Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews report of the Czech Republic

Committee on the Rights of the Child
31 May 2011

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today examined the combined third and fourth periodic report of the Czech Republic on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Introducing the report, Monika Simunkova, Government Commissioner for Human Rights, said an important step the Government had taken towards strengthening the protection of children was a 2007 amendment to the Criminal Justice Act that established a criminal offence for the possession of child pornography. The new Criminal Code, effective as of January 2010, raised the standard of criminal law protecting children against abuse, exploitation and neglect. The Commissioner for Human Rights said that the Convention had become a document used by increasing numbers of professionals in contact with children and that the Government had implemented the principle of the best interest of the child through various programs, including the National Action Plan to Transform and Unify the System of Care for Vulnerable Children, which indicated a clear preference for child care in the family rather than an institutional environment and the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education, adopted by the Government in March 2010 and designed to ensure equal access and equal opportunities for everyone in the field of education including Roma children, minorities, disabled children and children from other countries.

In preliminary concluding remarks Peter Guran, the Committee expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of the Czech Republic, said there was a lack of coordination among competent organizational bodies with no clear national action plan based on the Convention. There was also a need for an independent monitoring body to oversee children’s rights and complaint mechanisms and more political will was required to provide funding and training to individuals working in the field. The Rapporteur raised concerns about the Roma population, specifically the segregation of Roma children into special schools and encouraged the Government to speak openly about discrimination against Roma children through media awareness campaigns.

Kirsten Sanberg, serving as Co-Rapporteur, raised the issue of children’s participation in society and asked how the Government promoted children’s participation in general and recommended that the Government appoint one Ministry to be the coordinating body to unify work by sector.

Other Experts raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, concerns about the reservation on the right of a child to know their origin and the preference for foster care over adoption; on the high rate of institutionalization of children and suicides among children; on how children learn about their rights and whether or not there was systematic collaboration between the Government and civil society including working with NGOs as competent partners. A number of questions were raised on health issues, specifically what kind of screening was done for newborns or during pregnancy, what was the policy of the Government on breast feeding, why 1 out of every 4 pregnancies led to an abortion, whether there was a national reproductive educational policy in the country and what was being done to reduce the high rate of children’s death from accidents.

The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of the Czech Republic towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on Friday, 17 June 2011.

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

As one of 193 States Parties to the Convention, the Czech Republic is obliged to present periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to comply with the provisions of the treaty. The delegation was on hand today to present the report and to answer questions raised by Committee Experts.

The Committee will reconvene in public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 June to take up the second and third periodic reports of Bahrain.

Report of Czech Republic

According to the combined third and fourth periodic report of the Czech Republic (CRC/C/CZE/3-4), the Czech Republic did not withdraw its reservation to article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child due to the institution of irreversible adoption which states that by the adoption mutual rights and obligations between the adopted child and the original family are extinguished. The Civil Code is in the process of being changed and should include, inter alia, new legislative regulations on irreversible adoption. The new provision stipulates that with regard to the right of each child to know his or her biological parents and the right of each child to preserve his or her identity, the adoptive parents are obliged to inform the adoptive child about his or her biological parents, as soon as they deem it appropriate, however, when the child reaches the age of 12 at the latest.

The age of criminal responsibility of 15 years is retained. A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct he or she has not reached 15 years of age. The Education Act contains provisions on the rights of pupils and on the protection of children from all forms of discrimination, respecting the right to the child’s dignity and respecting equality of sexes (boys and girls). At schools in the territory of the Czech Republic corporal punishment was abolished as early as 1870 and was never resumed. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports announces every year a programme focused on support for education of Roma pupils and students, training of teachers for Roma pupils, preschool preparation of Roma children and carrying out of leisure-time and special-interest activities for Roma children and youth subject to their educational needs.

Accidents are the most frequent cause of death of children and young adults in the Czech Republic. With a view to eliminating this phenomenon, the National Plan of Action on Child Injury Prevention for the period 2007–2017 was developed. This plan maps the existing activities in the area of child injury prevention, assessing these activities in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, taking advantage of the opportunities and averting the threats.

