A report published today by the Czech Helsinki Committee (ČHV) has found a deteriorating tendency in the area of human rights last year in the Czech Republic. The Government’s budget cuts have negatively affected children, people living with disabilities, senior citizens, single-parent households, and the unemployed. The inclusion of Romani children into mainstream schools was halted and hatred of Romani people rose. Invective against sexual minorities also rose. Prison overcrowding is increasing.
Those who presented the Report on the State of Human Rights for 2011 said the only positive aspect of last year was that civil society has been moved to take action. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any good news. The situation in the field of human rights is deteriorating,” said ČHV chair Anna Šabatová. In her view the reasons for the deterioration are not only the economic crisis and savings measures, but primarily the behavior of politicians, whether be that through their lack of interest in human rights or their populist moves. She said Czech President Václav Klaus also has been disparaging the issue of human rights.
Šabatová says a change for the worse has taken place in the fulfillment of social rights. Because of the Government’s budget cuts, the situation of children, people living with disabilities, senior citizens and single-parent households has deteriorated. Many people have fallen into poverty. Older people comprise almost half of everyone on the edge of poverty. More than 152 000 households had incomes below the poverty line in 2011, 15 000 households more than in 2010, according to the ČHV.
The report points out that the program for including Romani pupils into the mainstream schools was halted last year. Romani people’s situations are not improving with respect to employment or housing and their security is deteriorating. Hatred against this minority is reportedly rising. The ČHV recalled the rise in inter-ethnic tensions and right-wing extremists’ protests in the Šluknov area last year, protests which were also joined by “normal citizens”.
The state of the prisons is also not good. At the end of last year there were 219 prisoners per 100 000 people in the Czech Republic; by April 2012 that number had risen to 225. Šabatová pointed out that in a country of comparable size such as Austria, the number is 100. Roughly one-third of all prisoners in the Czech Republic are serving sentences of one year or less and alternative punishments are not being made use of by the courts. Budget cuts have negatively impacted prison conditions.
The ČHV says that invective against bisexuals, gays, lesbians and transsexuals has also risen. The activists did give a positive evaluation to last year’s Prague Pride festival, the first to ever be held in the capital. They also consider it primarily positive that society has begun protesting and calling for change.
Czech Press Agency, ras, translated by Gwendolyn Albert