The UN Human Rights Commissioner has accused the Czech authorities of "systematic" rights violations in the treatment of refugees and migrants. Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein slammed the Czech Republic for holding migrants in "degrading" conditions for up to 90 days, strip searching them and making them pay for their detention. He likewise criticized the detention of children and said he was alarmed by “the xenophobic public debate” in the country including "Islamophobic" statements made by Czech President Milos Zeman.
In reaction to the news President Zeman's spokesman said Mr. Zeman rejected the criticism and "stood by his opinions". "The president has long warned of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. He stands by his opinion and he will not change it under pressure from abroad," Zeman's spokesman said.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected the accusations levelled against the Czech Republic as “unwarranted”, saying that the country had always striven to adhere to international agreements and laws and was taking the same approach in the migrant crisis. The prime minister said that the conditions in detention centers were good and the demands made on migrants were reasonable and UN inspectors were welcome to come and judge the situation for themselves. “We will be happy to show them all our migrant facilities, which we have expanded in the last few months to give migrants more space and better conditions,” Mr. Sobotka said. The prime minister said that in his view Czech migrant facilities had become an issue because a number of Czech organizations had put them in the spotlight.
Czech interior Minister Milan Chovanec likewise dismissed the criticism from the UN as unjustified saying that the detentions are legal and that the ministry is continuously working to improve conditions in its centers for migrants. "We are improving conditions for refugees and we do not think that we are breaching any directives or international treaties," the minister told reporters in reaction to the U.N. statement. He said Mr. Hussein was welcome to come to the Czech Republic and assess the situation in person.
A Czech delegation led by the Deputy Speaker of the lower house of Parliament Petr Gazdik was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for over four hours on Thursday morning for no obvious reason, the ctk news agency reports. The delegation which arrived on a government plane and was not allowed to re-board the aircraft included defense ministry officials and members of the Czechoslovak Association of Legionaries. It was bound for Ulyanovsk where they were to unveil a memorial to Czechoslovak legionaries. Mr. Gazdik said they had been given no explanation for why they were being held up and described it as a serious diplomatic incident. The Czech embassy in Moscow has sent the Russian authorities a protest note. The delegation was allowed to continue on its way shortly after mid-day.
Visiting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday met for talks with the Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Jan Hamáček. They discussed security in the Middle East, the migrant crisis in Europe and bilateral cooperation. Hamáček said Czech-Israeli relations were on an excellent level and the two countries could collaborate in a number of spheres such as defense. Later in the day the Israeli president and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman paid homage to Holocaust victims at the National Cemetery in Terezin and attended the opening of an Israeli-Czech business forum.
GIBS, the Czech police’s internal affairs squad, have charged two people in an investigation into bribe-taking, bribery and leaking information from police files. One of the two is a police officer who worked as a department head, a spokesperson for the Prague state attorney’s office said. Prosecutors have rejected suggestions the move is retribution for a raid by the police’s organised crime unit in Olomouc last week. That operation led to the arrests of four people, including the regional governor and two senior police officers. The Olomouc branch of GIBS is accused of ignoring a tip-off about possible collusion between two of those charged.
Prague City Hall is not in a position to cancel a long-standing disadvantageous contract on the management of the capital’s waterworks signed in the early 1990s, a spokeswoman for the town hall told the ctk news agency on Thursday. The contract with the firm is valid until 2028 and it would be extremely problematic and costly to back out of it, the spokeswoman said. Instead Prague City Hall will try to push for partial changes to the contract. The state of the city’s waterworks has been in the spotlight in connection with a growing number of accidents such as burst pipes and contaminated waste water leaking into drinking water pipes for households.
Czech Airlines will scrap free lunches on its economy class flights as of December of this year, a spokesperson for the airlines said. The only exceptions will be on the company’s longest routes to Alma-Ata and Seoul. Refreshments in business class will be in the price of the ticket. Passengers on economy class flights will be able to order an Upgrade Menu for the price of 8 euros or a hot meal for 12 euros.
Osama Abdul Mohsen, a Syrian refugee who came to international attention after being tripped by a Hungarian camerawoman while holding his child, will be a guest at this year’s Jihlava international festival of documentary films, the organisers have announced. Mr. Mohsen, who is now a soccer trainer in Spain, will speak in the festival’s Inspiration Forum section. The opening film at this year’s Jihlava, the 19th edition, will be about the great Czech photographer Josef Koudelka. The event gets underway next Thursday.
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