IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Autor)
The information provided below on domestic violence in the Czech Republic is in addition to that found in the April 2002 overview Czech Republic Country Assessment, published by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) of the United Kingdom.
The general situation of domestic violence and legislation relating to it
According to the non-governmental
organization (NGO) White Circle of Safety (WCS, Bily kruh
Domestic violence is not defined either in a law enactment or in any regulation. It doesn't constitute a separate body of the crime. Police [don't] file it separately. The most common form of a solution used by the police is a reproof. There isn't any system of adequate reaction to domestic violence. Our statutes and inadequate social network have caused this situation. The law in the Czech republic is incomplete and a domestic violence offender may be punished only with great difficulties. Therefore domestic violence remains very often non-punishable. And a victim doesn't have any place to turn to... (n.d.).
The section on "Women's Rights" of the
Annual Report 2002 of the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights (IHFHR) reported that the
issue of domestic violence has only recently been recognized as a problem in Czech society, and nearly all measures to address the problem so far have been taken by non-governmental organizations. Also in 2001, public authorities remained unwilling to act in this field and initiate proper legislation. Statistics showed that up to 30% of women in the country had experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives (2002).
In mid-August 2002, Hana Snajdrova, a desk
officer of the Department of Crime Prevention in the Czech Ministry
of the Interior, reported to the UN Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that it was estimated that at
least 16 per cent of those over the age of 15 had experienced some
form of domestic violence (United Nations 8 Aug. 2002). However,
Country Reports 2001 reported the commonly held belief
among researchers and NGOs that domestic violence and rape cases
are "greatly underreported" in the Czech Republic (4 Mar. 2002,
sec. 5). The report stated that
legislation does not address spousal abuse specifically; however, the Criminal Code covers other forms of domestic violence. An attack is considered criminal if the victim's condition warrants medical treatment (incapacity to work) for 7 or more days. If medical treatment lasts less than 7 days, the attack is classified as a misdemeanor and punished by a fine not to exceed approximately $80 (3,000 Czech crowns-approximately one fourth of the average monthly wage). Repeated misdemeanor attacks do not result in stricter sanctions on the abuser (ibid.).
Michaila Marksova-Tominova of the Prague
Gender Studies Centre, an NGO which campaigns for women's rights,
agreed that domestic abuse only becomes a crime if the victim is
unable to work at least than seven days (The Independent 1
Apr. 2002). Marksova-Tominsova added that the Czech parliament has
"repeatedly rejected proposals to change the law" (ibid.).
In mid-August 2002, the Czech Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Miroslav Fuchs reported to CEDAW that even though domestic violence was not listed as a specific criminal offence in the law of the Czech Republic, it "could be punished as assault and batter, among other offences" (United Nations 8 Aug. 2002). The Interior Ministry desk officer referred to above reported to the same CEDAW committee that the government was considering revisions of the legislation to deal more specifically with the issue of domestic violence, but that it is a lengthy and extensive process (ibid.).
In his mid-August 2002 report to CEDAW, the
Czech Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Miroslav Fuchs,
while admitting that domestic abuse had been "a taboo topic for a
long time," added that the government and NGOs had "spotlighted"
the issue as an area of concern (United Nations 8 Aug. 2002). Fuchs
stated that the government had launched a public awareness campaign
in 2001 encouraging the public to "openly identify the problem"
(ibid.). The Interior Ministry desk officer reported to the same
CEDAW committee that the Ministry of the Interior provided a list
of shelters and contacts for victims of domestic violence on its
Website (ibid.). The desk officer added that in April 2001, the
Ministry had established an interdepartmental working group to
concentrate on the issue of domestic violence (ibid.).
According to Country Reports 2001, the Ministry of the Interior offers the police a training program on how to investigate cases of domestic violence and rape in order to improve police handling of such cases and the prosecution of abusers (4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). Country Reports 2001 added that the police did not yet co-operate with welfare and social services on a regular basis (ibid.). However, in mid-August 2002, the above-mentioned desk officer of the Department of Crime Prevention in the Ministry of the Interior reported to CEDAW that the Ministry "was planning a specialized training course for police on how to deal with victims of crime" (United Nations 8 Aug. 2002).
According to Country Reports 2001, the Police Academy and secondary police schools have also introduced "instructional material to improve the identification and investigation of domestic violence and sexual abuse and to sensitize police to the treatment of victims" (4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5).
Services for victims of domestic violence
According to the Annual Report
2002 of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
(IHFHR), the majority of services for victims of domestic violence
are provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (2002, sec.
