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UN envoy visits Czech Republic to discuss Human Rights Issues
21-09-1999
Radio Prague, September 21st - Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, special envoy of the UN Human Rights Commission, who is currently on a tour of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania to monitor the lives of their Roma populations, visited the Czech town of Usti nad Labem on Monday. Its Maticni street, located in the town's Nestemice district, has attracted a lot of international attention over the past year since with the support of the local government, some of its residents had a fence built to separate themselves from their neighbouring mainly Roma housing estate.

The controversial matter started when residents of four family houses complained of disturbing noise coming from the neighbouring state-owned high-rise buildings which currently house non-paying residents. After long debate as to whether a wall would solve the problem, the local authorities decided to build a fence to separate the mainly Roma housing estate from the family buildings. By October, the current fence which is made of metal is to be replaced by a two-metre high ceramic fence which according to the local authorities, will keep away the noise. Roma residents, however noted that the town failed to check whether the complaints of their neighbours are true as no experts have been sent in to detect whether the allegations of noise pollution are valid.

But patience and dialogue is all Glele-Ahanhanzo asked the Maticni street residents to have after he spent more than an hour and a half listening to both sides and promised that his report would be forwarded to the UN Human Rights Commission which is expected to review it in March next year. Although Petr Uhl, the Czech Government's envoy in charge of human rights notes that the Czech Republic is a democratic state which protects human rights just as much as its neighbouring countries of Germany, Poland, and Austria, many believe that the fence is a clear symbol of discrimination and segregation.



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