Romani Victims of Human Rights Abuse Compensated in Czech Republic
7 February 2004
On October 7, 2003, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that Ms Marcela Zupková, a Romani woman from Hradec Králové in northeastern Czech Republic, received 200,000 Czech crowns (approximately 6,260 Euro) in compensation from AKYMA, the company that refused her employment on the basis of her ethnicity in January 2003. According to Mr David Strupek, Ms Zupková's attorney, AKYMA agreed to the amount in an out-of-court settlement (for further information, please see: www.errc.org). Ms Zupková originally requested a public apology and 250,000 Czech crowns (approximately 7,750 Euro) in non-pecuniary damages for racial discrimination and defamation.
Earlier, on July 29, 2003, the Czech government paid the family of Mr Gejza Cerveňák, a Romani man, 900,000 Czech crowns (approximately 27,700 Euro) in exchange for withdrawing a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights. According to the European Court of Human Rights' decision, the payment followed a friendly settlement agreed upon by the Czech government and the applicants - Mr Gejza Cerveňák, Ms Margita Cerveňákková, Ms Aranka Horváthová, Mr Ondrej Jaslo, Ms Iveta Jaslová and Mr Peter Mirga - on May 26, 2003 and acknowledged by the Court on July 11, 2003.
In 1993, the Cerveňák family filed a complaint related to the actions of the local government of the town of Ústí nad Labem, in northern Czech Republic, after officials expelled the family from their flat in the city and out of the country to Slovakia. In Slovakia, the family could not find a place to rent. Eventually, the family returned to their home in Ústí nad Labem to find that the local government had locked them out of their flat. As a result, the family lived in highly substandard conditions. The Cerveňák's claimed a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Cerveňák family also purported in their complaint to the Court that the Czech government had violated Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention. The Court had agreed to review the complaint in August 2002.
Almost immediately following the settlement, on August 1, 2003, the Prague-based radio station Radio Prague reported that Mr Radek Vonka, the mayor of Ústí nad Labem, called on the Cerveňák family to use the money they are to receive as per the settlement agreement to pay off their debts to the town. Mayor Vonka reported in the media that, according to Ústí nad Labem local government records, the Cerveňák family owes 30,000 Czech crowns (approximately 925 Euro) in rent and an additional 100,000 Czech crowns (approximately 3,080 Euro) in penalties. The Prague-based Romani organisation Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH) informed the ERRC on August 1, 2003, that misrepresentation of the case in Czech media caused a burst of anti-Romani sentiment on the Internet and in the country generally. Apparently, a number of appeals for attack against Roma and money to gather weapons appeared on the Internet.
In another case, on May 30, 2003, Radio Prague reported that on the same date the Hradec Králové Regional Court ordered Mr Karel Svoboda, a restaurant owner in the eastern Czech town of Náchod, to compensate four Roma who had been refused service in his restaurant because of their skin colour. The court reportedly ordered Mr Svoboda to pay each Romani victim 20,000 Czech crowns (approximately 615 Euro) in damages and send them a letter of apology for the discriminatory action. Mr Svoboda had reportedly not ruled out appealing the verdict to the High Court in Prague. For additional information on Roma in Czech Republic, please visit the ERRC's Internet website at: www.errc.org.
(Radio Prague, VPORH)