Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Helsinki Commission Welcomes Czech Court’s Verdict for Sterilization Victim

WASHINGTON– Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), welcomed the decision issued by a Czech court last week, recognizing that a Czech Romani woman had been sterilized without informed consent in 1997.

“We have long urged Czech and Slovak officials to acknowledge — publicly and unequivocally — that wrongful sterilizations of Romani women were performed in those countries both before and after the fall of communism. The court’s decision provides vindication for at least one of the victims of this insidious practice,” said Hastings and Cardin. “We commend Ms. Cervenakova for her courage in pursuing justice.”

During the communist period, the Czechoslovak state targeted Romani women for sterilization. Post-communist Czech and Slovak governments failed to bring a definitive end to this practice and, as a result, some doctors — working at public health facilities in both the Czech and Slovak Republics — continued to sterilize Romani women without informed consent into the 1990s. On October 12, a regional court in Ostrava, the Czech Republic, awarded 500,000 Czech crowns to Iveta Cervenakova, now 30 years old. She was sterilized in 1997 without her knowledge after giving birth to her second child by caesarian section. In December 2006, Slovakia’s highest court ruled that the investigation of three sterilization cases have been so faulty that it violated both the Slovak Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Hastings and Cardin added, “In 2005, the Czech Ombudsman for Human Rights conduced an unflinching examination of sterilization cases, and reached one definitive conclusion: sterilizations without informed consent occurred both before and after 1990. We hope this case will spur the Czech government to embrace the Ombudsman’s report and fully implement his recommendations. Similarly, it is time for Slovakia to demonstrate compassion for the victims of this past abuse and acknowledge their suffering.”

Thirty-three states in the United States had state-run sterilization programs in the 20th century, generally ending in the early 1970s. In recent years, a number of state governors have apologized for these past abuses. A number of European countries had similar practices which, as in the United States and Czechoslovakia, were heavily influenced by the now discredited eugenics movement.

Media contact

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Deeply Concerned Over Latest Ele...

Jul 27, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and  Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) today expressed deep concern about an effort by the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia to impose changes on the country’s electoral system barely two months prior to general elections in early October. They issued the following joint statement: “We share the concerns […]

screen-reader-text
Publications

HELSINKI COMMISSION DIGITAL DIGEST JUNE 2022

Jun 30, 2022

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Cardin, Wicker Recognition of Romani Americans Clear...

Jun 10, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) lauded unanimous passage in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday of S. Res.124, the first official acknowledgement by Congress of the genocide of the Romani people by the Nazis. The resolution, first authored by Cardin and Wicker in 2019 and reintroduced […]

screen-reader-text
helsinki commission logo 368x331
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest January 2022

Jan 31, 2022

screen-reader-text
Articles

Human Rights Seminar Returns to the OSCE with a Focu...

Dec 01, 2021

By Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to the OSCE and Dr. Mischa E. Thompson, Director of Global Partnerships, Policy, and Innovation On November 16-17, 2021, for the first time since 2017, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Right (ODIHR) held its annual Human Rights Seminar on preventing and combating violence […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

30 Years After Ovcara

Nov 19, 2021

By Robert Hand, Senior Policy Advisor On November 20, 1991, after the fall of the city of Vukovar in Croatia, militant Serb forces removed 265 ill and injured Croats from a hospital. They were taken to the nearby Ovčara farm southeast of Vukovar, where they were abused before being shot and killed, with their bodies […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

Fifteen Years of the Recommendations of Policing in ...

Nov 15, 2021

By Nathaniel Haas, Max Kampelman Fellow On November 5, 2021, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities convened a hybrid conference commemorating the 15th anniversary of “Recommendations on Policing in Multi-Ethnic Societies.” The conference focused on continuing challenges and new perspectives related to policing in diverse societies and was attended by more than 200 participants […]

screen-reader-text
OSCE PA logo 368x331
Articles

HELSINKI COMMISSIONERS JOIN OSCE PA MEETING ON AFGHA...

Nov 09, 2021

On November 4, 2021, more than 40 members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) met remotely to discuss the current security challenges posed by developments in Afghanistan and the future of OSCE engagement with Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule. Since 2003, Afghanistan has been an OSCE Partner for Cooperation and shares a border with several […]

screen-reader-text
helsinki commission logo 368x331
Publications

Helsinki Commission Summer 2021 Digital Digest

Aug 02, 2021

screen-reader-text
Articles

OSCE SHDM on Digital Technology and Human Rights

Jul 26, 2021

OSCE Conference on Risks and Opportunities Posed by Digital Technologies On July 12 and 13, 2021, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) held the third Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) of the year, titled “Digital Technologies and Human Rights – Opportunities and Challenges.” The virtual conference included representatives from 45 OSCE […]

screen-reader-text
Statements

Cardin and Wicker Discuss July 2021 Congressional De...

Jul 21, 2021

Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I take this time to talk about the work of the U.S. Helsinki Commission in a recent opportunity we had to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I am joined on the floor by Senator Wicker, who is the Republican chair of the Helsinki Commission. The two of us have worked […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Delegation Advances Priority Iss...

Jul 15, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) last week led a U.S. delegation to the 2021 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) Annual Session in Vienna, Austria. The assembly was the first major gathering with an in-person component since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The 2021 […]

screen-reader-text