Victims have been able to apply for compensation under the law since last year. Credit: Freepik.

Over 1,500 Women Claim Compensation For Unlawful Sterilisation

The Czech Health Ministry has received more than 1,500 applications for compensation for unlawful sterilisation, and has so far processed 785 of them and resolved more than 500, according to data presented today by lawyers from the Human Rights League (LLP), which is supporting the victims.

The lawyers highlighted the lengthy compensation procedures. Victims have been able to apply for compensation under the law since last year. They have three years to do so, until the end of next year. Women who underwent the procedure between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012 without their free decision and information about the consequences are entitled to receive CZK 300,000 from the state.

“More than 1,500 applications have been submitted, which is above expectations,” said LLP lawyer Jana Repova. “The women’s situation is difficult in that their medical records were often shredded. The Health Ministry has difficulty accepting other evidence.” 

Out of the 785 applications processed so far, 500 have been met, 178 rejected and the remaining cases have stalled.

LLP have analysed 390 anonymised cases. More than half of them happened after 1989. “This is not just a matter of the past [Communist] regime, as we originally thought,” noted LLP lawyer Anna Stefanidesova.

Activist Elena Gorolova has also been contacted by five women who underwent the procedure without their informed consent after 2012. The compensation law does not apply to them. A case from 2018 is now being resolved with the maternity hospital concerned. Lawyers say the outcome could be known by the end of the year. For now, they would not specify the facility involved.

The ministry has 60 days to process a claim, then sends money within 30 days after the claim is granted. LLP said the legal deadlines are very often being exceeded. Officials managed to process the shortest case in 18 days, while the longest one took about a year. LLP has helped hundreds of women settle their compensation claims. According to Stefanidesova, three-quarters of the applications have succeeded.

Roma and human rights organisations have been calling since last summer for the system of compensation to be adjusted. They complained about the ministry’s failure to comply with the legal deadline for processing cases and its practice of not recognizing any other evidence than medical documentation. They pointed out that these documents have often been shredded, lost or damaged after decades, and that the law allows other documents to be used as evidence.

The process of recognition has been discussed repeatedly by the Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs. The Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Klara Simackova Laurencikova, and the Commissioner for Roma Minority Affairs, Lucie Fukova, previously mentioned efforts to recognize affidavits or testimonies. According to the LLP lawyers, the procedure has not yet been modified.

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) came forward in 2004 with suspicions of forced sterilisations, especially of Roma women. Dozens of women then turned to the ombudsman, the public protector of people’s rights, and some also turned to the courts. The government’s Committee against Maltreatment proposed compensation as early as 2006. In 2009, the Czech government apologised for the unlawful procedures.

Over 1,500 Women Claim Compensation For Unlawful Sterilisation
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