Since April 2000, the concept of public protection of the family, in particular of children, changed. The obligation of authorities for social and legal protection of children to provide assistance to the family in cases where a child has been placed into care outside the family has been further extended so that the authorities should aim to return the child to the family. New legislation applicable to placing the child in foster care under a preliminary injunction was enacted.

The Government has approved the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; nevertheless it has not yet been ratified because of the absence of criminal responsibility of legal entities for criminal acts. The ratification of the Optional Protocol will be postponed until the time when the appropriate legislation is enacted. The introduction of criminal responsibility of legal entities is envisaged by the draft material of the intended substance of the Act on administrative sanctions and should be prepared by the end of 2008.

Presentation of Report

MONIKA SIMUNKOVA, Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, said that the third and fourth combined periodic report of the Czech Republic described developments from the period of 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2006. In the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the new crime of soliciting to sexual intercourse was introduced in the Criminal Code on 1 January 2004. One of the most important steps towards strengthening the protection of children was a 2007 amendment to the Criminal Justice Act, which established the offence of the possession of child pornography. Since then, the abuse of a child to produce and disseminate pornography has also been a separate offence.

The present state of legislation in this field confirmed the trend established in the Czech Republic to combat sexual violence in general effectively, with an emphasis on combating sexual violence against children. The new Criminal Code, effective as of January 2010, raised the standard of the criminal law protecting children against abuse, exploitation and neglect. The crime of endangering a child’s upbringing was formulated, linked to threats to the intellectual, emotional or moral development of the child, using terminology from the Family Act. This crime was committed by offenders who seriously breached their duty to care for a child or any other important obligation related to parental responsibility. The crime of prostitution threatened the moral development of children, and was committed by a person who operated or organized prostitution in the vicinity of schools, educational establishments or other similar facilities or places reserved or designated for the stay of children or for visits by children.

The Convention was a document used by increasing numbers of professionals in contact with children. This fact, together with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in matters concerning the placement of children into institutional care, had led to further positive development in the implementation of the principle of the best interest of the child. Central Government authorities had drawn up procedures for legislative, methodological and procedural changes in the field of institutional care. The State had acknowledged its obligation to provide parents capable of bringing up their children with appropriate assistance, including assistance to overcome adverse housing and material circumstances of the family so that children could remain in their family environment.

The question of the commercial sexual exploitation of children was often linked to the issue of children’s access to and use of social networking sites and their general vulnerability through electronic communications on the Internet. In recent years, combating sexual abuses of children had often taken the form of international cooperation in which the Government was actively involved. The State had also helped to prevent and combat child pornography by fostering cooperation between the police force and non-governmental organizations by operating hot lines to tackle illegal content and web applications on the internet.

The Government had thus far been bound only by one of the two Optional Protocols, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, in the implementation of which the Government had made no practical changes. With regard to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, its adoption still depended on the adoption of legislation concerning the criminal liability of legal entities. The draft legislation was currently being debated by the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament.

The third Optional Protocol to the Convention, relating to a complaints procedure, was supported by the Czech Republic and the Human Rights Commissioner was confident that the mechanism proposed in the Protocol would strengthen the enforcement of children’s rights in both national and international contexts, for example in relation to international child abduction.

In 2009, the Government implemented the National Action Plan to Transform and Unify the System of Care for Vulnerable Children from 2009-2011. This Action Plan had systematically set out concrete measures which would lead to the achievement of the target state after the transformation of the system, including a clear preference for child care in a family rather than an institutional environment, enhanced preventive work with vulnerable families and a reduction in the number of children removed from the custody of their parents, the deepening of the individuals approach and multidisciplinary work and the more active involvement of children and their families in addressing their own situation.

In order to protect vulnerable children, an Early Intervention System was created which was an interdepartmental standardized system of multidisciplinary collaboration and rapid reciprocal information provision. This system created standards for the work of child protection agencies in the form of Teams for Children and Young People at all levels of Government. In recent years numerous cases of child abuse had come to light in the country and the Government had taken steps to remedy the situation by sensitizing the public to the issue of violence against children through public awareness campaigns aimed to change public attitudes and to increase efficiency in detecting these cases. The Government had run a broad based awareness campaign to reduce accidents involving children. The mortality of children under the age of 14 years had shrunk in recent years, which was due not only to the establishment of pediatric trauma centers but also because of prevention campaigns.

