Former Czech president Václav Havel has called for the International Olympic Committee to rethink its stance on athletes’ freedom of expression ahead of the Olympic Games in China, which start next week. The International Olympic Committee has urged athletes not to highlight human rights abuses in China while at the games, saying that such behaviour would constitute the spreading of political propaganda, which is banned by the Olympic Charter. On Thursday Václav Havel joined Archbishop Desmond Tutu in calling for the IOC to change its position. According to the public appeal of which Mr Havel is a signatory, ‘to speak of human rights is not politics; only authoritarian… regimes try to make it so’.
A United Nations report has suggested that the Czech Republic is amongst the countries best placed to provide its peacekeepers in Sudan with new aircraft. The UN is urging India, Ukraine and the Czech Republic in particular to donate helicopters to its peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. The report says that while up to 300,000 people have died in the region during five years of war, no military transport or tactical helicopter has been deployed to patrol an area the size of France. The report suggests that countries such as the Czech Republic have helicopters ‘gathering dust in hangars’ which they could contribute to the UN’s efforts.
The Czech police will hand over suspected pedophile Patrick Burnell to their British counterparts on Tuesday, it was announced on Thursday. The handover will take place at Prague’s Ruzyně airport, a police spokesperson said. Earlier this week, a Czech court decided that Mr Burnell should be extradited for criminal prosecution in Britain, where he is charged with sexually abusing 16 children. Mr Burnell is believed to have contacted his victims, mainly girls aged 12 and 13, via the internet, promising them a car ride during which he allegedly committed the crimes. He was arrested two weeks ago in cooperation with Interpol on the basis of a European arrest warrant.
The former head of an Eastern Bohemian hospital, Josef Pejchl, has been sentenced to ten months in prison, after failing to alert the authorities to a spate of killings carried out at his infirmary by a member of staff. In February, male nurse Petr Zelenka was found guilty of murdering seven patients at the hospital in Havlíčkův Brod, and attempting to kill ten more, with lethal injections of the drug heparin. On Thursday, the hospital’s former director was also sentenced. Mr Pejchl is appealing the verdict. He says he did report irregularities at the hospital as early as October 2006, but that the authorities failed to act. The police arrested Mr Zelenka two months later.
Czech household debt grew by just over 15 billion crowns (978 million USD) to 799 billion crowns (52 billion USD) in June, the Czech National Bank said on Thursday. According to the Finance Ministry, however, the Czech Republic continues to rank amongst the EU states with the lowest ratio of household debt to GDP.
Staropramen’s new general manager is Zbyněk Kovář, it was announced on Thursday. Mr Kovář takes over from Tunč Cerrahoglu as the head of the second-biggest beer producer on the Czech market. The Staropramen brewery belongs to the Belgian company InBev. In 2007, the brewery generated profits of 578.4 million crowns (37.7 million USD).
The number of people to die in road accidents in the Czech Republic in July so far has been 88, down from 117 in the same period last year. The number of accidents has fallen as well, from 15,316 in July 2007 to 12,230 this year. Police said that the biggest causes of accidents in the last month had been reckless driving and speeding.
The service on Prague metro’s B-line was interrupted on Thursday when a man fell onto the tracks at the station Naměstí republiky. The man survived the accident but suffered serious injuries. Services were disrupted for over an hour between the stations Florenc and Smíchovské nádraží. Trains resumed around 12:30 CET, according to a spokesperson for Prague Public Transit Company.
The number of people identified as HIV positive in the Czech Republic continues to grow, according to the National Reference Laboratory for AIDS. Between the start of the year and the end of June, 78 new cases were recorded – 21 more than in the same period in 2007. Almost a thousand people were registered as HIV positive at the end of last month, said a spokesperson for the national AIDS centre. Experts say the actual number infected could be up to 10 times higher. Over half of those identified as suffering from the disease live in Prague.
Fifty-six Czechs have died abroad so far during this year’s summer holidays, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Thirteen have died in Croatia, the most popular foreign destination for Czech tourists. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said deaths were the most common subject dealt with by Czech diplomatic staff in other countries. Every year the ministry warns tourists not to overdo it at the sea, in the mountains and on the roads.