Header image for news printout

Committee against Torture examins report of the Czech Republic

GENEVA (3 May 2018) - The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of the Czech Republic on the efforts made by the State party to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture.

Introducing the report, Andrea Baršová, Director, Human Rights and Minority Protection Department, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, said that the Czech Republic had adopted many new measures since the last report, particularly in the areas of imprisonment and prison conditions, detention of foreigners, inclusive education, human trafficking, and criminal liability of legal persons.  The State party was also considering an amendment to the Criminal Code to align the definition of torture with all of the elements contained in article 1 of the Convention.  Concerning changes to prison conditions and the imprisonment of persons, the Criminal Code enacted on 1 January 2010 expanded options to use alternative sentences to immediate imprisonment: house arrest and a ban on attending sports, cultural and other social events.  In January 2016, the Government approved the Concept of the Prison System, which laid out a plan of measures aimed at reducing the recidivism of criminal behaviour and effectively reintegrating released prisoners into society.  New amendments to the Criminal Code had been made concerning human trafficking to enable the sanctioning of offenders.  Also, the offence of the unauthorized employment of foreigners covered situations where the offender unlawfully employed or mediated the employment of a foreigner consistently, repeatedly or under particularly exploitative working conditions.  

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts drew attention to the situation of the Roma, legal reparations to Roma women who were victims of forced sterilization, and placement of Roma children in special schools for children with disabilities.  Experts noted that one-third of special schools were occupied by Roma children, and stressed that if an individual child was placed in an establishment below their intellectual capacities, they were in a situation that was considered particularly humiliating and degrading.  The State needed to remedy that practice which was tantamount to degrading treatment.  Experts further highlighted the situation of asylum seekers and refugees, administrative detention of migrants, stateless persons, the role of the Ombudsman, extradition, expulsion and diplomatic guarantees, detention conditions, prison overcrowding, xenophobic statements made by high-ranking Government officials often directed at Muslims and refugees, conditions in psychiatric facilities, secret detention and solitary confinement, health and medical examination of prisoners, lodging of complaints concerning torture or ill-treatment in detention, reparation for victims of torture, definition of administrative detention, and suicide among prisoners.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Baršová appreciated the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges with the Committee, noting that the delegation would take those issues to the capital to reflect on them and to explore ways to improve the situation.  

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its diligent replies, and reminded that the Committee would pick several recommendations for immediate follow-up by the State party.

The delegation of the Czech Republic included representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.  

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 4 May, at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the third periodic report of Tajikistan (CAT/C/TJK/3).

Report

The sixth periodic report of the Czech Republic can be read here: CAT/C/CZE/6.

Presentation of the Report

ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director, Human Rights and Minority Protection Department, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, began by thanking the Committee for their previous recommendations and welcomed the opportunity to continue the open dialogue.  The Czech Republic had adopted many new measures since the last report, particularly in the areas of imprisonment and prison conditions, detention of foreigners, inclusive education, human trafficking, and criminal liability of legal persons.  Currently, discussions on the penalties of all forms of ill treatment under the Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights were underway.  The State party was also considering an amendment to the Criminal Code to align the definition of torture with all of the elements contained in article 1 of the Convention.

Concerning changes to prison conditions and the imprisonment of persons, the Criminal Code enacted on 1 January 2010 expanded options to use alternative sentences to immediate imprisonment: house arrest and a ban on attending sports, cultural and other social events.  Electronic bracelets would be used to control compliance with house arrest sentences and would monitor the location of convicted persons and ensure their adherence to the imposed punishment.

In January 2016, the Government approved the Concept of the Prison System, which laid out a plan of measures aimed at reducing the recidivism of criminal behaviour and effectively reintegrating released prisoners into society.  Programmes were introduced for sentenced prisoners but also ensured that they had assistance after their release, including social work, debt counselling, assistance in cases of addiction, education and retraining and literacy courses.  One of the goals of the Concept was to create a system of support for governmental organizations and other bodies offering those programmes and activities.  Under the Concept, conditions for persons in custody had also been improved with the restructuring of custody departments and allowing convicted persons to have private cells and providing dormitories for smaller groups.  Also, at least two new prison facilities were planned for construction and they would meet the latest requirements required of the prison system.

