Tech & Rights

Forest Slaves: Unpaid Foreign Laborers Get Justice from Czech Court

Workers from Slovakia, Romania and Vietnam were forced to toil for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week with no pay.

by The League of Human Rights
After an incredible four years, the Czech Constitutional Court defended the workers and condemned the police force for not doing its job properly.

When workers turned to the police four years ago, investigators shelved the case and the state attorney commented that they had brought their problems upon themselves. Now, following the court's decision, the police will reopen the case.

14 hours a day

The case concerned 66 people who labored in Czech forests without pay, suffering a collective loss of tens of thousands of euros. The workers, hired by Czech contractors instead of state agencies, had to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, with business owners threatening them and refusing to pay wages.

The workers' complaint to the Constitutional Court focused mainly on the fact that the police had closed their investigation abruptly and without properly considering their claims. They described the investigator's inquiry as arbitrary and said that the police had effectively refused to deal with their case.

'Really curious'

The Constitutional Court, led by Judge Rapporteur Radovan Suchanek, ruled that it was unacceptable for the police to close such a case so quickly. The long-term violations of basic human rights should have prompted the police to fully investigate the case in an attempt to substantiate the workers' claims.

"The Constitutional Court shares the concerns of the complainants, who reject the absurd interpretation of the public prosecutor, blaming them for their own situation because some engaged in forestry work without any contract or having any financial reward duly confirmed in writing, and without checking if they even have the necessary work permit. Such an approach by the public prosecution office on suspicion of such systematic exploitation is really curious," said Judge Suchanek.