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Czech Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices. In September the Czech General Inspection of Security Forces (GIBS) investigated two police officers from Ceske Budejovice, who were later charged with felonies for torturing a 32-year-old handcuffed Romani man and forcing him to confess to a crime he did not commit. The case was pending.

The public defender of rights, or ombudsperson, also criticized police regarding excessive use of power by a police officer leading to the death of a mentally disabled patient who started acting uncontrollably at a hospital. The officer used a taser, which in combination with two sedative injections caused the death of the patient.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

High prison populations and overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions in some prisons, cases of mistreatment of inmates, and generally unsatisfactory conditions for inmates with physical or mental disabilities remained the main concerns during the year.

Conditions in migrant detention facilities run by the government improved as the number of migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia entering the country significantly decreased. Children remained with their families in one detention facility for irregular migrants but were able to leave the facility when accompanied by staff. International observers criticized the length of detention for families with children, as it took weeks on average to adjudicate a case.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding was a problem. Facilities for prisoners serving their sentences were at almost 105 percent of capacity in the first seven months of the year in prisons for men. There was no overcrowding in prisons for women.

According to the Czech Prison Service, there were 34 deaths in prisons and detention facilities in 2017, of which 10 were suicides and eight were still under investigation. The rest were due to natural causes.

The ombudsperson reported that, in general, prison conditions noticeably improved, but conditions of imprisonment for convicts with physical or mental disabilities remained unsatisfactory. She also noted inadequate prison health care standards due to a lack of physicians motivated to work in prisons.

In January the regional court confirmed one- and one-and-a-half year suspended sentences for three police officers for degrading treatment of a female detainee who was under the influence of alcohol.

Administration: Public prosecutors are responsible for regular prison visits, a circumstance that was welcomed by the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and made random checks.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups and by the media. The ombudsperson raised concerns, however, about the refusal of police to allow a monitoring officer to accompany expelled foreigners in escort vehicles as provided by the law.

Improvements: The Prison Service established a transparent system for relocating convicts to prisons closer to their homes. In August the Ministry of Justice increased salaries of working prisoners for the first time in 18 years.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press. The law provides for some limitations to this freedom, including in cases of hate speech, Holocaust denial, and denial of communist-era crimes.

Freedom of Expression: The law mandates prison sentences of six months to three years for persons who deny communist-era crimes or the Holocaust. The law prohibits speech that incites hatred based on race, religion, class, nationality, or other group affiliation and provides for prison sentences of up to three years for violations.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Concerns that consolidated ownership of Czech media outlets could influence politics increased after the May 2017 release of audio recordings allegedly showing the then-finance minister and present prime minister, Andrej Babis, instructing a reporter at one of Babis’ newspapers to write a negative article about a political rival. Babis denied any wrongdoing.

In October 2017 President Milos Zeman attacked the media at a news conference, where he brandished a dummy Kalashnikov rifle bearing the inscription “for journalists.” In May he “joked” that a few journalists should be “liquidated” because “there are too many of them.”

The law providing limits on denial of communist-era crimes and the Holocaust and on hate speech applies to the print and broadcast media as well as online newspapers and journals.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law prohibits, among others, speech that denigrates a nation, race, ethnic or other group of persons; incites hatred towards a group of persons or advocates the restriction of their civil rights; and publicly denies, questions, endorses, or vindicates genocide.

According to Czech Statistical Office data from 2017, 77 percent of households had internet access but only 30 percent had high-speed internet during the year.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. In 2017 the Constitutional Court sided with President Zeman in his refusal to appoint three professors in 2015, despite that the law requires the president to do so, and all nomination requirements were fulfilled. The court ruled that a letter sent by the president to the minister of education rejecting the three appointments was sufficient despite that it did not provide a justification for the decision.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the government generally respected these rights.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The government may legally restrict or prohibit gatherings, including marches, demonstrations, and concerts, if they promote hatred or intolerance, advocate suppressing individual rights, or jeopardize the safety of the participants.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law requires organizations, associations, foundations, and political parties to register with the Ministry of Interior. The courts may dissolve or ban, and the Ministry of Interior may refuse to register, groups that incite hatred based on race, religion, class, nationality, or other affiliation or that use prohibited symbols.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides a penalty of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. The government enforced these provisions.

Observers, however, reported prosecutors and judges often lacked knowledge of the subject, and there was a shortage of experienced judicial experts. Demanding criminal procedures required repeated testimonies of victims contributing to their further traumatization. Only half of the sentences were unconditional prison terms.

At the beginning of the year, Prague High Court refused an appeal of a prosecutor who claimed that a suspended sentence of three years in prison with five years of probation was insufficient for a 38-year-old stepfather who sexually abused his six-year-old stepdaughter. In October, however, after an extraordinary appeal by the supreme prosecutor, the Supreme Court returned the case to the lower court.

The government provided funding for some NGOs that continued to offer immediate social, legal, and psychological services to rape victims, but long-term services were underfunded.

NGOs noted in particular the underreporting of violence against women in immigrant communities, where victims often feared losing their immigration status.

