GENEVA (22 January 2019) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the initial report of the Czech Republic under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography.
Introducing the report, Andrea Baršová, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, reaffirmed that the Czech Republic cared deeply for children at risk of trafficking, sale, and abuse for child prostitution or pornography, and stressed that it made sure that effective preventive mechanisms were adopted and that those unacceptable crimes were investigated, prosecuted and their perpetrators duly punished. All the acts defined by the Optional Protocol were criminalized by the Criminal Code, she said, and child trafficking - addressed in a special provision on human trafficking in the Criminal Code – included trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, abuse for the creation of pornographic work, transfer of organs, service in armed forces, slavery or servitude, or forced labour and other forms of exploitation of children. The National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings 2016 to 2019 contained actions directly aimed at combatting child trafficking, the Criminal Procedure Code set out guarantees to protect child victims within criminal proceedings, and the Crime Victims Act granted all victims a broad range of rights, including to be protected from secondary victimization.
At the beginning of the dialogue, Committee Experts welcomed the progress made since the Czech Republic’s review in 2011 and the implementation of several of the Committee’s concluding observations, including the ratification of many international instruments relevant to the Optional Protocol, the amendments to the Criminal Code, and the measures taken to protect child victims within criminal proceedings. They stressed the importance of comprehensive and disaggregated data in developing and promulgating laws and policies, and urged the Czech Republic to adopt a specific and comprehensive national action plan and strategy that addressed all the issues under the Optional Protocol and provide it with adequate human and financial resources. The Experts inquired about extradition and extraterritorial jurisdiction, noting that the double criminality condition could contribute to impunity for acts violating the Optional Protocol, especially in the domain of sex tourism. They commended the efforts aimed at preventing and fighting online child sexual exploitation, which unfortunately was increasing, and asked about specific awareness raising activities targeting vulnerable groups of children, in particular Roma and asylum-seeking and migrant children.
Gehad Madi, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, in his concluding remarks, urged the Czech Republic to include in its legal framework the sale of children as defined by the Optional Protocol.
Ms. Baršová concluded by thanking the Committee for the constructive dialogue which would help the Czech Republic focus its attention on urgent and emerging issues, including sex tourism.
The delegation of the Czech Republic consisted of representatives of the Office of the Government, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to review the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Italy (CRC/C/ITA/5-6).
The Committee is considering the initial report of the Czech Republic under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/CZE/1).
Presentation of the Report
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, started by reaffirming that the Czech Republic cared deeply for children at risk of trafficking, sale, and abuse for child prostitution or pornography, and stressed that it made sure that effective preventive mechanisms were adopted and that those unacceptable crimes were investigated, prosecuted and their perpetrators duly punished.
All the acts defined by the Optional Protocol were criminalized by the Czech Criminal Code, she said, and child trafficking - addressed in a special provision on human trafficking in the Criminal Code – included trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, abuse for the creation of pornographic work, transfer of organs, service in armed forces, slavery or servitude, or forced labour and other forms of exploitation of children. The Criminal Code distinguished the offence of trafficking in children, who were more defenceless and more at risk of becoming a victim, and prescribed that this offence did not require other special conditions necessary for the prosecution of human traffickers of adults, including the use of violence, threat of violence or other grievous harm or deceit, or abuse of a victim’s error, distress, or dependency. The 2014 amendments to the Criminal Code had introduced acts prohibited by the Optional Protocol, and new sections had been added criminalizing acts of participation in pornographic performance and the establishment of unauthorised contacts with a child.
Since 2003, the Czech Government had regularly adopted the National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, with the current one covering the period 2016 to 2019 and containing actions directly aimed at combatting child trafficking. In 2017, 14 possible victims of trafficking in persons had been identified, of which 10 were under the age of 18, and girls were more abused for the purpose of child pornography and child prostitution than boys, with the group aged six to 15 being most at risk. The National Correspondent for the fight against trafficking in human beings, abuse of women and children, illegal migration and employment, and the protection of the rights of victims of crime, operated in the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The Criminal Procedure Code set out several guarantees to protect child victims within criminal proceedings, including the obligation of authorities to carry out the interrogation of children in a particularly sensitive manner by a person with relevant training and in a way to ensure that the interview did not have to be repeated at a later stage. Also, 68 special interrogation rooms for children had been established throughout the country. The Crime Victims Act granted all victims a broad range of rights, including to be protected from secondary victimization and the right to monetary assistance, and provided for special protection measures for especially vulnerable victims, including children. Ms. Baršová said that the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare collected data relevant for their respective areas of competence, and stressed that the role of each authority must be considered when interpreting the data.
