Access to Justice Issues in Czech Republic

On 19 October 2006, Czech Police President Vladislav Husak apologised on behalf of the Czech Police for its misuse of its powers in the town of Bohumin from 4 to 6 October 2005. Private security guards hired by the municipal authorities to guard the "Hotelovy Dum", a hostel for poor people, prevented entry to a number of concerned parties trying to visit the facility. Hostel residents were part of a targeted campaign by Bohumin municipality to expel several hundred persons, a large number of them Romani, from the housing. Czech police officers summoned to the scene declined to intervene on behalf of the residents and their visitors, despite the fact that a court injunction permitting normal use of the facility by the residents, including the right to receive visitors, was in effect at the time. After more than five hours of delay, the visitors were ultimately permitted entry, but on 6 October 2005, police forcibly expelled local activist and visitor Kumar Vishwanathan from the Hotelovy Dum, claiming a "new agreement" between the town and the police had been reached, that the police would not prevent the private security from barring any guests, and that, if necessary, they would aid in the removal of visitors.

In his apology, Mr Husak clarified that "[…] if any court at any level has issued an injunction, then all parties, including the police, are bound to obey the order […]." In July 2006, the appeals court in Ostrava upheld a lower court ruling imposing a fine on the Bohumin municipal authorities for ceasing to supply hot water to the "Hotelovy Dum" during the winter months of 2005 and 2006. Further information on the case is available on the ERRC website at: www.errc.org.

In other news, on 5 September the Czech News Agency (CTK) reported that the Ostrava Regional Court rejected a complaint by three local Roma who had filed a complaint against Helax, a local nightclub, after they had been refused entrance to the club. The Roma had requested an apology and 90,000 Czech crowns (approximately 3,175 EUR) in compensation. In its decision, the Court found that the club security guards had not discriminated against the Roma due to the colour of their skin and ordered the plaintiffs to pay 16,000 Czech crowns (approximately 565 EUR) in compensation to the defendants and in court fees. Defence council reported that it would appeal the verdict. The incident was part of a series of tests carried out in Ostrava by the non-governmental organisation Life Together and others in March 2004. At the time, Helax club security prevented three Roma from entering its dance hall. Several minutes later, association workers and journalists entered the hall with no problem. According to the plaintiffs, the incident was a display of discrimination, but the operator of the club argued that the Roma declined to put their jackets in a cloakroom in accordance with club regulations. Kumar Vishwanathan from Life Together was quoted as having stated that regardless of the loss of the case, the association would continue such tests. In other news, according to a 31 August report by CTK, a court in Jesenik in the eastern Czech region of Olomouc sentenced 23- year-old Mr Martin Jas to threeyears' imprisonment for his part in a brutal attack on a Romani couple in their home in 2003. The sentence was made on appeal following public outcry against the first highly inadequate verdict on the case. Background information on the case is available on the ERRC website at: www.errc.org.

(CTK, ERRC)

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