11. 02. 2019
The Czech Republic received the final recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture (hereinafter the “Committee”) based on the examination of the Sixth Periodic Report of the Czech Republic evaluating the implementation of obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee received five reports from NGOs and requested also a statement from the Ombudsman.
This time, the Committee’s recommendations (specifically paragraphs 36 and 37) directly addressed the mandate of the Ombudsman. The Committee is “concerned that the State party has not established a consolidated national human rights institution” according the international standards (Paris Principles). Specifically, the Committee mentioned the Ombudsman as the institution which should be given a broad mandate needed to promote and protect all areas of human rights and thus become the proper national human rights institution.
Regrettably, the Czech Republic is one of the last states in Europe which has not yet established the proper national human rights institution. This deficiency has been criticized already for years form various international actors (the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Member States of the United Nations during the Universal Periodic Review, the UN Human Rights Council etc.).
In its recommendations, the Committee was very clear about this issue. It recommended that the Czech Republic should “expedite its efforts to amend the Act on the Public Defender of Rights, with a view to strengthening and bringing the human rights mandate of the Public Defender of Rights into full compliance with the Paris Principles. It should also ensure that the Public Defender of Rights has sufficient financial and human resources to carry out its mandate in an effective and independent manner.” Considering the specific agenda of the Committee, it is interesting that it needed to stress an observation of such a general nature. Obviously, this responds to international developments and to increasing pressure on the Czech Republic to strengthen the human rights protection in the way complying with international standards.
As to other parts of the concluding observations, the Committee welcomed many progressive steps taken by the Czech Republic. However, it also voiced criticism concerning 17 topics. The most urgent issues include the problematic definition of torture in the criminal law, persisting shortcomings in the role of doctors in combating ill-treatment (including the possibility of bringing findings to the attention of the Public Prosecutor’s Office) or the effectiveness of the General Inspectorate of Security Forces and criminal punishment of ill-treatment. The Committee also stressed the need to revise the criminal policy in order to reduce the number of incarcerated persons. An effective combating of hate crimes and investigation and compensation of unlawful sterilisations should also have a special attention of the government.