Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Summary record of the 8th meeting
Held at the Palais Wilson, Geneva, on Thursday, 17 February 2022, at 3 p.m.
Consideration of reports (continued)
(a)Consideration of reports submitted by States parties in accordance with articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant(continued)
Third period ic report of Czechia
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
Consideration of reports (continued)
(a)Consideration of reports submitted by States parties in accordance with articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant (continued)
Third period ic report of Czechia (E/C.12/CZE/3; E/C.12/CZE/Q/3; E/C.12/CZE/RQ/3)
1.At the invitation of the Chair, the delegation of Czechia joined the meeting.
2.Ms. Baršová(Czechia),speakingviavideolink,saidthatshewishedtodrawtheCommittee’sattentiontothemostsignificantdevelopmentsintheimplementationoftheCovenantsincethesubmissionoftheStatepartyreport(E/C.12/CZE/3) in2019.InlinewiththeCommittee’srecommendations,CzechiahadrecentlyadoptedaseriesofstrategiesfortheimplementationofCovenantrights.TheStrategicFrameworkforEmploymentPolicyuntil2030reflectedcrucialtrendssuchaspopulationageingandthefourthindustrialrevolutionandsetgoalstocreateanindividualized,adaptableandeffectiveemploymentpolicy.
16.Hewouldwelcomeanupdateonthestatusofthesame-sexmarriagebillandtheproposedgovernmentstrategyonequalityandtheeliminationofbarrierstoadignifiedlifeforlesbian,gay,bisexual,transgenderandintersexpersonsintheState party for the period2021–2026.HewouldalsobegratefulforinformationontheimpactoftheActionPlanontheBalancedRepresentationofWomenandMeninDecision-makingPositionsfor2016–2018,the“+1”Strategy,andtheGenderEqualityintheLabourMarketproject.
The meeting was suspended at 3.35 p.m. and resumed at 3.40 p.m.
18.The Government was considering the possibility of the country becoming a party to the Optional Protocol. A review had been conducted in 2020 to determine the compatibility of national legislation with the Covenant. However, several areas where national law was not consonant with the Covenant had been discovered and it had been decided to postpone any discussion of the ratification of the Optional Protocol until 2025 to allow time for the necessary legislative amendments to be made.
19.With regard to the establishment of a national human rights institution, two possibilities were currently being studied: amending the mandate of the Office of the Public Defender of Rights or establishing an entirely new institution. The Office was already active in a number of areas related to human rights, including torture prevention, the protection of persons with disabilities and children’s rights and had the power to submit opinions in proceedings before the Constitutional Court.
20.The Government was aware that the national legislation governing the shifting of the burden of proof in cases of discrimination, which met the requirements of European law, had not yet been brought fully into line with the national legislation governing the prohibition of discrimination in general, which established a level of protection that went beyond European law. It planned to take steps to address that issue as part of a wider reform of civil procedure.
21.Under the previous administration, a comprehensive strategy on promoting and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had been prepared in consultation with civil society, academia and stakeholders, but had not been adopted. The strategy was based on European policy and incorporated the best practices of other countries in the region. The Government was deliberating whether to adopt that strategy or develop a new one.
22.Similarly, under the previous administration, a bill on same sex marriage had been submitted to the Chamber of Deputies but had ultimately not been adopted. The current Government had no plans to submit a similar bill; however, civil society organizations, with the support of some members of parliament, were lobbying for the discontinued bill to be resubmitted as a member’s bill. There were plans to reform the legislation governing civil partnerships, but they were still in the very early stages.
23.Mr. Hennebelsaid that he wished to know whether the Government had taken steps to implement the European Parliament resolution of 26 February 2014 on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality; whether it had considered ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence; and whether the delegation could provide examples of decisions or rulings granting reparations to Roma women who had been the victims of forced sterilization.