The Czech Republic made significant progress with regards to the right of children to education between 2009 and 2011. Action was taken to prevent the placement of Roma children outside mainstream education. One of the initial measures to remedy this situation was the adoption of the Action Plan to implement the Early Care Concept, approved by the Government in 2009, which aimed to increase the openness of nursery schools to provide necessary support for underprivileged children and their families. Since 2009, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports had also launched projects aimed at strengthening the capacity of counseling facilities, accompanied by work on new teaching standards, which should include a definition of the teacher skills needed to work in the classroom on the principle of inclusivity and the implementation of measures aimed at systematically supporting the role of the teaching assistant.

The National Action Plan for Inclusive Education, adopted by the Government in March 2010, was designed to ensure equal access and equal opportunities for everyone in the field of education. The aim of the plan was to increase the degree of the inclusive concept of education and to prevent the social exclusion of individuals and whole social groups. The preparatory phase, to be completed by 2013, would identify specific proposals for strategies and measures aimed at promoting inclusive education at all levels not only with regard to Roma children, but also taking into account other minorities, including disabled children and children from other countries. Numerous measures were taken to clarify and improve diagnostic and intervention work with Roma clients. Counseling facilities should comply with newly defined rules on informed consent and respect the difference that occasionally arose from cultural traditions.

In its policy statement of 4 August 2010, the Government noted that it regarded respect for human rights as the cornerstone on which society and the democratic architecture of a country was built and was the basis for the free life of every citizen. The Government would encourage the social integration of the inhabitants of excluded communities into society, support prevention programmes, and increase the number of school psychologists and special needs teachers at primary and secondary schools.

Central government agencies had worked with regional and local government authorities, with the non-profit sector and with civil society, including the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a body under the Government Council for Human Rights whose members also come from major non-governmental organizations active in the field of children’s rights. The work of this Committee consisted mainly of monitoring the level of respect for children’s rights in society and of proposing measures for improvement. A recent example concerned orphans’ pensions, where the Committee aimed to ensure that all orphans were materially secure even in situations where they had not met the statutory requirements for obtaining an orphan’s pension.

Questions by Committee Experts

PETER GURAN, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of the Czech Republic, said that not all the previous recommendations of the Committee had been fulfilled and noted there were problems with the speed of implementation of the Convention and the lack of a comprehensive State strategy. There was no national action plan and the Committee required a clear message that the Government would have a policy based on the Convention. The Rapporteur said there was a lack of institutional background for receiving complaint mechanisms from children or from representatives of children. The Ombudsman’s office functioned well but was understaffed and there were no persons specialized in the rights of children in the office. The Rapporteur said there was a need to create a body with specialists working in the field of children’s rights and to create different specific departments for the new body. There were too many institutions without sufficient coordination, some under the Ministry of Health, some under the Ministry of Education, Interior and Social Affairs which meant it was not possible to protect the rights of the child under each institution. The Rapporteur raised concerns about the Roma population, specifically the segregation of Roma children into special schools and encouraged the Government to speak openly about discrimination against Roma children through media awareness campaigns to inform and give real information about the situation of Roma children in the country. The Rapporteur noted the many positive reports coming out of the Czech Republic and urged the Government to continue with its long tradition of child protection and looked forward to the new steps that the Government would take.

KIRSTEN SANDBERG, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Czech Republic, said that discrimination was a critical issue and an awareness raising campaign among the public was needed. The recent enactment of anti-discrimination legislation, including the new European Union directives, had only implemented direct and not indirect discrimination. This posed a real problem as indirect discrimination was the most challenging one to overcome. How would anti-discrimination legislation be followed up in practice? There was nothing in the report about children’s participation in society; how did the Government promote children’s participation at the local and regional level and how would their views be taken seriously? Children participated in school boards and there were self-governing bodies in school but though children could be heard they were not taken seriously and how would the Government secure that they were really listened to and taken into account. Concerning individual decisions, in either custody cases or placement in alternative care, would the judge hear the child’s opinion in court, outside court or through another representative, how did the system work and was the hearing child friendly and free of stress.