In January 2014, the rule of the exceptional use of handcuffs in police cells was enshrined in the Guidelines of the Police President on escorts, guarding of persons and on police cells.  The handcuffing of a person in the police cell was reported by the officers in the official records during detention.  Combatting domestic and gender-based violence had also become a preoccupation of the Czech Republic.  In 2015, the Government had adopted an Action Plan on the Prevention of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence for the years 2015-2018, in line with the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), which the State party hoped would be ratified before the end of this year.  This Plan covered not only domestic violence but also other forms of gender-based violence, namely rape, sexual harassment and stalking.

In addition, Czech law now contained measures to protect victims of domestic and gender-based violence.  Police could banish violent offenders from the shared home for up to 10 days and the court could also limit or even exclude the spouse’s right to live in the shared household for up to six months if the living situation was deemed unbearable due to physical or mental violence.

The 2013 Act on Victims of Crime declared that State authorities and other entities must treat victims politely, considerately and with respect for their dignity.  Victims had the right to comprehensible information about their rights and duties and vulnerable victims, including children, were provided with professional legal assistance free of charge.  Also introduced were measures to reduce the regular detention of foreigners by giving alternatives to detention and assessing them before deciding on their detention.  These alternatives were introduced in the Act on Asylum in 2015.  Due to a large increase in the number of foreigners detained because of the migration crisis, staff numbers were increased in detention centres for foreigners.  Certain facilities were removed of their hardened exteriors to make them more welcoming places for families of foreign nationals in detention.

In the area of inclusive education, pro-inclusive amendments to the Schools Act, effective 2016-2017, provided for the inclusive education of all pupils with special educational needs, including Roma children and children with disabilities.  This new system provided each child with the best education according to his or her needs on an equal basis with others in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Educational programmes had been established to train professional workers of social services about the detection and prevention of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment of persons.  There was also training provided for judges by the Judicial Academy, as well as prosecutors and workers of the Prison Service of the Czech Republic.

New amendments to the Criminal Code had been made concerning human trafficking with the definition of human trafficking changed to enable the sanctioning of offenders.  Also, the offence of the unauthorised employment of foreigners covered situations where the offender unlawfully employed or mediated the employment of a foreigner consistently, repeatedly or under particularly exploitative working conditions.  Ms. Baršová continued by informing that a new Act on the criminal liability of legal persons and proceedings against them went into effect in 2012.  Under this law, legal persons could now be prosecuted for criminal offences, including crimes of torture and other inhumane and cruel treatment.  Pertaining to sterilisation and surgical castration, a Law on Specific Health Care Services, in effect since 2012, allowed sterilisation to be carried out either due to health reasons or other reasons with a compulsory period of seven days of reflection between the provision of the information and the granting of consent of sterilisation for health reasons.  Similar rules applied to surgical castration.  Castration could also be performed on individuals above 21 years of age, with a diagnosed parahphilic disorder, which either resulted or would result in committing a sexually motivated crime and where other treatment options could not be used.

Finally, the Office of the Ombudsperson contributed in a significant manner to the prevention of ill-treatment in the Czech Republic.  In line with the Optional Protocol, the Office of the Ombudsperson conducted visits to facilities and evaluated treatment conditions, then formed recommendations for the improvement of standards and education, and advocated systemic changes if necessary.

Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs

CLAUDE HELLER, Country Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, began by commending the State party for their diverse efforts, including the adoption of laws, action plans and strategies in a number of different areas.  In his view, this indicated the State’s desire to make further inroads to promoting and protecting human rights.

The situation of the Roma had been a matter of concern for many treaty bodies. This was a group of people that had endured racially motivated hatred and violence.  Also, asylum seekers and refugees in the Czech Republic were in a critical state with particular concern for the public’s reaction to these groups as social media portrayed them with harmful stereotypes.

