Czech Children Lack Protection Without Their Own Ombudsman

The Czech Republic is one of the last EU countries that does not have a children's ombudsman, meaning there is no institution to oversee the protection and enforcement of children's rights in the country.
"We are one of the last countries in the EU that does not have a separate, independent body to protect the rights of the children, and it is a big mistake," Minister for Human Rights Jan Chvojka says.

According to Chvojka, there was no political will by any party or any leading politician to create such a body.

But constitutional lawyers say the Czech Republic is nevertheless required to have a children's ombudsman through its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the country ratified in 1993.

Talk, but no action

The establishment of a children's ombudsman's office was discussed last earlier this month by child protection experts, lawyers and legislators at the government office.

The Governing Council completed an analysis last year that looked into creating either a new post of protector of children's rights, or designating a new ombudsman's representative to cover the issue.

The cabinet was supposed to decide on the model last year, but the Minister for Human Rights was replaced. Chvojka's predecessor, Jiří Dienstbier, had planned to have a children's ombudsman begin work before the end of this parliamentary term.

Overworked, understaffed

The Office of the Public Defender of Rights has already started dealing with complaints concerning children.

Last year, according to ombudsman assistant Barbora Kubikova, the office received 383 such complaints, but most of them were submitted by adults.

The team set up a children's website a few years ago, and children's cases are prioritized in order to solve them as quickly as possible, but children's problems are not being addressed systematically, Kubíková says.

In total, the ombudsman received over 8,000 complaints last year. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the current ombudsman does not have the staff or finances to adequately deal with children's complaints.

The establishment of an independent child protection post is supported by the Government Committee on the Rights of the Child.

"We would be happy if the decision was not delayed and we found consensus across the relevant political parties," says Klára Laurenčíková Šimáčková, head of the committee.