Press release

Vyjádření předsedy Českého helsinského výboru Václava Vlka k úmrtí Petra Uhla

Vážená paní Šabatová,

dovolte, abych Vám a Vaší rodině jménem svým, jménem Dany Syslové, Lucie Rybové, Ivana Štampacha, Václava Trojana, Jana Beera, Mikuláše Vymětala, Rudolfa Vévody a celého Českého helsinského výboru vyjádřil naši upřímnou soustrast nad Vaší ztrátou.

Petr Uhl je pro nás všechny synonymem celoživotního bojovníka za spravedlnost, svobodu a právo. Nechyběl u podpisu žádného z dokumentů, které byly nesmírně důležité pro vznikající svobodné Československo, a tak snad už jen z povahy věci nemohl chybět ani u toho, když se v listopadu 1988 formoval Československý helsinský výbor. Jeho hlas v Českém helsinském výboru vždy rezonoval, jeho vytrvalost nás inspirovala a jeho odkaz vždycky byl a navždy zůstane s Výborem spojen.

Považuji za čest, že jsem měl to štěstí se v životě několikrát s Petrem Uhlem setkat a poznat tak na vlastní kůži jeho neutuchající odhodlání v boji za lidská práva. Jeho odvaha a statečnost nechť jsou nám všem příkladem.
Můžeme jen sdílet žal a myslet a něj jako na člověka velkého vším, čím člověk může být.

S hlubokou úctou a pochopením,

Václav Vlk,
předseda Českého helsinského výboru

Czech Helsinki Committee call for support to people in Afghanistan

Since the withdrawal of the U.S led forces from Afghanistan was announced in April of this year, the Taliban made rapid gains across Afghanistan. On Sunday, 15th of August 2021, the Taliban fighters entered Kabul, creating chaos and panic, and prompting desperate Afghans to leave.

The Taliban has a long record of deliberately targeting and killing civilians they deem as enemies. Afghans now urgently need evacuation and international protection as many of them can become target of the Taliban fighters due to their past work or status. Civilians who worked to promote democracy, human rights, academics, education, writers, and people working for the Afghan government or foreign countries are feared to be at particular risk.

NATO countries, including the Czech Republic, are now facing the question of how they should help Afghans who worked with coalition forces. Dozens of Afghans, mainly interpreters who helped the Czech Army during its mission, need urgent help and support.

On Wednesday, an online petition called “Zachraňte tlumočníky” (Save the interpreters) was launched, which was signed by public figures, veterans, and NGOs, including the Czech Helsinki Committee (CHC). The petition warns that several Afghans who worked with the Czech Army are already calling for help, fearing retaliation on themselves and their families.

The Czech government has already approved a plan to evacuate Afghan staffers at the Czech Embassy in Kabul. The Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek today during press conference announced that altogether 147 persons were evacuated from Afghanistan and the mission was fulfilled.  

CHC welcomes these measures and calls on the government to make sure all interpreters and Afghan collaborators of the Czech Army are evacuated. We also urge the government to ensure there are all the necessary means to support and integrate Afghans into Czech society. Furthermore, the Czech government should immediately suspend all deportations and forced returns to Afghanistan.

More information is available at:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/13/afghanistan-risk-civilians-need-evacuation-protection

https://english.radio.cz/ czech-government-plans-help-afghan-interpreters-pursued-taliban-8724388

https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-rescue-staff-taliban-afghanistan/

Lucie Rybová, director of the Czech Helsinki Committee

Prohlášení ČHV k tragickému úmrtí romského občana po zásahu Policie ČR

Český helsinský výbor sleduje situaci kolem policejního zákroku, který se odehrál v sobotu
19. 6. 2021 v Teplicích a jenž skončil tragickým úmrtím Stanislava Tomáše. Apelujeme na řádné a důkladné prošetření zásahu policistů, jehož násilnost budí odůvodněné obavy o tom, že zásah mohl být rasově motivován. Způsob, jakým Policie ČR o vyšetřování zákroku referovala, vyvolal vlnu rasistických komentářů na sociálních sítích. Sebereflexe za zmařený lidský život přišla ze strany policie až po několika dnech, což považujeme za nedůstojné.

V Teplicích se v sobotu 26. 6.2021 konalo smuteční setkání na památku Stanislava Tomáše. Na místě se sešlo několik stovek lidí a vystřídala řada řečníků. Shromáždění později přerostlo v protest proti policejní brutalitě a účastníci se vydali na pochod městem směrem k policejní stanici, z davu zněla hesla „stop rasismu“ či „chceme vědět pravdu“. Účastníky pochodu nakonec rozehnal prudký déšť, připraven však byl i ozbrojený sbor pro případ eskalace shromáždění.

