Rulings of Uneven Quality in Roma Rights Abuse Cases in the Czech Republic
16 December 2004
In a hearing on August 24, 2004, Judge Dušan Jedlička of the Jeseník First Instance Court delivered a decision in which three neo-Nazi youths – Petr Blajze, Martin Jaš and Martin Hejný – charged under Articles 221 (injury to health), 198 (defamation of a nation, race or conviction), 196 (violence against a group of citizens or an individual) and 202 (disturbing the peace) of the Czech Criminal Code, received suspended sentences. Mr Petr Gábor, a Czech Romani man, received a suspended sentence of two-years imprisonment in accordance with Article 202, according to information provided by Mr Václav Zástěra, a social worker from Jeseník.
The sentencing was in relation to a violent clash in February 2004 between Mr Blajze, Mr Jaš and Mr Hejný on the one hand, and Mr Gábor and his partner Ms Marta Čorejová, also Romani, on the other. The Czech daily newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes (MFDnes) reported on July 20 that in February 2004, Petr Blajze, Martin Jaš and Martin Hejný attacked Mr Gábor and Ms Čorejová at the bus terminal in Jeseník. On September 6, 2004, Mr Gábor testified to the ERRC, working in partnership with the Romani organisation Association of Roma in Moravia, that on the day in question, Mr Blajze, Mr Jaš and Mr Hejný arrived at the bus terminal where he and Ms Čorejová met their friend Angelika and her children. Upon seeing them, the three skinheads began giving the Hitler salute and shouting such things as “Gypsies to the gas chamber”. The group tried to ignore the neo-Nazii youths, but Angelika eventually left with her children. Mr Gábor and Ms Čorejová waited for their bus. Ms Čorejová went to get a drink for Mr Gábor and on the way, Mssrs Blajze, Jaš and Hejný called her a “black bitch”. Mr Gábor made a comment to the three youths and one of them pushed Ms Čorejová then hit Mr Gábor. Mr Gábor testified that he went to help Ms Čorejová and one of the youths pushed him to the ground near a coffee machine and kicked him in the head. Several other men arrived and helped the three youths as they continued to beat Mr Gábor. According to Mr Gábor, a number of police officers were present but ignored what was happening for some time. Eventually, several police officers performed tests on Mr Gábor and Ms Čorejová to determine whether or not they were drunk. Mr Gábor and Ms Čorejová were then reportedly taken to the police station where they were separated and interrogated for several hours. After a while, Ms Čorejová was released but Mr Gábor was held in police custody for three days. According to Mr Mr Gábor, he was not informed of his rights, including the fact that he had a right to talk to a lawyer.
MFDnes reported that the attackers claimed that Mr Gábor and Ms Čorejová started the incident, and that Mr Gábor kicked one of the youths during the incident. Mr Zástěra also informed the ERRC that during the trial on August 24, a witness testified that Mr Gábor had initiated the violence. Mr Gábor and Ms Čorejová told the ERRC/Association of Roma in Moravia that Mr Gábor did not initiate the incident. Mr Gábor, however, decided not to appeal the decision.
Mr Blajze and Mr Jaš have a history of perpetrating violent attacks against Roma in Jeseník and, indeed, have appeared before the Jeseník First Instance Court in a very similar case in which they also received suspended sentences (background information on the case is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=1864). A huge public outcry by Romani activists in the country followed the first sentencing and the case was subsequently sent back for retrial. As of October 6, 2004, the case was pending for retrial.
Earlier, on June 2, 2004, the Regional Court of Ostrava issued a finding of discrimination against R. Company, a private firm, which refused to rent a flat to Ms I.L., a Romani woman, solely on the basis of her ethnicity, according to the Prague-based non-governmental organisation Centre for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights (Poradna). Poradna reported that in July 2003, Ms I.L. and a Romani friend visited the office of R. Company and asked whether any flats were available for rent. Ms I.L. stated she could pay immediately, but was informed by an R. Company representative that there were no vacancies and, indeed, that there was a list of people who had been waiting for flats for 20 years. Immediately after Ms I.L. and her friend left the office of R. Company, a non-Romani male and female representative of Poradna reportedly went to R Company’s office and requested a flat, offering the same terms as Ms I.L. The non-Romani pair were shown a free flat and offered to move in that day provided they paid a security deposit and the first month’s rental fee. Both groups recorded their encounters with R. Company’ representatives with hidden recording equipment; the recordings were submitted as evidence during the trial.
In filing her complaint, Ms I.L. sought an apology from R. Company and non-pecuniary (moral) damages. According to Poradna, as R. Company was not able to justify its differential treatment of the two pairs, the Regional Court ordered R. Company to send a written apology to Ms I.L. and to pay damages in the amount of 50,000 Czech crowns (approximately 1,575 Euro).
(Association of Roma in Moravia, ERRC, MFDnes, Poradna)