Strasbourg — The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee on Thursday demanded an immediate end to surgical castration for sex offenders in the Czech Republic.
In a report published following March visits to two Czech psychiatric hospitals and two Czech prisons, the committee said the practice amounts to degrading treatment.
"Surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention and cannot be considered as a medical necessity in the context of the treatment of sex offenders," it said. "The intervention removes a person’s ability to procreate and has serious physical and mental consequences.”
The committee also disputed the Czech authorities’ position on the possibility of consent to the surgery.
"Moreover, given the context in which the intervention is offered, it is questionable whether consent to the option of surgical castration will always be truly free and informed," it said. "As was found during the visit, a situation can easily arise whereby patients or prisoners acquiesce rather than consent, believing that it is the only available option to them to avoid indefinite confinement."
The Council of Europe had already expressed concerns over Prague’s program in 2007.
The use of surgical castration for such offenders has stirred ethical debate around the world.
Within Europe, Britain, France and Poland have moved to test chemical methods for convicted pedophiles.
Since 2000, around 300 Czech patients have undergone chemical castration, with around 50 undergoing the surgical removal of genitalia, according to Czech government statistics.
But the committee said Prague — which has since taken the rotating presidency of the European Union — had provided "inexact information" on the numbers.
The Council of Europe brings together 47 nations with a parliamentary assembly — made up of legislators from the member states — that meets four times a year to discuss topical issues and set out recommendations.