Compensation For Illegal Sterilisation of Roma Women Delayed

The Ombudsman’s office investigated the Health Ministry’s procedures on its own initiative. Credit: Freepik.

Brno, Oct 18 (CTK) – Compensation to be paid to numerous Roma women over unlawful sterilisations has been delayed due to mistakes within the Health Ministry, due to which the applications were not processed in time, as discovered by Ombudsman Stanislav Krecek and reported on his website today.

According to Krecek, the ministry has failed to process applications within the time limit set by law, and has not been helpful in communicating with applicants and sufficiently informing them of their rights.

The Ombudsman’s office investigated the Health Ministry’s procedures on its own initiative. It launched the investigation last year following complaints from more than 30 women claiming compensation. It focused on how the ministry was handling formal complaints.

According to the ombudsman, the ministry has long failed to deal with compensation claims within the legal deadline, and has thereby violated the respective legislation and the basic principles of good administration.

The ombudsman pointed out that the applicants were mostly elderly. Their main concern is that the state acknowledges allowing such violations of the law in the past, the consequences of which have been felt by the victims all their lives.

“The sooner their applications are processed, the shorter time they face uncertainty. There are already known cases where applicants died while their claims for compensation were being processed,” Krecek explained.

He suggests that the Health Ministry should consider whether in exceptional cases, such as those of elderly and seriously ill claimants, it could fast-track the processing of their claims.

He also criticised the Ministry for allegedly unhelpful communication. He said the applicants often had problems reaching officials and did not receive replies to their emails.

In his report on the investigation, the ombudsman appreciated that the ministry had already clarified the information given to applicants about their rights. In particular, it added information that they could also use other evidence than their medical records, such as testimony from relatives and diary entries, to prove their claims for compensation.

In 2004, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) presented its suspicions of forced sterilisation of mainly Roma women. The government’s committee against torture proposed the introduction of compensation as early as 2006. In 2009, the Czech government apologised for the unlawful sterilisations.

Victims have been able to apply for compensation under the law since last year. Women who underwent sterilisation without free decision and information about the consequences between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012 are eligible to receive CZK 300,000 from the state. The Health Ministry has 60 days to process the application, and must then send the compensation money within 30 days of the claim being approved.

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