Racially-motivated violence in the Czech Republic continues unabated

15 May 1998

The domestic and international press reported that on the night of May 15, a group of skinheads attacked and killed a 40-year-old Romani man named Milan Lacko in the northeastern Moravian town of Orlova. The incident took place around midnight as Mr Lacko was walking past a restaurant with his daughter and her friend. Four men, aged 17-20, began insulting the three Roma and then physically attacked Mr Lacko. The men knocked Mr Lacko into the road and left him lying there, where he was run over by a lorry and a car. He subsequently died of the injuries sustained. Police have detained four individuals and charged them with grievous bodily harm with racial motivation. The lorry driver has not been located.

A lenient sentence is available for racist skinheads who repent racially-motivated crimes in court in the Czech Republic. This was evidently the position of a district court judge in southern Moravia who justified lenient sentences against skinheads who attacked a Congolese doctor while shouting racial epithets at him in early March 1998 by using, among other arguments, the reasoning that the skinheads felt sorry about the attack.

ČTK reported on March 3 that police had arrested two youths after they kicked and beat a 35-year-old Congolese doctor in a busy street in Prostejov, southern Moravia. The doctor, who lived in the Czech Republic for more than ten years, told police that the youths had beaten and kicked him and made racist remarks. He was not seriously injured. On April 7, Mladá Fronta Dnes reported that the two men had been sentenced to a nine month suspended sentence with a probationary period of two years for damage to health under Czech Penal Code Article 221(1) and violence against a group or individual with racial motivation (Penal Code Article 196(2)). District Court Judge Pavel Marčík stated that the reason for the mild sentence was the fact that the doctor was not seriously injured. In addition, he claimed that the convicted criminals regretted their crime. The court found that the two men had called the doctor „ti negre" and „black mouth" before they attacked him. State Attorney Zdenek Rajtr told Mladá Fronta Dnes that he had not appealed the conviction.

Meanwhile, the steady stream of reported racially-motivated attacks in the Czech Republic continued, with Roma the most frequent victims. On February 23, 1998, at approximately 12.30 p.m., a racially motivated attack took place at a tram stop on Kotlárská Street in Brno, the Czech Republic's second city. Ten young non-Romani Czechs, reportedly drunk, attacked a 17-year-old Romani youth named P.N. and his non-Romani friend. Police investigators have not qualified the attack as racially motivated.

On March 3, ČTK reported that six skinheads and nine Roma had been charged with breach of the peace and criminal damage in connection with a brawl on February 28 in the restaurant Trip in Breclav, southern Moravia. The incident was reportedly provoked by a group of twelve skinheads between the ages of 17 and 23, including three girls. They shouted racist taunts such as „Gypsies to the gas chamber" and „You black bastards" at a group of Roma outside the restaurant. The Roma then followed them inside and a fight ensued.

On March 11, ČTK reported that police had confiscated a loaded firearm from a man who had allegedly pointed it at two Romani men who were walking past a pub in Dečin, northern Bohemia. A police spokesperson told ČTK that the man had said that he did not like them because they were Gypsies. He then took out a legally-owned pistol, loaded it and pointed it at them, while continuing to insult them. The Romani men, aged 39 and 22, ran into the restaurant and called the police, who confiscated the weapon and eight cartridges.

The Czech press reported on March 24 that a municipal court in Prague had found two members of the skinhead movement guilty of the November 1997 killing of a Sudanese student. Nineteen-year-old Petr Zborník was sentenced to 14-and-a-half years in prison for racially-motivated murder. His 16-year-old accomplice, Jan Schimperk, was sentenced to spend seven-and-a-half months in a prison for juvenile delinquents. Many observers commented on the remarkable speed with which the perpetrators were brought to justice in the killing. Racially-motivated killings of Roma, such as the drowning of Tibor Danihel in the southern Bohemian town of Písek in 1993, have taken years to achieve proper hearings in the Czech criminal justice system (see Roma Rights, Spring 1997).

Expressing concern over the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic, the European Parliament threatened on March 3 to block the approval of European Union associate members' entry criteria because of the Czech Republic's record on Roma-related issues. It also resolved that criteria such as Romani integration in the Czech Republic should be moved from medium-term to short-term priorities.

(ČTK, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Prague Post, Respekt)

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