Czech politicians criticized in Europe for racism

Tereza Nosálková
5. 3. 2011 11:26
Anti-Roma remarks by Czech politicians have been repeatedly shamed by int'l community
A Roma kid in school
A Roma kid in school | Foto: Jan Langer

Prague - More than ever, Czech politicians are criticized for their racist and anti-Roma remarks.

For years, international bodies and human right organizations have been asking the Czech Republic to solve the discrimination of Romani in public schools and stop segregating the minority in ghettos.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, describes in his latest report his experiences from a two-day trip to the Czech Republic in fall last year.

"They spread around the city..."

Back then, he missed just by a few days one of the most scandalous anti-Roma remarks said by Czech politicians recently.

"The number of Romani has increased to 5 percent in the last five years, they spread around the city, bother people, steal, rape. The time when the honest citizen is in work, Gypsies sit on the benches in the square and chat happily," said mayor of Nový Bydžov Pavel Louda, from the ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS), in a statement.

The situation in Nový Bydžov escalated after a young woman was raped. The mayor reacted by saying: "It's time to stop sweetening the life of Gypsies."

"I have a different point of view than somebody from abroad who, under the cover of human rights, ignores that the law is being violated. I can only laugh at the critique from Strasbourg," said Louda, about the commissioner's words.

Recently, Louda organized in his town a meeting for fellow mayors where the question of "inadaptable citizens" was discussed. The meeting was attended also by some political heavyweights, such as Liana Janáčková, a former member of the Czech Senate and the mayor of Mariánské Hory.

Some time ago, Janáčková was heavily criticized abroad for her words: "I am against any integration (of Roma people), I'm afraid I'm a racist." In addition, she mentioned using dynamite against Roma people.

Last year, PM Petr Nečas (ODS) supported Janáčková when she was running for re-election in the Senate.

In 2007, a human rights report of the US Department of State mentioned anti-Roma politics and remarks of Jiří Čunek, who was then a leader of the Christian Democrats.

Read more: Minister to divide Romani based on their debts

Human rights advocates from abroad have repeatedly noted that Czech politicians may gain political points by criticizing Roma.

Strict sentences

However, the international community positively appreciated recently that Czech authorities have started to punish racist crimes with more resolve.

Commissioner Hammarberg praised the fact that the culprits of an anti-Roma arson attack were sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Read more: Severe sentences for racial arson attack on Roma family

Most Czech politicians supported the sentence, the only notable exception was Czech President Václav Klaus who considered the sentence "unexpectedly high."

It needs to be added though that Klaus had been condemning the arsonattack from the very beginning as "brutal and repulsive".

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