A Committee member asked about the efforts of the Government to amend legislation, including the new Criminal Code and the adoption of International Labor Organization conventions. The Expert was concerned about the reservation with Article 7 on the right of a child to know their origin, especially as this would not be addressed until 2013. The Expert said this was a basic right and requested information on the possibilities available to a child before the age of 18 to find their origins? Could the delegation provide information on the status of the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography?

A Committee member asked about legal issues, how could the State party ensure that the child could exercise his right to be heard when legal professionals stated that only a child over 12 years old could express his point of view? What was the standard for judicial review of the removal of a child from its home and its placement in foster care? An Expert asked about early marriage in the Roma population and would their new born babies be registered if early marriage was not permitted and was there a criminal sanction against the sale of children?

A Committee member stated that finding alternative support for families to avoid protective measures appeared to be directed only toward vulnerable children and that this was not an integral development of the rights of the child. A register of vulnerable children could be positive but it could also be a measure used for discrimination and the expert would like an explanation of how this register would be used. The Expert asked how the national budget was being assigned to cover the different policies for the application of the Convention. In terms of supporting families with children to find a balance between family and work life, the Expert said this was an interesting and modern concept which supported bringing up children and the development of women. How would the Government see the impact of the private sector on early childhood and the application of the rights of the child?

A Committee member asked for clarification on the Anti-Discrimination Act which was adopted in 2009. In written replies the Government said that discrimination was not considered an illegal act and the Expert would like clarification on this point.

A Committee member asked about the methods the Government used to actively disseminate information on the rights of the child. How would children learn about their rights and how would families learn about the rights of their children so that they could defend these rights? Concerning training on the right to life and survival and development, there appeared to be a greater need for training on this in relation to the high accident rate for children in the country. Was there systematic collaboration between the Government and civil society not only at national but also provincial and municipal levels? Did the Government regard non-governmental organizations as competent partners in protecting all aspects of children’s rights and had the State provided any funding to civil society bodies in a transparent manner?

A Committee member asked about the level of funding the Government had contributed to international agencies. Were there statistics on suicide as a cause of death for children and what was the status about the registration and investigation of the death of children, a requirement of the Convention?

An Expert asked about identification and data collection on the number of children with disabilities, were these children documented at birth? Was there a system to collect data on abandoned children in hospitals and what preventive measures were there to avoid these types of abandonment? How were Roma children identified? What were the plans to ban punishment in schools and at home?

A Committee member asked about the high case of abortions, 300,000, meaning that 1 out of every 4 pregnancies was terminated. Could the delegation explain this data?

Response of Delegation and Interactive Questions

In response to the questions, the delegation of the Czech Republic said the Government had invested 0.12 per cent of Gross Domestic Income in international aid, compared to Norway, the highest investor in international aid accounting for 1 per cent of its GDP. The Government cooperated closely with the Human Rights Council and took their responsibilities in the international community seriously.

A Committee Expert said that the reservation to Article 7 was under discussion and the expected entrance into force from 1 January 2013 due to the length of time it took to review the Criminal Code. Concerning the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the constitution required that it adhere to all laws and the Government had yet to adopt a liability on legal persons although the draft law was approved in the first reading with a proposed entry into force of the law for 2012 which would then allow the ratification of many United Nation’s Conventions and Protocols.

The delegation said that there was the political will to improve the system of care for all children, not only the vulnerable. The heritage of the country meant that the system was struggling with the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child but that the Government was developing a concrete strategy which would focus on all children, not just vulnerable ones. The strategy would be delivered to the Government by the end of 2011 and would come into force by 2012.

The Chairman of the Committee asked who was responsible for this strategy; was it an inter-ministerial group and which children associations were involved in the process.

The delegation said that the Government would be responsible for the strategy and an inter-ministerial group along with non-governmental organizations and individuals who experienced foster care or institutionalization in the country would all participate. There was an agreement among three important Ministers to proceed with this strategy which was a critical first step.

A Committee Expert asked about the coordination among the three main institutions – Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Education and the Human Rights Council – what was the mechanism to prepare for good coordination between these three institutions?

