Prosecuting attacks on Roma in the Czech Republic
15 August 2001
On June 27, 2001, the Romani advisor of the District Government Office of Brno-city informed the ERRC that the investigation into the alleged beating of a Romani youth by police officers on September 17, 2000, had been dropped without charges being brought. Martin T. had alleged that three police officers had approached him in a park at Slovanské Square in Brno and asked to see his identity card; he alleged that the officers dragged him into the bushes and one officer held him down whilst the other two beat him. Martin T. suffered multiple contusions and a broken nose in the assault (see "Snapshots from around Europe" at: Snapshots).
In other news from the Czech criminal justice system, on June 9, 2001, the Czech Press Agency reported that the Regional Court of Second Instance in Olomouc had rejected the appeal of Mr JiĹ™í Tuma, thereby confirming his sentence of one year imprisonment for racially-motivated crime and breach of the peace. Mr Tuma had been convicted by a lower court of charges relating to three offences: an assault on the home of a Romani family in Jeseník, in which he fired several shots from a gas pistol at the family on February 18, 1998; an attack on February 27, 1998, in which Mr Tuma deliberately drove his car at two Romani women pushing a pram along a pavement, forcing them to throw themselves into a ditch; and the assault on Ms I.G., a Romani woman on September 9, 2000, in which he spat at her. Mr Tuma is one of the well-known skinheads in the Brno region and, according to the Czech Press Agency, this was his third prison sentence for racially-motivated crime.
In other news from the Czech criminal justice system, on June 9, 2001, the Czech Press Agency reported that the Regional Court of Second Instance in Olomouc had rejected the appeal of Mr Jiří Tuma, thereby confirming his sentence of one year imprisonment for racially-motivated crime and breach of the peace. Mr Tuma had been convicted by a lower court of charges relating to three offences: an assault on the home of a Romani family in Jeseník, in which he fired several shots from a gas pistol at the family on February 18, 1998; an attack on February 27, 1998, in which Mr Tuma deliberately drove his car at two Romani women pushing a pram along a pavement, forcing them to throw themselves into a ditch; and the assault on Ms I.G., a Romani woman on September 9, 2000, in which he spat at her. Mr Tuma is one of the well-known skinheads in the Brno region and, according to the Czech Press Agency, this was his third prison sentence for racially-motivated crime.
In another case, the Regional Court in Ostrava returned a final verdict in the Milan Lacko case on May 24, 2001, two years after the events surrounding Mr Lacko’s death, finding all four skinheads charged to have been implicated in his death. Mr Lacko, a Romani man, was attacked by a group of skinheads outside a bar in Ostrava in May 1998, and left unconscious in a road where he was run over and killed (see “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights Spring 1998, 2/1999 and 2/2000; available at http://errc.org). Mr Petr Dömeš, aged 22, was found guilty of racially motivated assault resulting in death, and of rioting, and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Mr David Jureczek, aged 19, was found guilty of rioting and sentenced to sixteen months imprisonment. Mr Pavel Fuco, aged 19, was sentenced to one year imprisonment, suspended for two years, for rioting and for racially motivated bodily harm causing death, for his part in the assault. Mr Leo Fiedor, also aged 19, was also found guilty on the charges of racially motivated assault causing death, and of rioting, and sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for eighteen months. The driver of the car that ran over Mr Lacko, Mr Marian Telega, was given a fifteen months sentence, suspended for two and a half years, and was banned from driving for four years for causing death by negligence. The relatively mild sentences handed down are reportedly a reflection of both the failings of the original investigation by the police into Mr Lacko’s death and the fact that three of the skinheads charged were minors when the offence was committed. The police investigation had earlier refused to consider any link between the racially-motivated attack and Mr Lacko’s death.
In other Czech news of ongoing criminal cases, on March 28, 2001, the District Court in the North Moravian town of Jeseník returned its second verdict in the Tibor Mižigar case. Mr Mižigar, a 27-year-old Romani man, was attacked on July 17, 1999, by a group of skinheads in a bar in Jeseník. His attackers humiliated him with racial taunts before physically assaulting him with baseball bats and pool cues; Mr Mižigar sustained serious injuries in the assault (see “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights 3/1999; available at Snapshots). This case had been returned to the District Court by the Supreme Court of Brno on August 29, 2000, due to an unsatisfactory verdict in the first trial (see “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights 3/2000, available at Snapshots). However, the second verdict marks no real improvement upon the first. On January 24, 2000, the District Court returned its first decision, finding only two of the six defendants guilty, and sentencing them to eighteen and twenty-one months imprisonment, despite both men having previous convictions for racially-motivated attacks. On March 28, 2001, the District Court again found only the same two of the six men accused, Mr Radek Supa and Mr Edvard Šindler, guilty of defamation of race, rioting and racially motivated assault, sentencing them to eighteen months imprisonment, suspended for thirty months, and twenty months imprisonment, suspended for three years, respectively. The District Court stressed that, in direct contravention of the Supreme Court ruling, it was not finding the defendants guilty of rioting as members of an organised group. The state attorney, Mr Ladisláv Prouza, has appealed the verdict.
On March 14, 2001, the District Court in České Budějovice returned a verdict in the so-called Blue Star case (see “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights 1/2000; Snapshots). On November 20, 1999, a group of between thirty and seventy skinheads attacked the Blue Star (U Modré hvězdy) restaurant in the southern Czech town of Ceské Budějovice, in which approximately forty Roma were gathered. The attackers threw glasses and bottles. At least one shot was reportedly fired. A large number of people were injured, requiring medical treatment. Twenty-four young men were charged in connection with the attack, five of whom are minors. Twenty-one of the accused were found guilty of racially-motivated violence against a group or individual (Article 196(2) of the Czech Criminal Code), rioting in an organised group (Article 202(1 and 2)), and racially-motivated damage to property (Article 257 (1) and (2)(b)). In addition, two of the accused were found guilty of bodily harm (Article 221(1)) and were ordered to pay fines of 3000 Czech crowns each (approximately 90 euros), to cover the medical treatment of the two non-Roma injured in the attack. All the sentences were suspended, except for six of the accused who had criminal records for similar attacks: Mr Tomás Bača, Mr Michal Bílek, Mr Petr Frič, Mr Robert Obermayer, Mr Jiří Šafář and Mr Jan Čok were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between eighteen and thirty months. On the day of the verdict, the representative of the victims of the attack, Mr Jakub Polák, released a statement condemning the negligence of the police, both on the night of the attack and in the subsequent investigation. On the night of the attack, it is alleged that the skinheads were allowed to gather in large numbers, despite the police being aware of their presence in the town, and were allowed to move towards the restaurant without intervention by law enforcement officers. Mr Polák further claims that following the commencement of the attack, the police did not arrive until twenty-five to thirty minutes after they were first called and failed to adequately seal off the scene or attempt to arrest the man who fired the shot. The investigation only began after the interest of the media in the case, and the prosecutor failed to go about his task systematically: the attackers were not prosecuted as an organised group, and some of the skinhead ringleaders were never charged for their part in the attack. Moreover, despite a number of witnesses testifying that they heard a gunshot, as well as physical evidence of a bullet hole in the door of the restaurant, this has been ignored by the prosecuting team, and the Regional Court confirmed the decision of the District Court not to allow the victims to present ballistics evidence in court. Mr Polák has stated that he intends to file a complaint against the Regional Court’s decision in the matter.
The failure of the justice system in the Czech Republic to deliver a just remedy for Romani victims of violence is well-documented. Further information on the failings of the Czech justice system where Roma have fallen victim to racist attack is available at the ERRC website: http://www.errc.org.
(Czech Press Agency, ERRC)