Domestic violence is punishable by up to four years in prison, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. Police have the authority to remove violent abusers from their homes for 10 days. The law limits to six months the total time, including extensions, a removal order can remain in effect. The Ministry of Interior reported that, in the first eight months of the year, police removed 838 offenders from their homes.

In late 2017 the Supreme Court reviewed a domestic violence case from 2014 and confirmed a decision of a district court in Brno. The defendant only received a conditional sentence of 30 months in prison with 36-month probation despite severe psychological and physical abuse he inflicted on his wife between 2012 and 2013. The abuse involved slapping her and kicking her in the stomach days after her miscarriage, regular threats and humiliations, and forbidding her to look for a job, all in the in presence of their son. The woman had to be hospitalized due to the injuries she sustained.

The law also provides protection against domestic violence to other persons living in the household, especially children and seniors. The government supported a widely used hotline for crime and domestic violence victims.

Sexual Harassment: The antidiscrimination law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. Penalties for conviction may include fines, dismissal from work, or imprisonment for up to eight years. Police often delayed investigations until the perpetrator committed serious crimes, such as sexual coercion, rape, or other forms of physical assault.

In reaction to several reported cases of sexual harassment at universities between teachers and students, the Ministry of Education organized a nationwide workshop focusing on the issue and produced an instructional video.

Offenders convicted of stalking may receive sentences of up to three years in prison.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law grants men and women the same legal status and rights, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women sometimes experienced discrimination in the area of employment and payment (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive their citizenship from their parents. Any child with at least one citizen parent is automatically a citizen. Children born to noncitizens, such as asylum seekers or migrants, retain only the citizenship of their parents. Authorities registered births immediately.

Child Abuse: Prison sentences for persons found guilty of child abuse range from five to 12 years in the case of the death of a child.

NGOs estimated that 40,000 children experienced some form of violence each year. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reported that in 2017 authorities removed approximately 530 children from parents based on the decision of the court due to abuse, exploitation, or mistreatment. In 2017 three children died due to abuse or mistreatment. A 2017 survey by the Czech Institute of Criminology found that approximately 40 percent of rape victims were children younger than 18 years of age, and 21 percent were children younger than 14.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Some members of the Romani community married before reaching legal age. The law allows for marriage at the age of 16 with court approval; no official marriages were reported of anyone younger than 16.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Sexual relations with a child younger than 15 is punishable by a prison term of up to eight years or more in the presence of aggravating circumstances. The law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in the presence of aggravating circumstances. These laws were generally enforced.

To fight increasing problem of sexual exploitation of children on the internet, the Ministry of Interior in 2017 joined the European “Say No” campaign initiated by Europol.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish population numbered approximately 10,000. Public expressions of anti-Semitism were rare, but small, fairly well-organized right-wing groups with anti-Semitic views were active. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor the activities of such groups and cooperated with police from neighboring countries.

In 2017 the Ministry of Interior recorded 27 criminal offenses with anti-Semitic motives. In January the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a district court in Jihlava, which in March 2017 sentenced well-known anti-Semitic blogger Adam Bartos to a conditional year in prison for incitement to hatred. In a separate case, a Prague district court in January sentenced Bartos to a conditional two years in prison for incitement to hatred, libel, and genocide denial. Bartos appealed the verdict, and the case was pending at year’s end.

In July a district court in Prague convicted the former secretary of the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party, Jaroslav Stanik, of hate speech. According to witnesses, in October 2017 Stanik expressed his view on the premises of the lower house of parliament that Roma, Jews, and homosexuals should be shot at birth. Stanik appealed the verdict and the case remained pending at the year’s end.

In November police charged two men for placing a pig’s head at a Holocaust and Romani victim memorial in Lety in February.

In 2017 the Ministry of Culture designated as items of cultural heritage 12 tombstones and tombstone fragments from a former Jewish cemetery in Prostejov (in Eastern Czech Republic), which itself was designated as a cultural monument in 2016. A foreign philanthropist continued to lead efforts to restore the cemetery, which was destroyed by the Nazis and later turned into a public park.

The government has an antiextremism strategy emphasizing prevention and education to combat hostility and discrimination toward the Romani community as well as address anti-Semitism and Holocaust education.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The ombudsperson acted as a mediator in many cases while only a few cases were prosecuted in the courts. Persons with disabilities continued to face a shortage of public accommodations. Economic growth and active employment measures led to a significantly decrease in the number of unemployed disabled persons.

According to the law, only children with significant disabilities should attend special schools with specially trained teachers. Many children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream primary and secondary schools and universities, but sufficient funding remains an issue.

In January the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsperson’s office) became a monitoring body under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The ombudsperson made visits to governmental and private workplaces employing incarcerated or institutionalized persons, including persons with disabilities, to examine conditions, assure respect for fundamental rights, and advocate for improved protection against mistreatment. The ombudsperson’s office reported the highest numbers of received complaints for discrimination were related to discrimination for disability. The ombudsperson specifically criticized discrimination of persons with disabilities at work and poor availability of dental services for persons with mental disabilities.

