The Golden Barb is the name of an award that the Prague-based NGO Centre for Integration of Foreigners hands out for the worst contribution to the field of integration of foreigners. It also gives out the Naděžda prize for the best practice or policy in the field. This year’s awards were presented on Thursday evening. Jan Richter spoke to the centre’s Vladislav Gunther after the ceremony.
Two years after a breakthrough verdict by the European Court for Human Rights which denounced racial segregation in Czech schools, Romany children still face widespread discrimination. That’s the conclusion of a group of Czech NGOs that say the Czech Education Ministry has shown good will but has introduced few practical measures to improve the situation.
Amnesty International has criticized Canada’s decision to reintroduce visas for Czechs. On Tuesday, the Czech and Mexican branches of the organisation sent a joint letter to Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney calling on Ottawa to scrap tourist visas for both countries’ citizens. In the letter, the NGO drew attention to what it called ‘serious human rights concerns’ in both the Czech Republic and Mexico. The head of the Czech branch of Amnesty International, Dáša van der Horst, says that Canada’s decision has affected the Czech Republic’s Roma
The town of Chomutov in north Bohemia is up in arms. Its controversial mayor Ivana Řápková has declared war on the town’s 4,000 or so debtors, most of them members of the Romany minority. After a court banned the town hall from seizing their social benefits to make up for unpaid rents, the mayor took a new tack – ordering a wide-scale confiscation of debtors’ property for unpaid fines.
Integrating Central Europe’s Roma minority into society needs international cooperation, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer agreed with his Hungarian counterpart Gordon Bajnai on Monday. At a meeting in Budapest on Monday evening, however, the two men agreed that fighting anti-Roma racist attacks was mostly the duty of national governments. Speaking after the meeting, Mr Bajnai said that Romany integration was an important theme across the region, which needed to be addressed ‘urgently’. According to the Hungarian MTI Press Agency, the Hungarian prime minister has submitted a proposal to the Visegrad Four group (made up of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) calling for a joint strategy to be devised dealing with the issue. At the meeting on Monday, the Czech prime minister praised Hungary for having made a number of arrests in connection with a spate of racially-motivated Roma killings.
David Vaculík who was involved in one of the worst cases of racist violence in recent years, is a regular sponsor of the far-right Workers Party, the daily Lidove Noviny wrote on Monday. Police are investigating possible links with the far-right party after journalists produced footage showing Vaculik and the leader of the Workers Party Tomas Vandas together at far-right marches. Mr. Vandas has condemned the arson attack which left a two-year-old critically injured and claims his party had nothing to do with it. Interior Minister Martin Pecina is taking steps to try and get the Workers’ Party banned.
Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb has said the annual running costs of a Czech government agency for social inclusion should reach 400 million crowns. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Kocáb said some 280 million crowns of that amount would be allotted to projects. The agency, which is to help the regional authorities to integrate excluded, mainly Romany, communities into the majority society, should employ around 120 people, Mr Kocáb said. The agency, established last year by the previous coalition government, is planned to launch nationwide operation in 2011.
Czech Television has reported that police are investigating alleged threats against two witnesses in the firebombing attack in Vítkov earlier this year, in which a two-year old Romany girl suffered third-degree burns to 80 percent of her body. The four neo-Nazis who have been charged with the crime were allegedly detained thanks to the testimonies of two young women, threats against whom appeared on the website of a far-right movement. However, police deny any involvement of third parties in the arrests.
A court in the northern town of Most has sentenced two Romany men to 400 hours of community service each for physically and verbally assaulting members of the so-called “protective corps” of the far-right Workers’ Party last year in the town of Litvínov. Both men pleaded guilty to the charges and apologised for their statements.
Around 120 far-right demonstrators gathered in the eastern town of Svitavy on Saturday afternoon for a fourth annual march in support of Vlastimil Pechanec, a member of the skinhead movement sentenced six years ago for a racially motivated murder. Due to heavy rain the protesters called off the march and held a meeting outside the local railway station. Several dozen police officers, including members of riot police, oversaw the gathering but no incidents were reported. Vlastimil Pechanec was sentenced to a 17-year jail sentence in 2003 for murdering a Romany man two years earlier, stabbing him twice in the stomach.
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