Continued Racist Violence against Roma in the Czech Republic
07 November 2002
Racist violence against Roma in the Czech Republic continues. In only a few instances have the perpetrators of acts of violence against Roma been adequately punished for their actions.
ERRC field research revealed that just before midnight on August 9, 2002, a group of ten Romawere attacked by between twenty and thirty non-Romani men in front of the Alexandria discotheque in the town of Český Těšín in the north-east of the Czech Republic. On September 16, 2002, Mr Jan Gažíktestified to the ERRC that, on August 9, 2002, he, together with two Romani friends and one non-Romani friend, attempted to enter a local bar named Bagsy, but were reportedly told by four doormen that they "do not let Gypsies in." According to Mr Gažík, he complained and then one of the doormen, Mr L.F., punched him in the face. A fight ensued between the eight men, during which the doormen shouted racist insults. Mr Slávek Burianský, another Romani victim, testified to the ERRC that Mr L.F. brutally beat him, tearing his clothing as he punched and kicked him in the face. Mr Gažík stated that they did not call the police because, according to his testimony, he did not trust that the police would act adequately and without bias.
Mr Gažík informed the ERRC that after the conflict at Bagsy, he and Mr Jiří C. went to the Alexandria discotheque. In front of the disco, he and a number of other victims and witnesses to the assault were reportedly telling around ten Roma about the fight, when they noticed between twenty and thirty non-Romani men arrive at the disco in five to six cars and block the entrance to the parking lot in front of the building. According to Mr Gažík, the non-Roma jumped out of their cars holding baseball bats and shouted racist insults as they began to beat the Roma standing in front of the building. Mr Gažík reported that the Roma tried to escape into the disco but three were caught and badly beaten. When Mr Gažík left the disco, he reportedly found the three Roma lying on the ground, one of them, Mr Norbert G., with what was later diagnosed as a broken knee. Mr Gažík reported that when they attempted to stop the attackers from leaving, one of the non-Roma shot a gas pistol in the air several times. Mr L.F. was among the group of attackers, according to Mr Gažík.
According to the Czech daily newspaper Právo of August 14, 2002, the police identified the majority of the perpetrators from the attack at the Alexandria discotheque and as of August 13, 2002, seven suspects were in police custody. On September 3, 2002, Ms Cieslarová, a spokesperson for the Karvina District Police, informed the ERRC that at least six Roma were injured during the attack, as a result of being punched and kicked repeatedly. On October 8, 2002, Mr Gažik informed the ERRC that he, his two Romani friends and a non-Romani friend had been charged in accordance with the Czech Criminal Code under Article 202 (1) for rioting for their involvement in the conflict at the Bagsy bar. On October 9, 2002, Mr Lazníčka, the police investigator into the incident at the Alexandria discotheque, informed the ERRC that twelve people had been accused under Article 222 (1 & 2b) of racially motivated grievous bodily harm. As of November 12, 2002, the ERRC was unaware of further developments in the case.
In other events, according to ERRC field investigation, on July 26, 2002, Mr Michal K., a 23-year-old Romani man, was attacked by three non-Roma at a gas station in Orlová Lutyné in the Karvina District in north-eastern Czech Republic. On July 30, 2002, Mr K. testified to the ERRC that shortly after midnight, he and his friend, Mr Ernest P., a 32-year-old Romani man, entered the petrol station and three non-Romani men – later identified as 25-year-old Mr P.H., 23-year-old Mr D.K. and 19-year-old Mr J.K. – approached them, shouting that they wanted an obscenity translated from Romani into Czech. When Mr Michal K. translated the sentence, one of the non-Roma shouted at him to repeat it and Mr Michal K. poked him in the arm and asked the non-Roma not to bother him. According to Mr Michal K. and Mr P., the non-Roma then pushed Mr K. around the corner of the building, away from the view of the petrol station employees and cameras. Mr K. reportedly grabbed the non-Roma by the shirt and asked him to leave him alone, at which time the two other non-Roma ran up and the three men began hitting Mr K. repeatedly with their fists until he fell to the ground. When Mr K. was on the ground, the three began kicking him all over his body.
In the meantime, Mr P. reportedly asked the petrol station employees to call the police, which they refused to do, and told him to call from the public telephone on the side of the building, which he did. According to Mr K., the three non-Roma then stopped hitting and kicking him and two police officers arrived promptly, followed soon after by two state policemen. Mr K. and Mr P. reported to the ERRC that the state policemen wrote down their names as well as the names of Mr P.H., Mr D.K. and Mr J.K. and asked whether Mr Michal K. wanted to file a complaint, which he reportedly refused, saying he did not want any further problems.
According to Mr Michal K. and Mr Ernest P., they then left the petrol station in the direction of Orlová 1 and noticed that the state policemen were following them. Mr K. and Mr P. reported that they stopped at another petrol station in Orlová Poruba and when they were getting out of the car, they noticed that Mr P.H., Mr D.K. and Mr J.K. had also followed them. According to Mr Michal K. and Mr Ernest P., the three non-Roma blocked their way with their car, got out of their car, and two of them, who were holding baseball bats, began hitting Mr K.'s car with the bats and kicking it with their feet, while the third entered the petrol station. As a result, the front and side windows of the car were destroyed. During the assault, one of the non-Romani men reportedly pulled Mr K. out of the car and hit him repeatedly on the head and all over his body with a baseball bat while kicking him. According to Mr P., he got out of the car and ran into the petrol station, asking the petrol station attendant to call the police, which the non-Romani men would not allow them to do. At this time, Mr P. reportedly ran to the road to find a public telephone and noticed a state police car parked on the road with the officers inside watching the attack. When Mr P. shouted for help, the officers allegedly started the car and drove away.