Questions by the Committee Experts
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, welcomed the progress made since the Czech Republic’s review in 2011 and the implementation of several of the Committee’s concluding observations, including the ratification of many international instruments relevant to the Optional Protocol. The Co-Rapporteur commended the amendments to the Criminal Code and the measures taken to protect child victims within criminal proceedings.
Data collection in a coordinated manner remained an area of weakness, Mr. Kotrane remarked, especially data that would enable follow up on violations of the Optional Protocol, especially in relation to travel and tourism. Disaggregated data on victims, and on prosecutions and sanctions handed down to the perpetrators, were absent too.
The Czech Republic had made efforts to disseminate information about the Optional Protocol, but it seemed that more effort could have been directed at professionals in contact with children, in education, health and social services, and especially those in the judiciary – judges, prosecutors and lawyers, who were directly involved in prosecuting violations of the Optional Protocol.
It seemed that the focus of the prevention and suppression was on trafficking in children, especially across borders, the Co-Rapporteur remarked and congratulated Czechia on its robust legislation on this issue. More attention, however, should be accorded to the acts under the Optional Protocol within the national territory, especially the sale of children and forced labour. Under the law, was it possible to hold a legal person responsible for violations of the Optional Protocol?
GEHAD MADI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, stressed the importance of comprehensive and disaggregated data in developing and promulgating laws and policies on any given issues. The Co-Rapporteur welcomed the National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings 2016-2019, and noting its focus on trafficking in persons, urged the Czech Republic to adopt a specific and comprehensive national action plan and strategy that addressed all the issues under the Optional Protocol and provide it with adequate human and financial resources. The Committee was concerned about the lack of specific and adequate funding for the implementation of the Optional Protocol, which covered various areas of activities, including training, awareness raising, and implementation.
On sexual exploitation of children in tourism, had the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism been disseminated among tour operators and tourist agencies, and were all cases of sexual exploitation of children committed in the country prosecuted, as well as those committed abroad by Czech citizens? Was Czechia a party to The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption?
As for the extra-territorial jurisdiction, did the Czech Republic intend to remove the double criminality condition and might it consider the Optional Protocol as a basis for extradition in the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty.
There were reports that crimes of trafficking and the sale of children, in which there had been an initial consent of the child victim, were sometimes prosecuted under the pimping legislation. The national referral system for child victims under the Optional Protocol was inadequate and child victims were unable to seek compensation because of the high costs of litigation, while they were eligible for the Government’s protection only if they were willing to cooperate with the prosecution. Could the delegation comment?
The Co-Rapporteur commended the efforts aimed at preventing and fighting online child sexual exploitation, which unfortunately was increasing. Was there a strategy in place on the issue, including raising public awareness, integrating online sexual exploitation into the school curricula, and providing training to relevant agents and officers? How did the Czech Republic deal with prostitution in its legal framework?
Another Expert asked about studies into the root causes of child sexual exploitation and whether any specific awareness raising activities were in place that targeted vulnerable groups of children, in particular Roma children and asylum-seeking and migrant children.
Replies by the Delegation
With regard to questions raised on the legal liability of legal persons, a delegate confirmed that they were indeed liable and could be prosecuted for the crimes under the Optional Protocol. The legal framework was set out by the Criminal Code and the new act on the criminal liability of the legal person.
The legislation on trafficking in persons and especially children covered both the acts committed in the country and transboundary acts, the delegate continued, stressing that the definition of trafficking also included a trade or sale in human beings. The sale of children was also covered by the provision prohibiting “entrusting” the child to another person in exchange for a “financial reward”. The legislation also made reference to other forms of exploitation, such as forced marriage of children.
As for data collection, the delegation explained that the statistics were based on the activities and responsibilities of various bodies, agencies and institutions for the protection of the child, which followed various perspectives, and gave an impression that available data was hard to read. The annual report on trafficking in human beings, also published in English, always contained available data and provided data analysis and explanation of trends. The police collected data on reported criminal offences and the number of prosecuted persons; the national centre against organized crime, the specialized unit of the police, provided data on human trafficking, including on the gender and age of the victims and forms of exploitation; and the annual status report on trafficking in persons was also issued, including data on children.
The Ministry of Justice collected data arising from the work of the prosecutors and courts, and some data concerning the victim, for example on her of his relation to the perpetrator. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare collected data on all cases in the area of child protection, including on confirmed and reported or suspected cases, which explained why reported numbers were higher than those reported by the police or the Ministry of Justice.
There were three crisis lines, run by non-governmental organizations and financed by the Ministry of the Interior: a helpline for missing children and children at risk, a children’s helpline, and a line for children victims of crime and domestic violence. In 2017, those three helplines had received 150 calls, 280 emails, and over 2,000 chats. The Government was working on developing an online citizens’ portal, which the people would be able to use for the electronic notification of criminal offences, including online sexual exploitation.