Turning to the criminalization of acts of torture, it was noted that the State’s position on this issue was being analysed to bring it in line with the Convention.  Who was undertaking the analysis and when would the results be known, asked Mr. Heller, as a group of non-governmental organizations had found that the Czech Republic had yet to include appropriate criminalization laws for acts of torture, and this was of concern.

Concerning the role of the Ombudsman, it was found that in the Czech Republic, there was no human rights institution operating under the guidelines of the Paris Principles.  The current Office of Ombudsman had laws governing its functions, and carried out independent investigations and issued recommendations, which the authorities were required to heed.  The Ombudsman also monitored detention centres and was appointed by parliament for a period of six years but they relayed information that the scope of their powers was limited.  What were the barriers to the creation of a national human rights institution?  The powers of the Ombudsman had been extended in certain areas but were still found to be restricted.

An essential part of the report, said Mr. Heller, was the issue of extradition, expulsion and diplomatic guarantees.  Could the State party provide updated statistics concerning these areas?  Expulsions were conducted without regard as to the implications for the refugees, migrants and foreign nationals concerned. Would they be tortured when they returned to their country of origin, for example?  Extradited people had a guarantee of due process, non-transfer to a third State and were not subject to the death penalty; however, there were contradictions to this in the Czech Republic.  Was this a regular practice by Czech diplomatic personnel?

The State was quite open in recognizing its shortcomings in detention centres for foreign nationals.  New detention centres had been created and older ones had been updated, but in 2015 the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights had indicated that, on the basis of credible reports, human rights violations of migrants were not isolated but were rather systematic and appeared to be part of a comprehensive policy by the Government to dissuade migrants.  Refugees had suffered in their country of origin and on their migratory route.  When they arrived at certain detention centres, conditions were “worse than prison” with damning reports stating that those centres violated international conventions.

Recent statistics showed that four and a half per cent of the Czech Republic’s population was of foreign origin.  The Government pursued a resettlement programme approved by the European Union, but with exhaustive security checks.  Only 12 people had actually been relocated and the systematic detention of foreigners continued.  What was the actual situation in the Czech Republic for this programme?  The detention of migrants should be used as a matter of last resort with the detention of children being a violation lacking justification.

Speaking about stateless persons, the laws and regulations in the Czech Republic did not reflect the Convention of 1954, including specific provisions for stateless persons, who fell into a general category of foreign nationals.  An individual born on Czech territory could acquire Czech citizenship and one of its parents, if stateless, could remain within Czech borders but what was the number of individuals actually concerned by this situation?

Turning to the subject of Roma, human rights reports agreed that approximately 300,000 Roma people were subject to various areas of discrimination and there was societal prejudice that meant they were excluded from the mainstream.  In 2015 alone, 33 criminal acts were perpetrated against that group and 175 hate crimes were committed in that same year.  Of those crimes, 130 individuals were investigated and 115 prosecuted: three were sent to prison, 37 put on probation and nine sentenced to community service.

In 2014, the Government launched a campaign to end discrimination, which was a noble beginning to ending hate crimes in the Czech Republic, considering xenophobic statements made by high-ranking governmental officials, often directed at Muslims and refugees.  Was the campaign still in effect and if so, could the State party provide further details about its functions?

Integration strategies for these groups, to give them equal footing with Czech people, along with a legal aid and assistance strategy, would greatly help those victims of discrimination.

Conditions in psychiatric facilities were also touched upon.  Czech law did not authorize cage beds but from time to time, it was necessary to use them.  A report found that “other methods and other tools would be brought in to replace them.”  This was a problem, said Mr. Heller.  Cage beds limited the movement of psychiatric patients and were associated with degrading treatment, equal to torture for the disabled and elderly.  It was strongly recommended that these beds be eliminated.

