Mixed Quality Judicial Action on Race Crimes in Czech Republic
10 May 2003
On March 4, 2003, the High Court in Prague issued a final verdict, sentencing Mr Vlastimil Pechanec to seventeen years imprisonment in accordance with Article 219(g) of the Czech Criminal Code for racially motivated murder. The sentence was in connection with the July 20, 2001, fatal stabbing of Mr Oto Absolon, a 29-year-old Romani man, in the eastern Bohemian town of Svitavy (for further information on the case, see: Legal Defence of Roma in Czech Republic and Violence including rape and killing of Roma in Czech Republic). Taken together with similar cases, such rulings, however, appear to be the exception rather than the rule where race crimes are at issue in the Czech Republic.
|One of the accused in the "Blue Star" attack, on the bench at the District Court of České Budějovice, February 5, 2001. On November 20, 1999, a large group of skinheads had attacked a group of Roma celebrating in the Blue Star restaurant, České Budějovice, in which a number of people, including a pregnant woman, were injured. Czech courts have handed down extremly leniet sentences in the case. For more information on the case see http://www.errc.org/rr_nr2-3_2001/snap24.shtml
Photo: ČTK (CZECH PRESS AGENCY)
In another case, on January 10, 2003, the Regional Court in Ostrava sentenced Mr Tomás Vassiov, Mr Petr Kubaň, Mr Zdenék Kubaň and Mr Lubomír Lukaštík, in connection with two separate attacks on Roma on June 17 and 30, 2001, according to ERRC field investigation. At around 12:20 AM on June 17, 2001, Mr P. Kubaň and Mr Lukaštík beat Mr Miroslav Š., a Romani man, on his head and upper body, then threatened him with a knife outside a convenience store in Ostrava-Hrabuvce. In an apparently premeditated attack, on June 30, 2001, Mr Vassiov, Mr P. Kubaň, Mr Z. Kubaň and Mr Lukaštík followed Mr Marek G. and Mr Jaroslav H., both ethnic Roma, and Mr Milan Š., off a tram in Ostrava-Zábřeh and brutally assaulted them in an underpass. The four men knocked down Mr G. and began to kick him as they pushed hard on his face with their boots. The attackers then shot Mr G. twice on his forehead with a gas pistol, fracturing his nose and burning his face. The attackers then tried to shoot Mr H. with a gas pistol, but he managed to move out of the way. Next, the attackers punched Mr Š. so hard that he fell to the ground, where they repeatedly kicked and punched him, until Mr Vassiov stabbed him four times in his chest.
Mr Vassiov, a minor at the time of the attacks, received three years imprisonment for rioting, in accordance with Article 202(1) of the Czech Criminal Code, racially motivated grievous bodily harm (Article 222 (1&2b)) and for supporting and propagating a movement which aims at suppressing rights and freedoms of citizens or which propagates national, racial, class and religious hatred (Article 260 (1&2a)). Mr Vassiov was found not guilty of racially motivated attempted murder. Mr Vassiov received an additional year for having committed a crime while serving a suspended sentence for previous offence. Mr P. Kubaň was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment for rioting and causing grievous bodily harm (Article 222 (1)) in connection with the June 17 attack, and rioting and racially motivated grievous bodily harm in connection with the June 30 attack. Mr Z. Kubaň received four years imprisonment for rioting and causing grievous bodily harm during the June 30 attack. Mr Lukaštík, a minor at the time of the first attack only, was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment for rioting and causing aggravated bodily harm in connection with the June 17 attack, and rioting and causing racially motivated grievous bodily harm during the June 30 attack. Mr Vassiov and Mr Z. Kubaň appealed the verdict on the spot.
In other cases, Czech courts have recently failed to reach adequate rulings with respect to racially motivated crimes. On November 12, 2002, Mr Frantisek Cibulka and Mr Ladislav Potužák received twelve months imprisonment and Zdenék Demjanovič received eight months imprisonment, all suspended, from the District Court of Cheb, in western Czech Republic, according to the Czech national daily newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes (MFDnes) of November 13, 2002. Mr Cibulka, Mr Potužák and Zdenék Demjanovič had reportedly been found guilty of rioting and of violation of domestic freedom, in accordance with Articles 202(1) and 238, respectively, of the Czech Criminal Code. The daily reported that the sentences followed an incident in July 2001, during which Mr Cibulka, Mr Potužák and Zdenék Demjanovič broke into the home of Mr Martin K., a Romani man, and shouted racial slurs at his family. The men were wearing swastikas at the time of the attack. One member of the family was injured after jumping out of a window out of fear. Judge Zdeněk Johann was quoted as having stated "The accused have not been condemned before and have led a proper way of life after the deed", in an apparent attempt to justify the mild sentences.
Finally, on August 7, 2002, the District Court of Hradec Králové, in northeastern Czech Republic, sentenced Mr Marek Doležal to two years imprisonment, suspended for five years, in accordance with the Czech Criminal Code under Article 196(1) for violence against a group and Article 222(1) for causing grievous bodily harm. Mr Doležal's inadequate sentence followed a brutal attack on two Roma in a bar in the town during which one Romani man, Mr Marian B., was stabbed and another was injured (for additional information on the case, see: Violence against Roma in the Czech Republic). As of September 20, 2002, Mr B.'s attorney had appealed the verdict. On January 16, 2003, ERRC research revealed that the District Court of Hradec Králové refused the appeal of Mr B.'s attorney, Mr Stanislav Fišer, and confirmed the verdict.