According to Mr K., during this time, the non-Roma left the petrol station and he pulled himself up off the ground and returned home by car, leaving Mr P. at the petrol station. Mr K.'s parents reportedly called the police after being told the details of what had happened and Mr K.'s father went to find Mr P. and brought him home with him. A police vehicle reportedly arrived at Mr K.'s house after a short time, accompanied by an ambulance, which drove Mr K. to the local hospital. At the hospital, a doctor examined Mr K., but allegedly did not find any major injuries. However, the hospital report also states that Mr K. had drank half a litre of vodka, although Mr K. was reportedly not given a blood test while at the hospital.
On the morning of July 26, 2002, Mr K., accompanied by his mother, filed a criminal complaint at the local police station in connection with the incident. On July 30, 2002, the ERRC accompanied Mr K. and his father to meet Mr Heran, director of the Karvina District Police. When asked whether he knew of the attack, Mr Heran reported that he was only aware that there had been a conflict at the petrol station. Mr K. then informed Mr Heran about the behaviour of the police. Mr Heran responded that he would order an immediate investigation into the case. The ERRC then accompanied Mr K. and his father to the Orlová Police Station, which was responsible for the investigation. Mr Wisniovski, chief of police, informed the victim and the ERRC that he believed that the police were not properly performing their duties. Mr Wisniovski then showed the victim and the ERRC a transcript of the interrogation of the police officers and invited the ERRC to attend further interrogations.
On July 29, 2002, during an ERRC visit with Mr P. and his family in the front garden of their home, a blue Skoda vehicle with two young men inside entered their street. The car drove past Mr P.'s house and turned around. When the car passed in front of the house again, the ERRC witnessed the passenger, a young man with a tattoo on his arm, lean out of the window of the car and shout, "Today you will burn, you black mouths." Mr P. informed the ERRC that the person who had shouted the threat was one of the non-Romani men who had attacked him and Mr K. at the petrol station in Orlová Lutyné.
On July 31, 2002, the ERRC accompanied Mr P. to the Orlová Police Station and made a copy of the case report made by Mr L. Šebík, the police investigator in the case. Upon reading the case report, the ERRC noticed that key information, such as clear descriptions of the attackers and a detailed account of the attack, had not been solicited from Mr K. and Mr P. during their interrogation by Officer Šebík. At the police station, Mr P. made a second statement about the attack and included information about the state police car that had left the scene of the second attack and the threat to which he had been subjected on July 29, 2002.
On September 2, 2002, Ms Cieslarová informed the ERRC that on August 7, 2002, Mr D.K. was charged in accordance with the Czech Criminal Code under Article 202 (1) for rioting and Article 222 (1 & 2b) for attempting racially motivated grievous bodily harm. On August 8, 2002, Mr P.H. and Mr J.K. were similarly charged. In September 2002, the Czech non-governmental organisation Environmental Law Service took up legal representation of Mr K. and Mr P. in the case. Investigating officers told the ERRC that because Mr P. was unable to prove that officers had been at the scene of the attack, they were pursuing no actions against them.
In other news, on July 26, 2002, the Czech daily newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes reported that at around 11:00 PM on July 24, 2002, three unknown attackers threw two firebombs at the house of Ms Monika Gáborová, a Romani mother of eight children, in the town of Karviná Hranice in the northern Czech Republic. According to the daily, Ms Gáborová stated that all of her children were in bed when a loud explosion reportedly woke her up. The first firebomb hit the sheet metal roof of the house, while the second smashed through a small window in the front of the house and burnt an armchair, according to the daily, although a fire did not ignite in the house. Ms Gáborová's neighbour, Ms Nataša Violová, reportedly called the police. As reported in the daily, some older children sitting in front of a neighbour's house saw three men with short hair sitting in a white car throw the firebombs at Ms Gáborová's house. According to the daily, police began an investigation into the case on charges of rioting and causing common danger. However, police had reportedly ruled out a racial motive in the incident because none of the witnesses heard the men shout racial insults. Czech police investigators apply extremely rigid criteria for assessing the possibility of a racial motive animating a crime.
Mr Heran, director of the Karviná District Police, subsequently informed the ERRC that the police were investigating the incident and that some suspects had been identified. On July 30, 2002, the ERRC visited the scene of the incident and was told by Mr Gábor, Ms Gáborová's husband, that at the time of the attack, twenty people were reportedly inside the house, ten of whom were children. Mr Gábor also informed the ERRC that, since the attack, the Romani inhabitants of the street had asked for a police patrol but as of that date one had not yet been provided. On September 28, 2002, a spokesperson for the Karviná District Police informed the ERRC that the investigation into the case was ongoing, but no suspects had been identified. As of November 12, 2002, the ERRC was unaware of any changes in the status of the case.
(ERRC, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Právo)