Country Reports 2001 states that according to NGOs, there are 107 government-supported shelters, located most of the major cities and towns throughout the country, that accept female victims of rape and abuse (4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). The Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Miroslav Fuchs told a CEDAW committee in mid-August 2002 that approximately 30 shelters intended specifically for women with children were receiving government funding (United Nations 8 Aug. 2002). The Deputy Minister did not clarify whether or not these shelters were designated for female victims of domestic violence and their children.
According to Country Reports 2001, local NGOs also provide social and medical assistance to female victims but admit that space in shelters is lacking (4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). In mid-August 2002, the Czech Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Miroslav Fuchs reported to CEDAW that the kinds of assistance offered to victims of domestic violence included safe shelters, counselling, and emergency hotlines (United Nations 8 Aug. 2002). Fuchs did not specify whether these services were provided by the state or by NGOs.
The following organizations are examples of services for victims of domestic violence:
White Circle of Safety (WCS; Bily kruh bezpeci): registered in September 1991 (IVW Feb. 2002), it was the first organization of its kind to focus on the needs of crime victims and to be staffed by volunteers (Schwab Foundation n.d.a). It provides free psychiatric and legal help for victims of violent crime and provides assistance in dealing with the police (ibid.; IVW Feb. 2002; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). WCS also offers training for police officers, judges and staff of shelters to increase their awareness of the rights and needs of victims (Schwab Foundation n.d.a). In 2001, WCS started a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of domestic violence (ibid.; White Circle of Safety n.d., sec. 7), receiving more than 2000 calls in the first four months of operation (Schwab Foundation n.d.a). In 2001, WCS also carried out a media campaign throughout the country to increase public awareness of domestic violence (ibid.; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). WCS has branches in Prague, Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava, Pardubice and Pilsen (IVW Feb. 2002). WCS's clientele consists primarily of female victims, and in 2001, it assisted 800 individuals (ibid.). WCS reported that the majority of its clientele "complained of the lack of information about the process of criminal investigation, the insensitive attitude of the state authorities and institutions, ... and the inadequate recognition of the rights of the victim and inadequate protection of the victim in criminal procedure" (ibid.).
Riaps: a help line that counsels persons who experience any form of trauma (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). According to the Czech Ministry of the Interior, Riaps is a crisis centre offering psychological assistance 24 hours a day (Czech Republic 2000).
Elektra: a non-profit organization for adult women victims of sexual abuse or incest that provides psychotherapy, marriage/relationship counselling, as well as self-defense instruction (Elektra n.d.; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 5). Established in 1995, Elektra is reportedly the only organization of its kind (Elektra n.d.).
Counseling Center for Women in Crisis: established in 2000 by the Environment Law Service (ELS) (18 Oct. 2002a), this center is located in Brno and offers advice and legal representation to female victims of domestic violence (ibid. 18 Oct. 2002b). In addition to its staff, a Supreme Court lawyer also volunteers (ibid.).
For detailed information on the legal aspect of domestic violence, please consult the attachment entitled "Legal Analysis of the Problem of Domestic Violence in The CR" that was prepared by the coordinator of the Environmental Law Service (ELS)'s Counseling Center for Women in Crisis.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices for 2001. 4 March 2002. United States Department of
[Accessed 17 Oct. 2002]
Czech Republic. Ministry of the
Interior. 2000. "Prevence kriminality-Domaci nasili." http://www.mvcr.cz/prevence/obcanum/rady/obecne/obet_zlo.html
[Accessed 30 Oct. 2002]
Elektra. n.d. "Elektra: Support Center
for Child Abuse Women Survivors." http://members.tripod.com/~Elektra_cz
[Accessed 30 Oct. 2002]
Environmental Law Society (ELS). 18
October 2002a. "History." http://www.i-eps.cz/php/index-en.php?cat=abo
[Accessed 18 Oct. 2002]
_____. 18 October 2002b. "The Human
Rights Protection Program Included OPH Project." http://www.i-eps.cz/eng/about/humanrights.html
[Accessed 18 Oct. 2002]
_____. 18 October 2002b. "Mission." http://www.i-eps.cz/php/index-en.php?cat=abo
[Accessed 18 Oct. 2002]
According to its Website, the ELS "is a non-governmental, non-profit organization of lawyers who use law to further the public interest. Our aim is to eliminate cases of unlawful and improper decision-making by state offices in matters of the environment and human rights, to help people gain access to the courts, to build the knowledge and skills of non-profit organization staffs, to expand the ranks of public-interest lawyers, and to help bring about a high-quality legal code. This way of using the tools of law to protect and support important societal values is "public interest law" and thus ELS is a public interest law organization" (18 Oct. 2002c).