Reaction of Ambassador Milena Vicenová, the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the EU, to statements by European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström
19.05.2011 / 15:43
There is no doubt that in modern Europe the persecution or intolerance of homosexuals is absolutely unacceptable. But so too is the allegation that the Czech Republic is guilty of it. Such was a claim made by Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs, in an entry in her blog on 17 May. She chose the sexological testing of some asylum-seekers in the Czech Republic, used in the past in fewer than ten cases, as an example of a gross violation of fundamental rights.
This serious accusation, expressed in very strong terms, is based on false assertions. Her statement, aimed at the European public, amounts to a gross distortion of the truth.
First of all, Malmström claims that ‘phallometric testing' – the testing of physiological reactions – is currently used in the asylum procedure in the Czech Republic. This is not true. The examination was used within the international protection procedure only in 2008 and 2009. The Czech Republic long ago made clear that this method is no longer used.
The commissioner's statement also implies that this examination is conducted widely, routinely and against the asylum-seeker's will. Once again, this is wholly false. Fewer than ten asylum-seekers were examined in this way. It is crucially important – and a fact omitted by the commissioner – that in all instances the examination was carried out with the explicit written approval of the asylum-seeker and, in some instances, at the asylum-seeker's own request. And in each case, this was an option of last resort to verify the credibility of the claims on which they based their application for asylum.
What, then, are the facts about phallometric testing? It was conducted in a very limited number of cases over a very limited time period, and as one piece of evidence used in decisions on the granting of asylum. Authorities always have to verify whether an asylum-seeker is speaking the truth; in case of applications based on homosexual orientation, the importance of careful verification is acute, since homosexuals would face severe punishment, even death, if returned to countries such as Iran, Syria, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Cameroon or Nigeria. In several cases, the claims were unreliable and this, under other circumstances, could have led to their deportation to their country of origin.
The Czech authorities therefore had to decide whether to return these asylum-seekers to their countries of origin, or to offer them a sexological test as an ‘ultima ratio' verification of the credibility of their claim. The decision to use this particular method lay in all cases with an independent court expert in the field of sexology. This method of examination was used only with the claimant's agreement or at his explicit request. Thanks to this, the threat of deportation to their home country was averted. In all cases where homosexual orientation was proven by methods including a sexological examination, asylum in the Czech Republic was granted.
All these are facts well known to the European Commission; the Czech Republic has shared all of this information. That makes it all the more regrettable that the commissioner has distorted the truth. Rather than serving as the object of subjective criticism by the Commission, the Czech Republic would welcome constructive proposals of alternative solutions, motivated by a real effort to help asylum-seekers. These, unfortunately, have not been forthcoming either from the Commission, or from any other competent body.
Milena Vicenová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the EU
Brussels, 19 May 2011
This article was published on 26 May 2011 in the European Voice.