Mezi řečníky na pietním setkání vystoupil také evangelický farář, Mgr. Mikuláš Vymětal ThD., který přednesl prohlášení Českého helsinského výboru:

„Vážení pozůstalí, vážená rodino, vážení přítomní.

Sešli jste se zde na pohřbu Stanislava Tomáše, člověka, který žil život jednoho z nás, se zlem, které ho provázelo. Zemřel za okolností, které mnozí z nás vnímají jako tragické, zemřel při střetu s rukou zákona, jeho smrt se stala předmětem sdílení ve veřejném prostoru, vyvolávajíce tak všechny mnohé vášně. Vášně stojící na tom, že to byl Rom a stojící na tom, že přišel o život při zásahu Policie ČR. Chtěl bych zdůraznit, že Stanislav Tomáš byl člověk, chybující člověk, jako každý z nás. Jeho smrt může přinést Romům, a české společnosti, impuls ke změně.

Je na tomto místě třeba říci, že česká společnost je ve vztahu k Romům rasistická. Je třeba na tomto místě říci, že všeobecný přístup Policie ČR v tomto směru není dobrý a vyjádření lítosti přišlo pozdě.

Je třeba říci, že násilná smrt z rukou policie není v Čechách běžná a že se jedná o ojedinělý incident.

Je třeba veřejně říci, že jsou ghetta, kde žijí Romové.

Je třeba veřejně říci, že to Romové mají tisíckrát obtížnější než běžný občan, ať už chtějí cokoli a usilují o vlastní důstojnost, začlenění do běžné společnosti.

Je třeba veřejně říci, že je to odpovědnost každého z nás.

Každý můžeme přispět ke změně.

Podporuji úsilí všech representantů Romů o jejich široké začlenění do společnosti. Rom je stejným občanem jako všichni ostatní a musí jím být v očích vlastních i v očích ostatních.

Tato smrt a události okolo ní se mohou stát mementem a odrazovým můstkem vpřed. Pokud měla smrt Stanislava Tomáše tento smysl, tak tomu chtěla vyšší moc a je to projev osudu.

Přeji Stanislavu Tomášovi klidný odpočinek věčný, jeho rodině a blízkým sílu a všem zúčastněným naplnění vize společnosti bez předsudků vůči Romům.“

Václav Vlk, Mikuláš Vymětal
předsednictvo Českého helsinského výboru

Více informací a záznam ze shromáždění v Teplicích, jehož se účastnilo několik stovek Romů, je dostupný na stránkách Romea o.p.s.

http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/romea-tv-bude-vysilat-zive-smutecni-setkani-na-pamatku-stanislava-tomase-v-teplicich (00:45 minut – záznam prohlášení zástupce ČHV)

The Czech lower house of Parliament approves bill to compensate victims of forced sterilization

On the 4th of June 2021, the Czech lower house of Parliament approved a bill to compensate victims of forced sterilization. The bill offers compensation for women, predominantly Romani, who were forcibly or otherwise illegally sterilized in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. The cases first started to become publicly known about 15 years ago, and since then activists and, human rights organizations, including the Czech Helsinki Committee, were actively pushing for compensation.

Since 2005 Romani women have also been fighting for the Czech state to compensate them. However, all the previous efforts failed. This time, the lower house overwhelmingly approved the bill with 120 votes for and one vote against, while 29 Members of Parliament abstained. The Senate is expected to begin considering the bill next month. If approved, the victims would be able to apply for a one-off compensation payment of CZK 300 000 (around 12 000 euros).

The Czech Helsinki Committee welcomes this positive development – giving women a chance to finally get the justice they have been fighting for. However, while giving financial compensation to victims of forced sterilization is a significant development, we would also like to remind the Czech government of the importance of practical help. Particularly, the role of the institutions, such as the Ministry of Health, should not be underestimated in working closely with victims.

Lucie Rybová
Director of the Czech Helsinki Committee

 

CHC statement on Myanmar crisis

Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military rejected November’s election results and overthrew the civil government on 1 February 2021. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, as well as, thousands of protesters have been detained. Over 700 people are reported to have been killed, including dozens of children during the crackdown of peaceful protests. Due to the brutality of security forces several hundred people have fled areas hit by violence.

The Czech Helsinki Committee is alarmed by serious human rights violations and the possibility of further violence in Myanmar. We condemn the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons against civilian protesters – who have peacefully marched to oppose the coup and the crackdown.

We call on the international community, including the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres to take collective, coordinated action and protect the people of Myanmar from harm.

The military committed grave crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. Therefore, the UN Security Council must move towards collective action.

Other countries should follow the United States’ and the European Union’s (EU) path and impose restrictive measures on Myanmar’s coup leaders. Robust, targeted sanctions are needed not only against individuals but also on military enterprises and assets.

Now, the unity and collective response are extremely important in order to prevent further violations of human rights and to ensure accountability for crimes under international law.

