The human rights group Amnesty International has criticised the Czech Republic for failing to properly investigate claims of police brutality and not providing sufficient protection for members of the Roma minority. In its annual report released on Tuesday, Amnesty said allegations of police brutality during the September 2000 IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague were not investigated properly by the Czech authorities. The Czech courts were also singled out for failing to punish racially-motivated crimes with sufficient sentences.
The mayor of Prague, Jan Kasl, has resigned, and says he no longer wishes to be a member of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Mr Kasl, who claimed recently that the city council was riddled with corruption, told reporters he no longer wished to share in the responsibility of running the capital, and said he would quit the post on Wednesday. Mr Kasl has at times been an outspoken critic of the Civic Democrat leader, Vaclav Klaus. His resignation comes less than three weeks before the general elections.
The Czech Air Force is on alert after the police received an anonymous threat of a terrorist attack in the second biggest Czech city, Brno. The police said they received an anonymous SMS message threatening with a terrorist attack on three high-rise buildings which are part of a business centre in Brno-Zabovresky and suggesting it might come from the air. The airspace over the city of Brno is now guarded by aircraft from the Caslav air base.
The Czech Republic has become the first of the EU candidate countries to open an office in Brussels aimed at representing Czech businesses and lobbying specific EU political bodies. On Thursday the Czech Ministry for Trade and Industry signed a contract with the Czechtrade agency and several business associations to take charge of the Brussels office, which is expected to cost 4 to 5 million crowns in its first year. In addition to lobbying the European Union, the three-member Brussels office will also work to provide information on the EU to small and medium-sized Czech companies.
The European Parliament's foreign affairs committee has toned down its criticism of the Czech Republic over the so-called Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of some two and a half million ethnic Germans after the Second World War. The committee approved a draft resolution on Wednesday saying only that if a legal review of the decrees uncovered any form of discrimination, the decrees should be abolished before the country joins the EU. Politicians in Austria and Germany have called for the decrees to be abolished before the Czech Republic is allowed to join the EU.
A leading German newspaper has claimed that more than 30 important members of the Taliban and al Qaeda are in hiding in several locations in Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, in order to plan an attack on Britain. Quoting a letter from Interpol to the German police, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the militants had been smuggled into Europe in the last few months. The warning letter, based on information gathered two months ago by Interpol and Europol, said the militants were now in hiding in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Bulgaria. German police have declined to comment on the report.
Close to 60 Austrian anti-nuclear activists attended a protest against the Temelin nuclear power plant close to the Austrian border crossing Wullowitz on Sunday. The activists made no attempt to disrupt border traffic, gathering outside a local pub and handing out leaflets to passers by. According to reporters the event resembled a happening, with food, drink and an auction intended to raise funds for the anti-nuclear cause. Austrian anti-nuclear activists want the Czech government to close down the Temelin nuclear power plant located some 50 kms from the Austrian border, on the grounds that it is not safe. The Czech government maintains that the plant fully adheres to international safety norms.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that 2, 960 Czechs living abroad have registered to vote in general elections in the Czech Republic, set to take place in June. According to the ministry the number is not final and may still undergo minor fluctuations. Nevertheless, original estimates in April suggested that the number of interested Czech voters abroad would be much higher, involving as many as 70, 000. Some Czechs living abroad have criticised the registration system as limiting, especially in such geographically broad countries as Canada and Australia. The system required Czechs living abroad to register at consulates by May 5th at the latest, which some say was not a realistic option; others complained that they had not been made aware it was necessary to register at all.
The Czech Helsinki Committee has released a new survey on human rights, which criticises government efforts to help improve living conditions for the Czech Republic's Roma minority. The Committee also said the number of successful requests for asylum had dropped, and corruption within the Czech police force remained a problem. Domestic violence involving mainly women and the aged has also not received enough attention, the report said. A representative of the Committee said Czech officials were poorly qualified, and claimed many turned a blind eye to human rights violations.
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