Other degrading treatment was of a historical nature with Roma women subjected to forced sterilization after the Cold War.  The State party was urged to provide legal reparations to the victims of forced sterilization.  The State party had indicated that the main form of reparation was legal action to provide non-pecuniary damages for those persons whose rights had been violated.  In 2015, the Government had considered approving a special law to compensate people who had been illegally sterilized.  However, after careful review, the Government did not agree to compensate victims of this crime as perpetrated in the past, finding that those victims had effective recourse, which they were to use in a timely fashion.  Thus, 60 cases sent to the general prosecutor’s office were rejected.  There needed to be reforms and changes for the victims to be compensated through the judicial system, heeded Mr. Heller.

SEBASTIEN TOUZE, Country Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, spoke about the placement of Roma children in special schools for children with disabilities, with one-third of these establishments occupied by Roma children.  If an individual child was placed in an establishment below their intellectual capacities, they were in a situation that was considered particularly humiliating and degrading.  The State needed to remedy this practice as this genre of segregation was tantamount to degrading treatment.

In a 2017 report destined for the State party’s Chief of Police, the Ombudsman found that people in detention had their rights regularly violated; their dignity was not always respected, with particular regard to body searches.  The searches needed to take place in a location where an individual would not be publicly exposed and should take place by a member of the same sex.  Also, there appeared to be a lack of a legal framework as to how to carry out those searches. Could the delegation provide any information as to how those searches were performed and the legal framework that governed them?

A positive advancement was the fact that closed circuit television and audio recording systems were gradually being placed in cells.  However, Mr. Touze wished to know if the recordings were equally applied during interrogation times or were they strictly used as surveillance for those in custody?  Also, how was legal aid accessed by those in custody?

Like many European States, the number of people in custody in the Czech Republic was steadily growing.  As of February of this year, 22,198 detainees were held in 35 establishments, one of the highest figures in Europe. Incarceration seemed to be a chronic problem for this State party with alternative measures only in their infancy as resources and will-power were in short supply.

Speaking about secret detention and solitary confinement, what information could the State provide concerning the legal framework in which those isolation measures were taken?  How was solitary confinement carried out and what were the provisions?  Was there a way for a prisoner to challenge the isolation?

With regard to the health of prisoners, Mr. Touze asked how many doctors were available to detainees.  His query also delved into prison suicide rates and access to care and mental screening for those detainees potentially at risk of suicide.

There was also a great deal of information missing concerning the numbers of minors in detention.  Reportedly 0.4 per cent of prisoners in the Czech Republic were minors but where were they held?  Were they separated from adult prisoners?  Also, how were these minors supervised, and was there a dedicated staff body to monitor them?

Previous concerns were raised by the Committee as to how prison inmates wishing to lodge a complaint concerning torture or ill-treatment during their detention was carried out.  According to figures supplied by the State, in 2015, 1,278 complaints were registered with 1,209 rejected.  In 2014, 1,259 complaints were registered with 1,192 rejected.  The number of accepted complaints seemed to be relatively low.  What explained this phenomenon?

Pertaining to the reparation for victims of acts of torture, there was an absence of figures and statistics.  How were victims compensated for acts of torture by public officials and why were claims by those individuals requesting compensation limited to a six-month deadline?

Questions by Committee Experts

An Expert began by welcoming the delegation of the State party.  In 2015, the issue of searches had come up, with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights underscoring the treatment of persons in detention, with particular regard to migrants and refugees.  There was nothing obliging strip searches to take place but it was done on a day-to-day basis, in a routine manner.  Detainees were also asked to pay for their own detention costs despite the fact that the conditions verged on inhumane.

There was also a problem when it came to the definition of administrative detention.  It was an infringement that was not well defined in criminal law terms.

Another Expert lamented the lack of statistical evidence to support the current state of affairs in the Czech Republic, which was critical to combat and prevent abuses of the Convention.

Committee Chairperson Jens Modvig asked whether there was a routine medical examination in place when new detainees arrived at a criminal justice institution? It was considered a way of early detection of suicidal cases, which could then be reported to the competent authorities for investigation.  Could the State party provide information as to what could be done to put in place an early detection method such as this?

