic community not only in Usti but in fact throughout the Czech Republic, and post-communist Europe at large.
Now, the fence, or rather its individual construction blocks, seem to have found a better use than separating members of the human race. The Usti nad Labem Zoo has won a city tender and will pay about 210,000 crowns, or about 6,500 U.S. dollars, to the Town Hall in exchange for the first decent decorative element it has ever had. One construction block will be sent to the town museum, forever to remind visitors of one silly, if not outright racist decision Usti has made in a very recent past.
The Usti nad Labem Zoo plans to install the fence that once divided people outside its main gate to provide added protection for pedestrians.
The Usti Zoo director, Zdena Jerabkova, is happy they have won the tender: "I think the fence will grace our zoo and this is the first step towards obtaining the decent fence that we haven't had thus far..."
Ironically, the 65-metre-long wall will now be erected less than one kilometre from the site where it was meant to separate people from people.