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Open Society Institute Urges Czech Government to Keep Human Rights Ministry

PRAGUE—The Open Society Institute, a global network of foundations established by George Soros and currently operating in more than 60 countries, calls for the preservation of the Ministry of Human Rights and National Minorities in the Czech Republic.

According to recent reports, the Czech Republic's newly inaugurated Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, will not include the position of Minister of Human Rights and Minorities in the new government.

The Open Society Institute is concerned that without a minister of human rights, adoption of the country's long overdue antidiscrimination law will be further delayed.

Today, the Czech Republic is the only EU member state that has failed to pass such a law. A minister of human rights is crucial for advancing legislation to protect human rights and combat discrimination in the country. In a time of growing economic crisis that can exacerbate ethnic and racial tensions, it is critical to have officials and agencies that can enforce legal norms and standards to protect socially excluded groups, particularly the Czech Republic's Roma minority.

Eliminating the human rights minister position will leave much of the country's human rights agenda incomplete. In addition to not adopting an antidiscrimination law, the Czech Republic has yet to adhere to an order by the European Court of Human Rights to end illegal discrimination and racial segregation in public schools. The human rights minister also has a crucial role to play in transforming the Czech Republic's agency for social inclusion from a pilot project to an established office with national coverage.

We strongly urge the government to maintain the position of Minister of Human Rights and Minorities with complete competencies and full government vote. A powerful and effective minister of human rights is crucial to ensuring that the Czech Republic will move forward with policies that guarantee equal rights and protections to all of its people.

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