Follow up Questions by Co-Rapporteur

CLAUDE HELLER, Country Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, was struck by a trend in the prison population, where between 2012 to 2014 the prison population fell by nearly 4,000 people and then went up again. What could explain that sudden decrease and then subsequent increase?

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to Experts’ questions about segregation in education, the delegation explained that the new system of inclusive education was open to all children, without any distinction.  In 2015, preparations for the introduction of the new inclusive education system had begun.  Inclusive access to education presupposed the right to high-quality education for all students, regardless of their individual and social characteristics.  All students with special needs were entitled to free provision of support measures by the school, such as the counselling assistance, adjusting the organization, content, evaluation, forms and methods of education and school services, adapting the conditions of admission, the use of compensatory aids, special textbooks and special teaching aids, the use of communication systems for deaf and deafblind persons, Braille and support or alternative communication systems, and use of teacher assistants.  

The support measures in education were divided in five levels according to organizational, pedagogical and financial requirements.  The first level was implemented by the school or school facility even without the recommendation of a school counselling facility, whereas the second to fifth degree support measures could be applied only with the recommendation of the school counselling facility.  A prior written consent of a student or legal guardian was always a condition for the provision of support measures of the second to fifth degree by the school or school facility.  If a student or legal guardian doubted that the school or school facility was proceeding in accordance with the recommendation of the school counselling facility, he or she could propose to the headmaster of the school to discuss the case with the participation of an authorized employee, and the director was obliged to convene the meeting without any delay.  

The role of the Czech School Inspectorate had shifted from pure evaluation to assessment and counselling with an intention to further improve schools and the education system.  Another fundamental change had taken place in 2016 in pre-school education with an amendment to the Education Act.  Since 1 September 2017, a compulsory pre-school education for children from the age of five had been introduced.  That measure was seen as a significant systemic prevention of possible failures when entering compulsory school education.  Pre-school age children were often at a low level of development of their speech skills, leading to rising numbers of postponements of the compulsory school education.

As for police detention conditions, the delegation said that the authorities were still trying to make improvements.  The 2013 Internal Police Act specified the requirements for all types of cells, and the duration of detention.  According to the Criminal Code, pre-trial detention could last up to 72 hours.  Detained persons had the right to access a medical doctor of their choice.  Police officers could be present, if necessary.  Important information for detainees was available in some 20 languages, in addition to Czech.

It was true that police officers could ask detainees to strip during a body search, but not completely.  Police officers had an obligation to write down a report on each body search.  In case of body searches of minors, police officers needed to be respectful of their age.  Body search was not recorded on security cameras to respect privacy and human dignity.  During visits, police presence was an appropriate measure.  

The General Inspection established in 2012 was tasked to conduct oversight of all the work of the police, to receive complaints of misconduct, and to prosecute cases under the Office of the Public Prosecutor.  It was fully independent of any Ministry.  The General Inspector was appointed by the Prime Minister.  

The Government was required to act against any act of racism and xenophobia.  The Ministry of the Interior conducted crime prevention activities in socially disadvantaged areas.  The number of violent offences against minorities had decreased in recent years, namely in 2014 there were 201 cases, in 2015 there were 175 cases, and in 2016 there were 153 cases.  At the moment, the Ministry of the Interior focused on prevention of hate speech on the Internet.  

Responding to questions about the administrative expulsion of foreigners coming from problematic countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the delegation said that information on non-refoulement and free legal aid had been distributed to the police.  Detained foreigners received information about the Dublin Procedure and its consequences.  Between 2011 and 2017, there were 60 extraditions to a foreign country.

As for the age determination procedure, the authorities had decided to apply a non-medical method to determine age in the form of a psychosocial interview.  However, there were no experts in the Czech Republic.  The United Nations Refugee Agency had found experts to train Czech experts.  

