NGOs Seek Change In Compensation Procedure For Victims of Forced Sterilisation
Roma and human rights organisations in the Czech Republic have called on the cabinet to amend the procedure of granting compensation to citizens who were unlawfully sterilised. They told CTK that the interpretation of the current rules causes many applications to be rejected and creates significant uncertainty for applicants.
The coalition of groups has written an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) and Health Minister Vlastimil Valek (TOP 09), announced by the Human Rights League on behalf of the signatories.
According to the letter, 261 women had filed applications for compensation by the end of May. The state has reached a decision on 74 of them, and 35 have been approved so far.
Since the beginning of this year, victims of unlawful, forced sterilisation have been able to apply for CZK 300,000 of compensation from the state. Compensation is available for those who underwent sterilisation between 1 July 1966 and 21 March 2012 without their free consent and without knowledge of the consequences of the surgery. The women opted for sterilisation after being pressured into it, often by threatening the withdrawal of their children or social benefits. In some cases, they were motivated by a financial or other reward granted to them in the name of a “healthy population”. This approach from state authorities was based on official directives of the time.
Victims can apply for compensation to the Ministry of Health, which has 60 days to process the application. If an application is approved, the recipient should receive the compensation in 30 days.
The authors of the law said compensation may be sought by about 400 people, and the costs would amount to about CZK 120 million.
“Along with other organisations, we are calling for a remedy to the current status quo that puts the victims in an uncertain position. The main problem is the failure to observe the legal deadlines and to recognize other evidence than medical documentation. In many cases, the medical files were shredded long ago,” said Elena Gorolova, from the Association of Victims of Unlawful Sterilization, and Anna Stefanidesova, a lawyer from the Human Rights League.
The open letter has been signed by representatives of Roma organisations and organisations in support of women and human rights, and also by some members of the Government Council for Roma minority affairs. Signatories include Charter 77 Foundation director Bozena Jirku, sociologist Fedor Gal, deputy ombudsman Monika Simunkova, and Cenek Ruzicka from the Committee for Romany Holocaust Compensation.
The signatories expressed their concern that with the current rules, the compensation process is failing, and thus undermining the victims’ trust. They state that the procedure lasts longer than the stated two months, and applicants without medical documentation never receive compensation, even in cases where the documentation had been unlawfully shredded, destroyed or lost.
The Europe Roma Rights Center (ERRC) presented its suspicion of forced sterilisations in the Czech Republic in 2004. Dozens of women then reported to the Czech ombudsman, and some turned to the courts. The Czech cabinet apologised for the unlawful procedures in 2009, but the law on compensation for the victims was not passed until 2021.