More police abuse in Písek, Czech Republic
02 April 1998
Instances of police abuse continue to be documented in the southern Czech town of Písek. One incident of police abuse in the town took place on the evening of November 27, 1997. According to A.B., a 23-year-old Romani woman who had suffered police abuse once previously, „My boyfriend P.O. and my cousin M.L. and I went to the pub Na Radosti for cigarettes at about 10 p.m.. We went in, bought two packs of cigarettes, and were about to leave, when a man came up to us and tired to stop us leaving the pub. When my boyfriend asked what he was doing, the man said that he was arresting my cousin. The man was drunk and he grabbed my cousin by his jacket and started to rough him up. My boyfriend stood up for him and demanded to know who the man was. We thought that he was a skinhead because his hair and his clothes were like theirs, but he said that he was a policeman, and so we asked to see his ID. He didn’t want to show it to us at fist, but then another man brought it to him.”
At this point, the now-properly-identified policeman pulled M.L. outside and allegedly started to beat him. A.B. and P.O. followed the two men and attempted to intervene, enabling M.L. to escape. Then, according to A.B., „the off-duty policeman began to beat up P.O. I didn’t know what to do, so I ran into the pub and asked the waitress to call the police. I went back out and saw them punching him in the stomach. The first man was joined by about five others, who were hitting P.O. too. I was crying and shouting for help. Then one of them ran up to me and said, ‘Don’t shout, you black whore, or I’ll shoot you.”’ He allegedly threatened her with his pistol.
A.B. stated that she then managed to run to the nearby house of her aunt for help. When she returned with her mother and aunt, the state police had already arrived and were in the pub investigating. When they came out, according to P.O., „We waited to see what would happen, but all they said was that they knew the man, and that I should go to the police station with them. The policeman who started it all was drinking a beer. We went home.” Asked why he did not go to the police station, P.O. said it was not the first time he had been subjected to police abuse, and that he knew from past experience that if he tried to file a complaint he would be accused of having started the incident. He was frightened of reprisals. The policeman who beat him up had allegedly told him outside the pub, „If you complain, I’ll find you and shoot you”.
In an interview with the ERRC on December 13, a man who had been summoned to help and who had arrived immediately after the attack, identified the police officer involved. A number of police officers in Písek are specifically known to the Romani community as skinhead sympathisers and as perpetrators of attacks on Roma. The three victims of the alleged attack have all been the victims of previous police abuse in Písek and Roma allege that they are frequently abused by the police in the town (see Roma Rights, Summer 1997). At least two Roma have died in the Czech Republic as a result of police abuse since 1989.