The delegation replied that there was an inter-ministerial coordination group chaired by the Minister of Social Affairs. Complaints were received directly by the Public Defender from children. For children under 15 years of age there were 6 complaints received in 2008, in 2009, 1 and in 2010, 6; for children over 15 years of age in 2008, there were 12 complaints, in 2009, 7, and in 2010, 11.

The delegation explained that both direct and indirect discrimination was prohibited. The anti-discrimination act was not part of the Criminal Code but discrimination as intent would function as part of aggravating circumstances, for example in the case of a homicide or verbal assaults against persons because of their nationality or ethnicity. Concerning discrimination, the Office of the Ombudsman said that in 2010 there were 176 cases of complaints, of which 149 were solved by the Ombudsman with 29 cases where discrimination was found.

Committee members asked the delegation to address the following questions to be covered in the afternoon session: alternative family based care priorities; the institution of inter-country adoption; the integration of Roma children into secondary education; the detention of asylum seeking children with their parents; how were parents supported to develop their parenting capacities; awareness raising for different forms of families; was there an analysis of the impact on poor families of planned increased hospital fees; were there preventive programmes to tackle domestic violence and its impact on children; the Czech Republic had the second highest portion of children under 3 years old in institutions and what steps had been taken to close infant homes and alternatives for these children and was there any data on educational achievements and integration into society for children who were brought up in institutions; was there legislation that provided social housing rights and what measures had been taken to report data on children without adequate living conditions; the data on exclusive breast feeding was declining and what means were being done to address this; and could the delegation explain the difference between protective and institutional upbringing of children, was data available on these two categories and could the delegation explain the rapid drop in children with disabilities from 70,000 in primary to only 18,000 in secondary school.

Committee experts continued to ask questions of the Czech delegation, including what the Government had done to ensure that children were not used in armed conflict and to clarify what were the early development programs that existed for the large number of children under 3 years old in institutional care. Committee Experts asked what programs in vocational education and training existed to alleviate unemployment among young people who had experienced institutionalization and whether human rights education was included in school curricula. A number of questions were asked concerning health issues, specifically what kind of screening was done for newborns or during pregnancy, what was the policy of the Government on breast feeding, particularly as evidence showed that bonding between a mother and child occurred through the first six months of life if the mother engaged in exclusive breast feeding as this would contribute to a reduction in the number of children sent to institutional care. Were there life skills and education programs for young people who had grown up in institutions, what type of controls existed on tobacco and alcohol for young people and what avenues of reporting were available to children when cases of abuse and violation occurred within the family?

The Committee Chairman, Jean Zermatten, asked whether or not all regions of the country had a specialized juvenile court and were there specialized training programs for juvenile judges. What alternative measures could be used, such as mediation, to the depravation of liberty for juveniles? The Chairman noted that a punishment of up to 10 years could apply to juveniles and asked what sort of crimes would entail this punishment. What were the procedural actions against children who committed crimes before the age of 15?

Response by the Delegation

The Czech delegation replied first to the Committee’s questions on the issue of Roma children. It was undeniable that the situation of the Roma population was one of the most serious human rights issues in the country. The Government concluded that all policies aimed at the Roma would be followed by campaigns to raise awareness. One example included the Gypsy Spirit Campaign, an award which was given to people who had done something to integrate the Roma population into society. The Government had supported the museum for Roma population, a musical festival and the creation of Roma monuments for those who died during World War II. There was only a small part of the Roma who originally came from the Balkan area so there was less of a problem with early marriages as this population accounted for less that 2% of the Roma population. The legal age of marriage was 18 but could be lowered to 16 in special circumstances.

Concerning the education of Roma pupils, the Ministry of Education followed an inclusive policy, specifically raising the achievement of all pupils and to avoid placement of children in educational programs designed for children with mental impairments. New legislation was drafted to describe support provisions for children at risk for school failure which could also target Roma children. The Ministry of Education ensured that there was clear informed consent for parents prior to giving approval for a child to be put into segregated or special classes.

Further Questions by Experts

A Committee Expert asked if there was any link between socially disadvantaged children such as the Roma and the high level of speech impediments among the population.

A Committee expert asked if everything had been done to avoid the institutionalization of children as the figures were not decreasing. Specifically, were there sufficient social workers with enhanced training?