With regard to extradition, the delegation explained that in the absence of a bilateral or multilateral extradition treaty the national law applied. It was based on international cooperation in criminal matters, and provided for extradition in cases of dual criminality, and on the basis of mutuality. There was no intention to remove the requirement of dual criminality, as it seemed excessive to extradite persons for acts that were considered as criminal offences in both concerned countries. The criminal law prohibited prostitution near schools or places designed for children, and well as performing any act of prostitution that could have negative effects on children.
Children victims of prostitution, pornography and the sale of children were considered vulnerable and received protection and support as defined by the individual plan elaborated for each child by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
The facilitation of adoption could only be carried by the public authorities at the regional level and by national offices for the international protection of the child. An adoption facilitated by any other subject represented an administrative offence, punishable by approximately €8,000.
The delegation confirmed that the Optional Protocol was included in both initial and continuing training and education of social workers. Each social worker had a personal education and development plan and had an obligation to dedicate six days a year to her or his competence and skill improvement through the selected courses. The Ministry was working on developing the model of lifelong education of social workers. The Convention and its three Optional Protocols, as well as several commentaries, had been translated and distributed among the social workers and other professionals working with children, in order to raise awareness of those instruments.
The Ministry of Regional Development, which had tourism in its portfolio, had not carried out any awareness raising activities on acts under the Optional Protocol among the travel agencies, but it would soon convene a seminar. In 2017, over 9,000 labour inspections had been carried out with a purpose of detecting illegal work and during which over 3,000 illegal workers had been identified, from the Czech Republic, European Union and non-European Union countries, among them children.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, acknowledged that international instruments and treaties were part and parcel of the Czech legal framework and urged the delegation to ensure that the sale of children was clearly named and prohibited. What were the procedures for the recovery and reintegration of children victims of crimes under the Optional Protocol, and was there a centre where children were accommodated and cared for until their reintegration? Commenting on the existence of three separate helplines for children, the Co-Rapporteur wondered whether it was not confusing for children to decide which one of the three helplines they should be calling with a specific problem, and whether there should not be a unified, Government-run helpline. The Committee insisted on the issue of double criminality in order to prevent impunity for crimes under the Optional Protocol, the Co-Rapporteur commented and asked the delegation to explain the categorization of children to those under the age of 15 and those aged 15 to 18, and asked whether sexual relations with a child aged 15 or above represented a criminal offence.
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, recognized that offences punishable under the trafficking legislation covered a good deal of offences under the Optional Protocol and urged the Czech Republic to bring it fully in line with the Optional Protocol, particularly as far as the sale of children was concerned. On double criminality and extraterritorial jurisdiction, another Expert asked the delegation to explain how Czech authorities would act in a case of a Czech travel agency selling travel packages for the purpose of sex tourism to countries where it was not an offence, and whether the State would exercise jurisdiction over its citizens who purchased such a package, travelled to that country, and raped a child. What was being done to ensure that hotels took measures to guarantee that there was no child prostitution in their premises?
Replies by the Delegation
With regard to comments on the helplines, the delegation explained that there were synergies and cooperation between non-governmental organizations and the Government in the delivery of services to the population, and recognized that there was a need to think through how to ensure the sustainability of financing and resources allocated to activities.
Another delegate explained the process of rehabilitation and reintegration of child victims and said that once identified, each child was taken in by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and its social workers would then develop an individualized support plan which would contain all forms of support, health, psychological, legal and others. There were residential social and other services, however, placing a child in an institution was a measure of last resort. In the meanwhile, there was a range and host of street or ambulatory services available to children, including shelters.
On the inclusion of the sale of children in the law, the delegation explained that the language in the legislation - procure or entrust - was broad and encompassed all actions that could lead to sexual exploitation and the sale of children. Consensual and non-coercive sexual intercourse between an adult and a child aged 15 to 18 was not criminalized.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Czech Republic, in his concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for a constructive and transparent dialogue, after which the Committee had a better understanding of the situation in the Czech Republic. Almost all the crimes under the Optional Protocol, especially those related to trafficking, were already a part of the legal framework, but there was a need to include and criminalize the sale of children as defined by the Optional Protocol.
ANDREA BARŠOVÁ, Director of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Protection, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, concluded by thanking the Committee for the constructive dialogue which would help the Czech Republic to focus its attention on urgent problems. While progress in strengthening the legislation had already been achieved, the Czech Republic remained aware of the changing nature of problems and the society, and would work on addressing emerging issues, including sex tourism.
RENATE WINTER, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and wished them a safe journey home.
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