Denial of justice in Czech race crimes
07 November 2001
On March 28, 2002, the ERRC was informed by the Prague-based Counselling Centre for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights that on March 7, 2002, Mr František Kroščen's discrimination case was dismissed at the first instance court hearing. Mr František Kroščen filed a complaint for protection of personal dignity on July 4, 2001, with the Regional Court of Prague against Bohemia Travel Inc., after visiting the Na Stráži Hotel at around 12 noon on June 12, 2001, with the aim of eating at the hotel's restaurant. In his complaint, Mr Kroščen describes a one-metre high, ancient Greek style white statue of a man, in whose hands was a baseball bat bearing the clearly visible inscription, "Na cikany" ("For Gypsies"). Mr Kroščen's legal representative appealed the decision the same day. The appeal was pending as of April 2, 2002.
In another case, according to field investigation by the ERRC, on February 6, 2002, the Regional Court at Ostrava returned an inadequate verdict in connection with the firebombings in the eastern Czech city of Krnov in 1996. Twice in February 1996, firebombs were reportedly thrown at property of Roma in Krnov. The second attack, on February 16, 1996, was aimed at a flat in which Mr Milan Kováč was resident. In these cases, no explosion resulted and no serious damage or injuries were caused, and it was only following another attack in 1998, in which Mr Kováč's common-law wife, Ms Emilie Žigová was seriously injured, that six men were indicted for the attacks in February 1996. For more information on the case, see: Failure to provide justice to Roma in the Czech Republic .
On the first day of trial in connection with the 1996 attacks, on February 4, 2002, Judge Renáta Sobalová excluded one of the defendants, 23-year-old Mr Aleš Chlopčík, from proceedings for failing to show up at two previous trial dates, and decided that his case would be dealt with separately from the rest of the defendants. She also ordered that a warrant be issued for his arrest. On February 6, 2002, in connection with the 1996 attacks, Judge Sobalová sentenced the remainder of the defendants for crimes in accordance with Czech Penal Code Article 179(1), common endangerment, and Article 196(2), racially-motivated violence against a group or an individual. All six were acquitted of offences under Article 179(2), common endangerment, repeatedly, over a short period of time. Judge Sobalová further stated that the crimes of February 4, 1996, and February 16, 1996, were considered one crime, despite the fact that two of the accused threw firebombs at two different houses on two different days. Twenty-three-year-old Mr Petr Hanzel was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for 30 months. Twenty-three-year-old Mr Martin Balcar was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for three years. Twenty-six-year-old Mr Miroslav Mielcárek was sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended for five years. Twenty-four-year-old Mr Roman Kovářik was sentenced to three-years imprisonment, suspended for five years, and 28-year-old Mr Libor Kubela was sentenced to three-years imprisonment.
Also according to ERRC field investigation in the Czech Republic, on February 21, 2002, the Bruntál District Court in Krnov returned a third verdict in the 1998 arson attack on Ms Emilie Žigová's flat. Mr Radek Bedři, Mr Jan Bůčko and Mr Jaroslav Bahníček had been charged after throwing a firebomb into the flat of Ms Žigová and Mr Milan Kováč on January 17, 1998, as well as, on the same evening, throwing another three firebombs at the vehicle of a Romani person in Krnov.
Twenty-year-old Mr Bedři was sentenced to two years imprisonment for having committed a crime in accordance with Czech Penal Code Article 179(1), common endangerment, Article 222(1 and 2b), racially-motivated grievous bodily harm, Article 196(2), racially-motivated violence against a group or an individual, and Article 257(1 and 2b), racially-motivated damage to property. Mr Bedři has also been ordered to pay 9,000 Czech crowns (approximately 290 euros) to Ms Žigová for damage to her property. Mr Bedři appealed the verdict on the spot. Mr Bůčko and Mr Bahníček, the two other men charged in connection with the incident were acquitted of all charges.
In yet another instance of failure to provide justice to Roma, it was reported to the ERRC that on December 18, 2001, after a short hearing, the Czech High Court in Prague rejected the appeal of Ms Gizela Lacková and confirmed the July 23, 2001 decision of the Regional Court in the Northern Bohemian city of Ústí nad Labem. The court in Ústí nad Labem had rejected her claim that her dignity had been harmed when municipal authorities in the city erected a 2-metre-high wall around a series of buildings inhabited predominantly by Roma on October 13, 1999. The ERRC and others conducted a high-profile campaign against the wall and, in co-operation with local counsel, assisted Ms Lacková in filing a lawsuit against the city council of Ústí nad Labem on November 12, 1999 (for further details on the case, see: Czech authorities build ghetto wall, tear it down again ). In February 2002, Ms Lacková's legal representative filed an appeal at the Czech Supreme Court in Brno against the Prague court's decision.
On December 14, 2001, ERRC field research revealed that the District Court in the Western Czech town of Rokycany had allowed a settlement of 42,000 Czech crowns (approximately 1,330 euros) and a handshake, in the case of a July 14, 2000 firebomb attack on the house of family of Jiří Giňa, a Romani family in Rokycany. On July 14, 2000, at about 11:00 PM, a firebomb was thrown at the window of the house. The explosive broke on the window frame and did not fall into the room inside, where three children were sleeping. The bomb did not explode and caused no damage. For further details of the case, see: Fire bomb attack on Romani house in Czech Republic . All prosecution has since been dropped and the three defendants, all minors, maintain clean criminal records.
On December 6, 2001, the national daily newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes reported that the investigator based in Semily, northeastern Czech Republic, in the case of Tibor B. had dropped the investigation, and his office stated that the police officers being investigated for bodily harm and misuse of power had not broken the law. On May 29, 2001, 13-year-old Tibor B. was throwing stones at the window of an abandoned building in Náchod, when two police officers caught him, and one of the officers injured him badly. Mladá Fronta Dnes reported that the medical report of the general hospital in Náchod confirmed that Tibor B. suffered severe spinal injuries, and that he was treated at home for more than a month. According to the daily, following the non-indictment decision, the two officers allegedly involved in the incident were considering filing a complaint against Mr František B., the father of Tibor B., for wrongly accusing them of a crime. The ERRC offered legal assistance to František B. to appeal the decision of the Investigator's Office, which he refused, apparently because in its decision, the Investigator's Office stated that he had no right to appeal. He also reported to the ERRC that, since he filed the complaint against the police, unknown people from the area have been coming to his house, cursing him and threatening him with violence.
Finally, on November 29, 2001, Mr Ladislav Prouza, state attorney for the Northern Czech town of Jeseník, told the ERRC that an Olomouc branch of the Regional Appeal Court of Ostrava had decided on October 10, 2001, and November 23, 2001, that, contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court, the four defendants had not committed any crime in connection with the July 1999 attack on Mr Tibor Mižigar. During the attack, Mr Mižigar, a Romani man, was beaten with baseball bats and billiard cues and balls in a bar in Jeseník called Tequila. Full details of the case are available at: Czech Minister of Justice will not file a complaint for „breach of law and Prosecuting racist criminals in the Czech Republic . Mr Aleš Janošík, Mr Petr Luňák, Mr Jaroslav Hynar and Mr Igor Matura were acquitted of violations under Article 221 (1 and 2b), damage to health and racially motivated damage to health, of the Czech Penal Code, Article 202 (1 and 2), disturbing the peace and disturbing the peace in a group, and Article 198(1a), defamation of nation or race. Further information on access to justice by Roma in the Czech Republic can be found on the ERRC Internet website at: www.errc.org
(Counselling Centre for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights, ERRC, Mladá Fronta Dnes)