Response by Delegation

The Czech delegation replied to questions concerning the legal and social protection of children. The number of children entering institutions had not decreased, which was a concern for the Government and there was now a focus on early support for the family and the creation of social support services. There was an emphasis on keeping the child in the birth family and to keep trying to unify the child with his family. There should be the development of safe and alternative forms to institutional care; the fragmented system of care had not helped children. The Government had prioritized the use of European funding for the deinstitutionalization of children. The New Social Legal Protection Act, which would go into effect in 2012, focused on the training of case mangers and the mandatory drafting of case assessments and individual strategies for each family. The Government had focused on professionalization of foster care, including providing better material support and services and state contributions for services supporting families.

The delegation said the State needed a 35 per cent increase in the number of social workers and until now there had been limited tools for social workers, including assessments. The country had 5 pilot projects in which social workers were applying assessments and other tools and the evidence suggested it was working to assist them.

There were 40 cases of international adoption in 2010, with most of them of Roma origin and the Government decided that this must stop because most of these children had siblings that remained in the Czech Republic. The Government policy would focus on foster care as a substitute for adoption because international adoption should be the last resort because the Government should not be exporting children.

Further Questions by Experts

A Committee expert said that when speaking about adoption The Hague Convention on international adoptions provided standards for countries to create standards for a family environment for an adopted child. There should be no contradiction between international adoption and national adoption.

An Expert asked if there were services provided for those families who would be giving up their children for adoption and in particular for the children to be adopted.

A Committee Expert asked if there was a monitoring committee to review the marketing of breast milk substitutes and were milk substitutes distributed in hospitals. Was there a code that covered how breast milk substitutes should be marketed? What was the duration of maternity leave for women? The Chairman asked about the 1 out of every 4 pregnancies that led to an abortion, how many teenagers were involved in abortions and what was the reproductive educational policy in the country.

Response by Delegation

The delegation said that there was no special preparation procedures for either the children or families that would be giving up children, most adoption occurred for small children up to 3 years. In most cases of adoption, the State provided training for prospective families.

The delegation explained that the legal framework that governed the protection of sexual and domestic violence against children was set out in the Criminal Code. The basic cases were rape, sexual abuse, trafficking of human beings, prostitution and child pornography. The new Criminal Code raised the standards for the protection of children and stated that family was responsible for the protection of their children. In 2009, the National Action Plan to prevent violence against children included activities to protect children. There were numerous hot lines which operated in every region of the country administered by non-governmental organizations in cooperation with state institutions along with websites that offered wide services to families in cases of sexual violence against children. The Minister of the Interior managed training programs to address issues of domestic violence and how to deal not only with the victim but also the perpetrator so that programs also focused on those that were responsible for domestic violence.

The delegation explained that though corporal punishment was not legally banned the Family Act would not permit measures that would impact a child’s dignity. In the school environment, there was an acceptable list of possible measures to be used on children and corporal punishment was not allowed and therefore it could only occur in homes. Research on the acceptance of a possible universal ban against corporal punishment stated that only 8 per cent of the population would never use it while 24 per cent were in favour of slapping a child in specific cases and this was not therefore seen as a measure of humiliation. Therefore the Government would move step by step, first through campaigns to sensitize the public against this form of punishment before drafting legislation to ban the practice.

Preventive care for children had a long tradition and began in the prenatal period. Infant mortality in 2009 was only 2.88 per 1,000 births. All newborns were screened for basic diseases; there was a system for preventive examinations which included the functioning of the family and its potential threat to the child and a comprehensive immunization programme. The State paid for children’s health up until 26 years of age. Health care was always provided on the basis of informed consent of the patient or legal guardian. The patient was pre-informed of the nature of the care and any possible consequences or risks. There were only a few cases when a patient could receive uninformed care, such as in emergencies or with regard to infectious diseases. New legislation will strengthen the right of children to be informed and participate fully in their health care provision and to be admitted into a medical facility with an accompanying person. Under age patients were entitled to the provision of preventive care and vaccinations and to all the rights set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Government joined the global strategy supporting breast feeding in 1991 and the Ministry of Health supported the exclusive use of breast feeding up to six months of age. Ninety per cent of newborns were exclusively breast feed when leaving the hospital, which reduced to 38 per cent after 6 months.