In 2017, there were 1,450 asylum applications lodged in the Czech Republic, and 29 had been granted, mainly to persons from Myanmar, Syria or Turkey.  There were reported cases of alleged denial of asylum procedure at Prague airport.  The Government could not confirm those.  Persons were well informed of the Dublin Procedure before their arrival in the Czech Republic, but they passed to the country on route to their desired final destinations.  Information leaflets of the United Nations Refugee Agency in various languages were readily available at border control points.  There was effective cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior and the police and refugee reception authorities.

Turning to the issue of payment for detention, the delegation noted that there was a clear legal basis in the Police Act and the Aliens Act.  Procedural guarantees had been strengthened in a way that every alien who had paid detention costs would receive an individual decision upon release from the detention centre.  Alternatives to detention for families with children remained problematic because they were transiting to Western Europe and because of the high rate of absconding.  Open-regime centres would allow for better control of movement.  

Administrative detention was not a sentence, but a measure of last resort.  The Czech Republic did not have any stateless minorities, and the number of stateless persons was very low.  Between 2009 and 2015, international protection had been granted to 174 persons, and asylum to 19 persons.  Stateless persons usually asked for asylum.   The new Citizenship Act aimed to prevent statelessness, especially for children.  Its overall impact on stateless persons was difficult to assess due to their low number.  Nearly half a million foreigners resided in the Czech Republic in recent years.

The authorities had extended the provision of legal aid in detention facilities.  The decrease of the prison population in 2013 was due to the amnesty granted by the President of the Republic.  However, due to recidivism, the prison population had increased again.  Prison overcrowding stood at 105 per cent.  The Government was considering applying more financial penalties, as well as decriminalizing certain minor offences, in order to alleviate prison overcrowding.

As for the detention of juveniles, there were 18 prison units and the focus was on an individual approach to each juvenile prisoner.  They were obliged to complete elementary education and encouraged to start vocational education.  In terms of healthcare for prisoners, there were mostly general practitioners and dentists.  Prisoners with psychiatric needs were transferred to prisons that provided such healthcare.  Prisoners at risk of suicide were placed in special cells and were monitored by guards.

At first, the Office of the Ombudsman had not been established as a human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, but nowadays its activities in many ways complied with the Paris Principles.  Its task was to conduct inquiries, analyse situations, and make recommendations to public institutions.  The Office of the Ombudsperson had contributed in a significant manner to the prevention of ill-treatment in the Czech Republic.

The Hate Free campaign had been launched in 2014 and was coordinated by the Agency for Social Inclusion.  The campaign had created a special website, called the Hate Free Culture, and more than 500,000 peoples had visited it.  Another feature of the campaign was the so-called hate free zone.  One of the purposes of the campaign was the rebuttal of hoax stories about foreigners.  Mediation at schools was another project to resolve conflicts in an amicable way.  There were also training programmes for police officers in socially excluded neighbourhoods.  A new campaign was in preparation and it was expected to kick off in 2019.

The reform of psychiatric care was currently in the implementation phase, and 30 pilot projects had been approved.  The first centres were scheduled to start their practice in July 2018.  With respect to the use of restraints, it was not permitted by law.  Most psychiatric hospitals in the country had completely abandoned the use of net beds.  Surgical castration was considered a method of last resort applied to persons with a diagnosed parahphilic disorder, or as a result of committing a sexually motivated crime and where other treatment options could not be used.

Victims of domestic violence had at their disposal a variety of social services, which included intervention centres, asylum houses, and professional counselling.  Assistance was provided immediately after the expulsion of the offender from the common dwelling.  Victims of human trafficking could also use those services.  

ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director, Human Rights and Minority Protection Department, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, informed that the issue of involuntary sterilization of Roma women had been discussed between the Council of Europe and the Czech Republic Government.  The Government’s position was that it could not grant compensation because the assessment of individual cases from the past would be very difficult.   The issue, nevertheless, was still being discussed by the Council of Roma Minority Affairs.

Second Round of Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs
CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, suggested that the delegation submit statistical information on crimes to the Committee as an additional document.  