According to the Office of the Government, ministries were not complying with the law that requires 4 percent of the staff of companies and institutions with more than 25 employees to be persons with physical disabilities. Instead of employing persons with disabilities, many companies and institutions paid fines or bought products from companies that employed persons with disabilities, a practice that the National Disability Council and the ombudsperson criticized.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were approximately 300,000 Roma in the country, and many faced varying levels of discrimination in education, employment, and housing and have high levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy.

Hate crimes against Roma continued to be a problem. There were also instances of hate crimes against Africans and persons of South-Asian descent. Observers reported hate crimes are not sufficiently recognized by police, prosecutors, and judges, who often lacked will or adequate knowledge.

In October Czech police concluded an investigation and recommended prosecution of three men, ages 19, 20 and 23 for attacking a group of South Asians in Pisek. One of the victims ended up in hospital with injuries.

Despite legislative measures aimed at desegregation of Roma in education, according to a Ministry of Education study, more than 29 percent of students in special schools were Roma, compared with 3.6 percent in regular elementary schools. After the introduction in 2017 of a free compulsory year of preprimary education at the age of five to six years old, the enrollment of Romani children in kindergartens increased slightly but remained markedly below the levels for non-Romani peers. To support desegregation of Roma in schools, the government increased funding to provide additional support to students with special needs in mainstream schools.

Approximately one-third of Roma lived in “excluded localities” or ghettos. While the law prohibits housing discrimination based on ethnicity, NGOs stated that some municipalities discriminated against certain socially disadvantaged groups, primarily Roma, basing their decisions not to provide housing on the allegedly bad reputation of Romani applicants from previous residences.

The 2017 amendment to the law on persons with material need, which was intended to solve housing problems, in some cases had the opposite effect. The amendment allowed cities to declare certain areas as having an “increased occurrence of socially undesirable activity”. In such designated zones the government paid only a part of housing subsidies. Some cities started to use this instrument to get rid of Roma and other low-income citizens.

In September the European Roma Rights Center criticized President Zeman for his negative statements on Roma and in an open letter called for his resignation. Zeman had stated that the unemployed persons in one of the country’s villages he visited were exactly the Roma who were forced to work during communism under the threat of imprisonment.

Roma were the most frequent targets of hate speech on internet.

In September the district court in Tachov fined a woman 20,000 koruna ($800) for posting threatening comments on the internet under a school photo of first graders from a local school. The children were mainly Romani, Arab, and Vietnamese, and the comments suggested sending them to gas chambers, shooting them, or throwing a hand grenade into the classroom. Police did not originally qualify the incident as a hate speech offense, but the supreme prosecutor requested a further investigation that led to the conviction.

In April the owners of a pig farm located on the site of a WWII-era concentration camp for Roma in Lety officially handed over the site to the Museum of Roma Culture, which will build a memorial to Roma victims. The government bought the site for 450 million koruna ($18 million). In August the government released additional 111 million koruna ($4.4 million) for the sanitation, demolition, and archeological research of the premises, which was a condition of foreign donors.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The country has antidiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in housing, employment, access to health care and the government generally enforced such laws. The country does not have specific hate crime provisions covering sexual orientation and gender identity. The number of incidents of violence based on sexual orientation was low, and local LGBTI leaders stated that citizens were largely tolerant of LGBTI persons.

To obtain legal gender recognition, transgender individuals are required to undergo surgical sterilization, a requirement the Council of Europe found contrary to member commitments on the protection of health.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced societal discrimination, although there were no reported cases of violence. The Czech AIDS Help Society reported a number of cases of discrimination, primarily in access to healthcare, especially due to the legal requirement to inform every doctor about the HIV positivity. The cases usually ended unsolved or in mediation. HIV/AIDS is classified as a disability under the antidiscrimination law, which contributed to the stigmatization of and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals. Individuals with HIV/AIDS often preferred to keep their status confidential rather than file a complaint, which observers believed led to underreporting of the problem.

In the case of wrongful termination of employment of a police officer who was HIV positive, the Municipal Court in Prague confirmed in November 2017 that HIV is a health disability. The court stated the antidiscrimination law should be applied, but the termination was in line with an applicable internal ministerial decree. The officer appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Czech AIDS Help Society reported the judicial system lacked qualified experts knowledgeable about technical HIV/AIDS issues, which led to wrongful criminal prosecution of about 30 individuals for allegedly spreading a contagious disease.

Other Societal Violence and Discrimination

According to the Security Information Service, the country’s security intelligence agency, there were no violent anti-Muslim protests or demonstrations in 2016 or the first half of 2017. Anti-Muslim protests and sentiments largely shifted to social media.

In May the State Prosecutor’s Office in Ceske Budejovice halted the prosecution of Martin Konvicka for alleged incitement of hatred against Islam due to a failure of authorities to secure timely evidence from the social network where Konvicka posted statements calling for the creation of concentration camps for Muslims and their physical annihilation.

NGOs actively worked to combat anti-Islamic attitudes, and several events promoting tolerance took place during the year.

In September the Municipal Court in Prague confirmed a decision of the district court that a female Muslim student could not wear a hijab to a secondary medical school. In the court’s opinion, the school should stay a neutral environment in which no one is exposed to religious symbols. The student appealed to the Supreme Court.

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