Lucie Rybová
Director of the Czech Helsinki Committee

 

CHC statement about imprisoning pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong

On 16 April 2021, 10 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to prison for up to 18 months for taking part in two “unauthorized” protests in August 2019. Three of those sentenced, owner of a fiercely pro-democracy newspaper Jimmy Lai and former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Au Nok-Hin are also facing prosecution under Hong Kong’s national security law.

The protests were part of a larger political movement that began peacefully against the so-called Extradition Bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets – defying the ban of the police and protest against China’s encroachment. On several occasions, peaceful protests turned into violent clashes, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers with bricks and petrol bombs.

The Czech Helsinki Committee is very concerned with the Hong Kong court decision. Targeting of the most prominent dissidents and lawmakers for participating in two peaceful protests signals the government’s intention to prevent society from meaningful political participation. Under international law, participating in and organizing peaceful assemblies do not require prior permission by the state. Therefore, the jailing of opposition leaders is a clear violation of human rights. Mainly, violation of the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly.

We call on Hong Kong authorities to stop the prosecution of opposition figures for the peaceful expression of their political views. Such actions are a direct attack on human rights and pose a serious threat to democracy. The government should not suppress nor impose restrictions on peaceful assemblies. We urge Hong Kong authorities to immediately drop charges and release all those targeted.

Links for more information:

Lucie Rybová
Director of the Czech Helsinki Committee

 

Czech Helsinki Committee (CHC) attended Children of Prisoners (COPE) Webinar „Mitigating Uncertainty for Children: From pre-trial procedures to the COVID-19 pandemic“

On 3 June 2021, the Czech Helsinki Committee representatives attended the Children of Prisoners (COPE) online conference “Mitigating Uncertainty for Children: From pre-trial procedures to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The webinar explored uncertainty and its impact on children. For children, the experience of having a parent in conflict with the law can be associated with feelings of great uncertainty. This uncertainty can be particularly intense during pre-trial detention procedures, as children often do not have accurate information about parents’ whereabouts. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to visit during prison lockdowns have significantly intensified anxieties for children.

During the conference, speakers highlighted research and how this uncertainty can compound the effects of trauma and toxic stress already experienced when a parent is in conflict with the law. Participants further discussed how pre-trial detention procedures can better respect children’s rights, how children can be supported to cope with uncertainty and maintain trust, and how children can be better protected through child safeguarding measures.

 

Hong Kong marks the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre

On the 4th of June 2021, people in Hong Kong are marking the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. On this day, in 1989, the government of the People’s Republic of China brutally suppressed tens of thousands of individuals advocating to have a say in their government and exercise their fundamental freedoms. The Czech Helsinki Committee honors the sacrifices of those killed 32 years ago.

In Hong Kong, for the second straight year, the authorities banned the annual vigil to commemorate the massacre, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for the restrictions. Thousands of officers have been placed on standby to stop any gathering from happening. In addition to that, Chow Hang Tung – a vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance that organizes annual vigils for Beijing’s deadly crackdown victims – has been arrested. Police warned of more arrests, calling citizens to respect the law.

The Czech Helsinki Committee condemns the ban on Hong Kong’s annual vigil and the imprisonment of Ms. Chow. We call on authorities to immediately allow commemorations of the occasion in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China and make sure people can realize their right to peaceful assembly. Furthermore, Ms. Chow Hang Tung, who was unlawfully arrested should be immediately released. We also call on the Chinese government to acknowledge and take responsibility for the massacre of an untold number of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989.

Links:

The Czech Helsinki Committee   

World Children day is about childrens rights

The 1st of June is celebrated not only as World Children Day but also a day for the protection of children’s rights. On this occasion, the Czech Helsinki Committee wants to congratulate children worldwide and, at the same time, remind the parents, community, and governments of their responsibility to make sure children’s rights are fully protected.

Children face ongoing violations of their rights worldwide, including discrimination, poverty, lack of access to education, health, and many more. It is part of our responsibility to continue promoting and guaranteeing the well-being of all children, especially after experiencing the harsh restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Czech Republic is one of the last EU countries that does not have a children’s ombudsman.  The person and an institution to oversee the protection and enforcement of children’s rights. On this day, a year ago, we heard promises from our Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, to strengthen children’s rights by establishing the children’s Ombudsperson. Unfortunately, these promises have not been fulfilled.

We call on all political parties currently running campaigns for upcoming Czech parliamentary elections to remember that children need their attention and support. The Ombudsperson can significantly improve not only situation of individual children in the Czech Republic but also general awareness about children rights.

                                                                                    The Czech Helsinki Committee

Contact person pro media: Lucie Rybová, director of CHC;  tel.: + (420) 602 646 940, e-mail: lucie.rybova@helcom.cz, www. helcom.cz;

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