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Jekhetane Roma (UK) calls on Czech PM Fischer to address the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic

Jan Fischer (Photo: CTK) European and Canadian NGOs have joined the UK-based organization Jekhetane Roma in calling on Czech PM Fischer to prioritize measures addressing Roma inclusion in the Czech Republic. The organizations point out that the Czech government's own Concept on Roma Inclusion, which includes fighting anti-Roma racism and dates from 2002, has never been properly implemented in the country.

The full text of the letter is below:

18 June 2009

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We have been watching with great concern the recent events in the Czech Republic which impact on the Roma's everyday lives.

Increasing activities of neo-Nazi and fascist parties and movements, which comprise intimidation, terrorisation of and assaults on minorities, are unacceptable in countries the legal basis of which is established on democratic principles and the political representation should intervene promptly and adequately against these violations. Unfortunately, we have witnessed that even members of the Czech government themselves openly advocate racist doctrines and do not refrain from publicly describing ways in which they would get rid of Roma (i.e. Senator and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on National Economy, Agriculture and Transport Liana Janáčková) . Also, for their own populist purposes, they make use of problems arising from the coexistence of the majority population and the Roma which stem from the long-term marginalisation of members of the Roma community by local governments in order to build their own political careers across the political spectrum (for instance cases of forced evictions in the town of Bohumín, undertaken under the auspices of Bohumín Mayor and Senator Jiří Vícha (ČSSD), cases of forced evictions in the town of Vsetín undertaken under the auspices of present Senator former Vsetín Mayor Jiří Čunek (KDU-ČSL) or cases of illegal seizure of the Roma’s social assistance, defended by Chomutov Mayor Ivana Řápková (ODS) who is now reportedly running for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies).

It is necessary to emphasise that inadequate sanctions by the police and courts of expressions of open racism, including racially motivated hate crimes and racist behaviour and/or assaults targeting Roma publicly and/or in their homes, and the lack of proactive and comprehensive strategies to proactively eliminate all hate speech and hate crimes against Roma are amongst the reasons for the increase of attacks committed by self-confident racists. The alleged connections of some members of the Czech police and army with extremist groups advocating violence and hatred are also very alarming.

We must not forget that the aforementioned facts, as well as the recent events in the Czech Republic (i.e., the two recent arson attacks, or the neo-Nazi assaults on Roma demonstrators at the beginning of May) and the signals which the political representation sends to ordinary citizens have a far-reaching impact on the general public. The fact that members of the Czech government accept racist attitudes makes it possible for members of the general public to perceive these expressions of racial hatred and intolerance as social norms of behaviour or thinking and appropriate them as their set of values.

The Czech Republic is a signatory of a series of international charters and conventions on upholding fundamental rights and freedoms, including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Fundamental rights and freedoms are laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Constitution of the Czech Republic. Moreover, to the present day, the Concept of Roma Integration has not been implemented: One of its primary objectives is fighting racial discrimination against members of the Roma community.

We call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to take the necessary steps to initiate the democratic changes indispensable to assuring that members of the Roma community can live full-fledged lives, and to facilitate their effective participation in social, political and economic life. Yesterday’s adoption of an anti-discrimination law, which we appreciate very much, and the upholding of the conventions to which the Czech Republic has committed itself are inseparable parts of the democracy which the Czech Republic has been promoting since its foundation in 1918 and after 1989.

Yours sincerely,

Jekhetane Roma, Great Britain

The following organisations are joining the open letter

European Dialogue, London, Great Britain

European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest, Hungary

Paul St. Clair, Executive Director, Roma Community Centre, Toronto, Canada

Z§vůle práva, Prague, Czech Republic

RAPAR (Refugees and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research), Manchester, Great Britain

Europe-Roma CZ, Czech Republic

Association of Roma and National Minorities of the Plzeň Region, Czech Republic

Gwendolyn Albert, Prague, Czech Republic

Heather Ureche, Southwell, Great Britain

Dr Laura Cashman, Canterbury, Great Britain

Štefan Tišer, Halifax, Great Britain

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