24.Ms. Shin(Country Task Force), noting that the State party had strategies and action plans for the promotion of the economic, social and cultural rights of a number of vulnerable groups, said that it would be useful to know whether and how representatives of the groups in question had been consulted during the development of those strategies and action plans. He would also be interested to hear whether the Government had developed entirely new strategies for the period 2021–2030 or had updated existing strategies. Further information on the results achieved and challenges overcome during the first year of implementation of those strategies would also be welcome.
25.Mr. Uprimny, speaking via video link, said that, in the light of the Committee’s statement on universal and equitable access to vaccines for COVID-19 (E/C.12/2020/2), he would be interested to learn about the State party’s position on the waiver of intellectual property rights as a means of ensuring universal access to COVID-19 vaccines and the position that it defended in that regard within the European Union.
26.Mr. Windfuhrsaid that the State party should consider ratifying the Optional Protocol straight away rather than waiting until 2025. The application of the Committee’s Views in future cases would help the Government to identify and fill any gaps in the law to ensure compliance with the Covenant.
27.Ms. Baršová (Czechia) said that the Government’s approach to the adoption of strategies and action plans was harmonized with the European Union’s planning periods. Thus, new strategies and action plans had been adopted at the start of the new decade. Such documents tended to contain a mixture of new measures and existing measures from previous strategies that had proven successful, and included both legislative and non-legislative measures. For example, the Gender Equality Strategy 2021–2030 provided for non-legislative measures, including the allocation of European Union funds to gender-equality initiatives, capacity-building activities for civil society organizations working in the area of gender equality, incentives to encourage employers to promote the reconciliation of work and family life, and measures to increase the availability of child care.
28.Recent gender-equality initiatives had resulted in some notable successes, such as in the parliamentary elections of 2021, when a record 25 per cent of the members elected to the Chamber of Deputies were women, thanks to the concerted efforts of local campaigners, supported by the Government, to encourage voters to rank female candidates highly on their ballot papers. In addition to the Gender Equality Strategy, the Government had developed specific action plans on ending gender-based violence, closing the gender pay gap and implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security.
29.Pursuant to a law adopted in 2021, a reparations mechanism had been established whereby the victims of forced sterilization could apply for compensation from the Government of up to 300,000 koruny. The establishment of the mechanism was the result of many years of discussion and activism, in which Roma women had played an indispensable role. According to recent studies, around half of the Roma population in the country lived in socially excluded areas. The Agency for Social Inclusion worked with local authorities in those areas to offer assistance to Roma persons in need, but had had only limited success. The Roma Integration Strategy up to 2020 had had mixed results, with some successes in the area of culture and remembrance of the Holocaust, but less success in areas such as employment. The new Strategy for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation 2021–2030 contained a mixture of new measures and successful measures from the previous strategy. It had been prepared in close consultation with representatives of the Roma community and was linked to the European Council Recommendation 2021/C 93/01 of 12 March 2021 on Roma equality, inclusion and participation.
30.Ms. Chmelíčková (Czechia), speaking via video link, said that the detention of migrants was a measure of last resort, both under the treaties to which the country was a party and under European Union legal provisions, which had to be transposed into national law. Consequently, the police had to assess available alternatives to detention before a detention order could be issued. Detention rates in recent years had ranged from 10 to 16 per cent.
31.The detention of children was prohibited under the Asylum Act. Under the Act on the Residence of Foreign Nationals, children whose parents were detained could be housed with them for limited periods of time in special facilities where no single men were placed. A new dedicated facility had been built in a wooded area, at a distance from airports and high traffic areas, and was fully equipped to accommodate children. Social workers and leisure time activity coordinators could organize activities for the children outside the facility. Some 10 children were placed with their parents in such facilities each year.
32.Eleven unaccompanied minors had arrived in Czechia in 2019 and 22 in 2020. Because of the situation in Afghanistan, the number of single males entering the country illegally and claiming to be minors had increased sharply in 2021. That year, 98 such males – all Afghans – had been determined to be adults. Many had been detained in view of their transfer to other European Union member States in which they were already registered. The tens of minors about whose age there was no doubt had not been detained, but had been placed directly in a special school.
