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Minister: Czech Republic still lacks children’s ombudsman

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Prague, May 30 (CTK) – The Czech Republic is one of the last EU countries without “ombudsman for children,” an institution to supervise the protection of children and promote their rights, Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Minister Jan Chvojka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters on Tuesday.

The establishment of the office of ombudsman in charge of children has been discussed in the Czech Republic for years.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has also recommended this. Experts in children’s protection and the national children’s parliament have criticised the delay.

“We are one of the last EU countries not to have an independent body to deal with the protection of children’s rights. This is a gross mistake. There has been no political will yet to embed such an institute into law,” Chvojka said.

Constitutional lawyers agree that the duty to establish children’s ombudsman ensues from the Convention on the Rights of the Child that the Czech Republic ratified in 1993, Chvojka said.

Experts in children’s protection, lawyers and legislators debated the possibility to establish the office of children’s ombudsman at the Government Office on Tuesday.

Last year, the government council completed an analysis according to which a new post of ombudsman for children’s rights could be established or the deputy ombudsman might deal with this agenda.

The cabinet was supposed to decide on this issue in the latter half of last year. However, the human rights minister was replaced then.

Chvojka’s predecessor in the post, Jiri Dienstbier (CSSD), planned that children’s ombudsman would start working before the end of this election term.

The Ombudsman’s Office is dealing with complaints concerning children. Last year, it received 383 such complaints, but mostly filed by adults, the ombudsman’s assistant, Barbora Kubikova, said.

The ombudsman’s team launched a website for children a few years ago and tries to solve their cases as quickly as possible. However, the current office does not manage to deal with children’s issues in a systemic way, Kubikova added.

The U.N. committee is also of the view that the current ombudsman does not have enough people and finances to tackle children’s complaints.

The government committee for the rights of the child supports the establishment of an independent post of children’s ombudsman, its head Klara Laurencikova Simackova said.

According to the government analysis, the office of children’s ombudsman would have an advantage to be friendly towards children from the very beginning. It would be in touch with children, explain its steps in a comprehensible way and be able to choose a quite creative approach. However, this would also be costly.

The advantage of the deputy ombudsman being in charge of children’s agenda is in the back-up of an established institution.

But the authors of the analysis stressed that both alternatives would need finances and personnel.

A new law would define the powers of ombudsman for children, while the powers of the deputy ombudsman in charge of children’s rights would be defined in amendments.

The ombudsman for children would see to the observance of international conventions, regularly release reports on the situation and conditions of children in the Czech Republic, issue recommendations for authorities and lawmakers, check complaints and demand rectification.

On the other hand, there are many opponents to the promotion of children’s rights in the Czech Republic, including former president and PM Vaclav Klaus. As head of state Klaus called children’s rights “perversion” in an interview and said he would do his best to fight it.

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