The delegation said that the maternity leave was initially six months but the mother could stay home up to the first four years of the child. In the Czech Republic injuries were the number one cause of death of children which had led to the development of an action plan and injuries had dropped considerably in recent years due to preventive activities. In 2005 the mortality rate was 7.08 in 2008 and only 4.74 in 100,000. Children mostly suffered injuries at home up to five years of age, up to 19 years of age children suffered injuries mostly from automobiles and suicides. A national registry of child injuries would be required by law and it was a priority of the Minister of Health to have this registry, including a focus on risk factors and causes to assist in setting effective preventive measures. Suicide was the second most frequent external cause of death of children from 15 to 19 years of age. A current evaluation of projects was on going. The data showed that suicides were decreasing, but they were still a problem.

An interruption could be granted until the 12th week of pregnancy. The number of interruptions had fallen significantly. By data, there were 40,000 abortions including spontaneous and legally induced abortions.

Further Questions by Experts

A Committee Expert asked if there was a comprehensive reproductive health educational awareness programme for adolescents that would occur in school or institutions. Was free contraception provided for poor families? Were women abandoning babies? There was concern about the baby box program, which was not in line with the Convention; how many children were in this program and what was the reason for the baby box program?

The Chairman asked if a child over the age of 15 was given a sentence over 10 years, where would the sentence be served. Beginning at what age could one appear before a court?

Response by Delegation

The delegation replied that free contraceptive pills were not provided for young women due to the health risks. The first baby box was put in place in 2005 and the analysis over five years indicated that from 2005 to 2010 there were 36 babies left in the 34 baby boxes that were located throughout the country. It was not only for newborns and children up to one year old lived in baby boxes. These children were in good health and had been introduced to new families. The experience from Slovakia would be followed to offer baby boxes for these children only for newborns and not for children up to 1 year old.

The detention period for families with children had been reduced to 90 days which was the same limit as for unaccompanied minors. The Act on the Residents of Foreign Nationals made it easier to unify the family and social allowances were granted to families. A state institution run by the Ministry of Education supported child asylum seekers by providing temporary care facilities and lessons in the Czech language. There were programs that targeted children and women asylum seekers from third world countries. There were also programs at the local government level and administered by non-governmental organizations.

Children under the age of 15 sometimes appeared before a judge but as they were not criminally liable it would not be a regular criminal proceeding and a court could impose criminal measures rather than sanctions. The court was a criminal court specializing in child offenders that imposed protective measures, such as the supervision of probation officers and protective care. One of the measures was participation in psychological programs for the child but no criminal measures such as a jail sentence. A judicial academy was responsible for training judges and state prosecutors which covered the criminal code and interviewing childr victims of crime and domestic violence. When a child was a victim or witness, the proceeding would occur in specialized hearing rooms and different tools would be used to make the child speak about the act without traumatizing the child and making it worse for them. For example puppets were used for small children to help them explain what happened to them. In all districts there were specialized courts to handle juvenile cases.

The delegation responded that the sentence would be served in prison but not in contact with adult offenders. From the age of 12 to 15 a child could appear before court.

Preliminary Concluding Remarks

PETER GURAN, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of the Czech Republic, in preliminary concluding remarks stressed three main problems concerning the implementation of the Convention in the Czech Republic. The first issue was a lack of coordination among competent organizational bodies and no clear national action plan based on the Convention. Secondly, there was insufficient independent monitoring with no institution monitoring children’s rights and no complaint mechanisms or evaluation. Thirdly, there was the lack of political will to provide adequate funding and training to individuals working in this field, including social workers and law enforcement officers and judges.

KIRSTEN SANDBERG, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Czech Republic, said that there were good intentions in the social care framework but there were no concrete plans or targets to achieve on an annual basis, for example how many Roma children would be in institutional care by the end of next year. The Co-Rapporteur recommended that the Government appoint one Ministry to be the coordinating body to unify the work by sector.

MONIKA SIMUNKOVA, Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, in concluding remarks, said that the Government was aware of existing gaps in fulfilling the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that the Government would work hard to overcome them.

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