With respect to alternatives to detention for families with children, it was not clear what the State party would do.  Did it plan to create new centres for them?

The national legislation did not have a definition of stateless persons that was in line with international law.  There was a lack of legislative procedure to determine the status of statelessness, and the State party should make additional efforts in that area.  

As for the Office of the Ombudsman, Mr. Heller noted that the State party should ensure that it could take on a great scope of activities.  It also needed to find a solution for the issue of involuntary sterilization of Roma women.

Despite the introduction of the methodological guide for hospitals and other health care institutions, net beds were still used.  Was the Istanbul Protocol included in the training on identifying torture and ill-treatment, Mr. Heller asked.

SEBASTIEN TOUZE, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, inquired about the number of Roma children in special schools and in classical schools.  Mr. Touze noted that the framework on body searches was still subject to subjective interpretation of the law.

The presence of police agents during the medical examination of detainees seemed to leave open the possibility of psychological pressure on detainees.  Could detainees contest the decision of solitary confinement?  Could civil society representatives carry out visits to places of detention?  

Mr. Touze further inquired about the possibility of automatic referral to psychiatric support for vulnerable prisoners, and the functioning of the complaints mechanism.  Did the State party plan to review the rule about payment for detention?  

Questions by Other Committee Experts
What was the exact definition of individuals that did not have the nationality of the State party?  Foreigners placed in administrative detention for not having met their responsibilities was a very vague concept, an Expert observed.  

Experts further inquired about the oversight of expulsion of foreigners.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, asked about the recruitment of medical doctors to work in detention centres.  What was the procedure for the initial medical examination of detainees?  What was the procedure for prisoners attempting suicide?  Mr. Modvig noted that the State party should consider a systemic overhaul of the prison system.

Replies by the Delegation

On the number of Roma children in special and classical schools, the delegation said that the collection of data on ethnicity was a sensitive issue, and that most Roma were not willing to self-identify.

The assessment of the risk of refoulement was in place, but the problem was that during the migration crisis in 2015 the safeguards had not been fully implemented.  The authorities would not create new facilities for families with children and non-asylum seekers would be placed in existing asylum reception centres, of open and closed types.  

There was no definition of statelessness, but that did not mean that there was a legal vacuum and procedural gap for stateless persons.  They were treated as foreigners.  The Government did not see any need for a structural change of the existing legal framework, but it was in dialogue with relevant international partners, such as the United Nations Refugee Agency.  The Government would closely monitor the situation.

There were two main grounds for the detention of foreigners: administrative expulsion, and for the purpose of transfer under the Dublin Procedure.  The duties of foreigners were clearly stipulated in the Aliens Act.  The police had to elaborate in a very detailed manner the decision for administrative expulsion.  Failure to pay for detention did not constitute a reason for the extension of detention.  The approval rate of asylum applications was reasonable, the delegation noted.  

The role of the Office of the Ombudsman to monitor expulsion was a new competence resulting from the European Union law.  The Ombudsman could monitor not only expulsions from the Czech Republic, but also at the European Union level.  

Prisoners could appeal the decision of solitary confinement.  At the moment, it was not foreseen to allow non-governmental organizations to monitor detention centres, but they could visit.  

The Government needed to resolve the challenge in the recruitment of medical personnel to work in detention centres.  The Ministry of Health was considering banning the use of net beds in psychiatric hospitals.  As for reporting the use of restraints, the authorities reported only on the number of cases rather than details.  

The Istanbul Protocol was not included in the training on identifying torture and ill-treatment, the delegation said.

Concluding Remarks 

ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director, Human Rights and Minority Protection Department, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, appreciated the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges with the Committee, such as the penal system, condition in prisons, detention facilities and police cells, detention of foreigners, psychiatric care and the role of medical personnel in the protection against torture and ill-treatment.  The delegation would take those issues to the capital to reflect on them and to explore ways to improve the situation.  

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its diligent replies, and reminded that the Committee would pick several recommendations for immediate follow-up by the State party.

 __________

For use of the information media; not an official record