Czech Helsinki Committee contributed to the 2020 EU Rule of Law Report

On 30 September 2020, the European Commission adopted the 2020 Rule of Law Report, which presents a synthesis of the rule of law situation in the European Union (EU) and Member State-specific assessments.

The Czech Helsinki Committee (CHC) alongside the Transparency International Czech Republic and one anonymous source provided important information to the European Commission – covering both challenges and positive developments in four main areas: the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media pluralism, and other institutional issues related to checks and balances.

According to the report, a number of important reforms of the Czech justice system are currently ongoing or in preparation. Such as, on the public prosecution, the selection procedure for judges and disciplinary regime for judges and prosecutors. However, there are some limited aspects of the proposed reforms in particular as regards high-ranking prosecutors that raises concerns. The report also mentions the CHC’s contribution concerning the lack of digitalization in the access to judicial files and judgments, as well as, the perception of judicial independence among the general public and companies. (Independence of the courts is perceived as ‘fairly or very good’ by 56 % among the general public and 44 % among companies.).

The legal and institutional framework to fight corruption is broadly in place. Indeed, there have been a number of initiatives proposed to increase transparency and accountability. However, several important legislative measures are still pending adoption and concerns that high-level corruption cases are not pursued sufficiently remain. Information about the current protection of whistleblowers in Czechia provided by the CHC is available in the report.

As regards to media pluralism, it is important to note that the Czech government is considering a reform to further strengthen independence of media regulator. However, some concerns remain as the media sector is still exposed to risks related to the influence of media owners over editorial content. The report took into account the CHC’s information concerning journalists who often experience hate speech in the political discourse.

The system of checks and balances in the Czech Republic is well established. Efforts to further increase the transparency of the legislative process are ongoing. However, it should be noted that Czechia does not have a National Human Rights Institution and the Ombudsperson lacks a decision-making power. The report also mentions information provided by the CHC. Mainly, the lack of effective follow-up to the consultation conducted among civil society organizations and increased governmental pressure on civil society organizations focusing on gender based issues and migration.

The report is available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/upholding-rule-law/rule-law/rule-law-mechanism/2020-rule-law-report_en

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