33.There were some 500 stateless persons in Czechia: 400 had permanent residence, which gave them the same rights as Czech nationals, and 92 were under a temporary stay regime. The current statelessness determination procedure had been in place since August 2021. Proceedings were under way to determine the status of 11 individuals. Twenty-two of the 42 decisions handed down thus far had resulted in the granting of stateless status. On the basis of that status, individuals could be issued identity documents that were also valid for travel, and long-term national visas that gave them the same rights to health care, housing, education and employment as foreign nationals with long-term visas. Holders of such visas could apply for a residence permit after one year and for a permanent residence permit at a later point. Under the Citizenship Act, certain citizenship requirements, such as those relating to the length of stay, could be lifted for stateless persons. Access to citizenship was also simplified for children born stateless. Ministry of the Interior staff explained the available options to stateless persons when they applied for visa extensions or residence permits.
34.Mr. Janeček (Czechia), speaking via video link, said that the eligibility requirement for a retirement pension was a minimum of 15 years of contributions, in which case a pension could be paid from when the recipient was five years older than the mandatory retirement age. Under bilateral agreements in place, pension contributions made in other countries could be taken into account in determining pension eligibility. Individuals who were not eligible for retirement pensions could receive non-contributory benefits. For some benefits, there was no required length of residence, and for others the period was one year.
35.Ms. Hlaváčová (Czechia), speaking via video link, said that a compensation mechanism had been set up under the Ministry of Health in early 2022 to provide amounts of up to 300,000 koruny to women who had been sterilized without their informed consent between June 1966 and March 2012. Thus far, some 115 applications had been received and were being processed. Forced sterilization had been prohibited by law since 2012.
36.The Government’s position on patent exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments was that of the European Union, under whose competence such questions fell. Czechia did, however, promote access to vaccines through its contributions to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
37.Ms. Baršová (Czechia) said that the Government did not plan to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence in the near future but would hold discussions on the matter.
38.Ms. Lemus de Vásquez (Country Task Force) said that she wished to learn about any measures that had been taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect workers’ jobs and incomes, including the scope of the measures, the percentage of the workforce that they had applied to and whether they were still in force. She would welcome additional details on the Strategic Framework for Employment Policy until 2030, including its main objectives and scope. It would also be helpful to have disaggregated data on the impact that the State party’s unemployment reduction measures had had on persons with disabilities, women with children, persons over 50 years of age, young Roma persons and young persons with migrant backgrounds.
39.She would be interested to learn whether the State party planned to collect data on the number of persons employed in the informal sector and take steps to safeguard their rights. She wished to know how many of the 181 fines imposed in 2019 for infringements of minimum wage regulations had been paid and how many such infringements and fines there had been in 2020 and 2021. It would be helpful to hear about the outcomes achieved by applying the State party’s methodology to promote the principle of equal pay for equal work and whether any future measures had been developed on the basis of those outcomes. It would also be interesting to find out the results of the analysis undertaken of the labour practices of 15 employers using the Logib analytic tool and learn whether any action had been taken on the basis of the results.
40.She wished to know how the handbook for public authorities on the handling of sexual harassment in the workplace was being used in practice and whether there were any mechanisms for filing complaints or punishing perpetrators of such harassment. She would appreciate clarification of the State party’s stance on the removal of the current restrictions on the right to strike. She wondered whether the Government was considering any initiatives to adapt pension requirements to the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, including by making the number of years of work required proportional to the number of years of residence, and whether it planned to enter into bilateral agreements on pensions with refugees’ countries of origin. It would also be helpful to have information on any efforts to remove the restrictions on the legal capacity of persons with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities that interfered with their ability to gain access to social security regimes and on any steps taken to ensure that they received the reasonable accommodation required to gain access to social services.
The meeting rose at 4.50 p.m.