Skinheads attack and kidnap Roma in northern Czech Republic
12 April 2000
On December 18, 1999, a group of skinheads allegedly attacked and severely injured three Romani men in a village near the northern Czech town of Děčín. At about 10 PM, the men visited the restaurant Madona in Malá Veleň, just outside of Děčín. After they had eaten dinner, they left the restaurant and wanted to leave the place in their car. On their way to the car, a group of young men dressed like skinheads circled them and attacked the Roma. They shouted “You black swine will die” and kicked them in the head and on various parts of their bodies. Skinheads reportedly kidnapped one of the Romani men and forced him to drive them for several kilometres before police stopped the car, after which some of the skinheads reportedly escaped. Police detained two of the skinheads, but then reportedly released them after twenty-four hours. During a field mission to the Děčín area on February 18, 2000, Mr Martin K. (b. 1979), one of the Romani victims of the attack, told the ERRC:
“We came from Česká Lípa, and on our way back home we stopped for dinner at the pub Madona, some 15 kilometres from Děčín. We did not know that there was a skinhead pub right across the street. We left the restaurant at about 10 PM. Outside we saw the skinheads, tried not to attract their attention and went to our car, which was parked 50 metres down the road. About twelve skinheads stepped in our way and encircled us. We could not reach our car. I knew some of them; the nickname of one of them is ‘Umbraun’. Another is K.N. They all wore skinhead clothing, bomber jackets, army clothes and boots.
“We told them we did not want to fight. Umbraun poured some beer on Ladislav and threw the beer glass at him. Then we tried to escape, but only Ladislav succeeded. The skinheads shouted racist slogans and began to kick us. They kicked me mainly in the head. I thought, ‘now they are going to kill me.’ There were quite a lot of people coming out of the pub and staring at us. One of them was Mr M.H. He is not a skinhead, but he was in the skins’ pub. The fight was short. Tomáš ended up the worst. His head was bleeding. I wound up behind a fence on the other side of the street. When I tried to get to Tomáš, the skinheads said to me: ‘You black swine, you have called the police.’ I swore I hadn’t.
“Then they forced Tomáš to stand up, get into the car and drive them away. About eight of them got into the car and he had to drive them away. I learned later that after some kilometres the police stopped them and some of the skinheads ran away. Then the police came with Tomáš and the rest of the skinheads back to the scene of the attack. Then we went to the hospital, where we left Tomáš and then went with the policeman to the police station, where we told them what had happened. At about 4 AM we went home. Tomáš came home two days later.”
Romani victim Mr Ladislav M. (b. 1975) told the ERRC: “I know one of the attackers. His name is ‘Umbraun’. He is a tall, strong man. Often I run into him in the street, because he lives in my quarter. He poured the beer on me and threw a beer glass at me. That is how it all began. I managed to escape. I ran up the road and rang the bell of a house. A lady opened and I asked her to call the police. She said she would and I waited outside. I did not know what was happening to the others. When I tried to go back, the skinheads were still there. So I went back to the house, rang the bell and asked the woman whether she had really called the police. She promised to call the police once more. I did not believe her, and I stopped a car and the people inside called the police by mobile phone. Then I went back and found only Martin. Tomáš had left with the skinheads.
“It took half an hour from the first call until the arrival of the police. When they finally arrived, they treated us like perpetrators. Finally they took us to the hospital. Tomáš stayed there and Martin and I went to the police station, where they interrogated us. I told them that it was a racial attack, that the skinheads had shouted racist curses and beaten us up only because of our origin. For every five sentences I told them, they wrote down only one. At about 4 AM we finally came home.”
According to the Czech Ministry of the Interior, the victims sustained the following injuries: Martin K. (b. 1979) suffered a brain concussion, stayed one week in hospital and had to spend another three weeks at home to recover. Tomáš D. (b. 1958) suffered a laceration on his head and contusion on his left shoulder with an estimated time of recovery of one week. Ladislav M. (b. 1975) suffered superficial injuries on both arms and legs with an estimated recovery time of one week.
On December 20, 1999, Mr Petr Jano, the chair of the Romani Christian Assembly in Děčín, presented a letter to Vice Prime Minister Pavel Rychetský which stated: “We are sad that although three men were badly injured, the doctors sent two of them home immediately... In the hospital they were treated very superficially.”
On December 29, 1999, Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetský sent a letter to Mr Václav Grulich, Czech Minister of the Interior, asking him to report about the state of investigation. On January 14, 2000, Minister Grulich sent a reply to Deputy Prime Minister Rychetský including the personal data of the attacked, a list of eleven suspects including the three persons charged: Mr K.E. (b. 1979), Mr P.G. (b. 1978) and Mr P.D. (b. 1972). They were accused of the crimes of damage to health (221(1)), and aggravated damage to health (222(1)), both charges without a racial motive. Minister Grulich stressed in his letter that since only victim Martin K. had stated in his testimony ethnically motivated curses such as “you black swine”, police could not demonstrate a racial motive. After intervention by Major Stanislav Daniel, Romani Advisor to the Minister of the Interior, officers interrogated the victims again, and police allegedly documented more extensively that the skinheads had shouted racist slogans. Czech authorities tend to view crimes as racially motivated only if perpetrators are overheard using racist language.
During ERRC field research in Děčín in February 2000, Mr František Pelhart, Director of the District Police, told the ERRC that the incident was not serious and that the police had done all they could. The day after the attack they had already gathered evidence pertaining to all the participants of the “fight”. He additionally told the ERRC that police had brought charges against two persons during the first day after the attack, and detained them for twenty-four hours. A third man was charged the next day. He stated that there was no evidence of a racially motivated attack. He told the ERRC: “The men were drunk and wanted to fight. It was a coincidence that they ran into Roma. None of them is a member or a sympathiser of an extremist movement. Today it is fashionable to have short hair.” He additionally told the ERRC that there is no racism in the Czech Republic and that the real issue is media hype around events such as the famous wall in Ústí nad Labem (see, most recently “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights, 4/99). He stated that during 1999 there had been only one racially motivated act in his police district. On March 31, investigators told the ERRC that four men had been indicted in connection with the case on March 29. One of the men indicted has been charged with a racially motivated crime.
In another incident, Czech and international media reported on December 11 and 13, 1999, that unknown perpetrators had distributed fliers in the southern Moravian town of Prostějov, calling upon whites to expel Roma from the town. The fliers reportedly demanded “a cleaner Prostějov” and invited the population to attend marches on December 4 and 11, at which the inhabitants of a Romani housing settlement would be driven out of town. One such leaflet was reportedly sent to the mayor of Prostějov. According to the police nobody showed up on the Saturdays. Police sources told the media, “The situation is being monitored.” They stated that they were doing everything possible to find the perpetrators. On March 31, 2000, police in Prostějov informed the ERRC that they had closed investigation without bringing charges against anyone.
According to information made available to the ERRC, on January 22, 2000, shortly after midnight, a Czech man reportedly attacked two Romani men at a discotheque in the North Moravian town Nový Jičin. Two Romani men were sitting with two Romani women at a table at a discotheque in the Hotel Kaláč when a Czech man approached the group and hit one the Romani men in the face with his forehead. He then punched the other Romani man in the nose. He reportedly also shouted racist slurs. When police arrived, the man allegedly attacked a policeman. He has been charged under Article 155(1)(b) with attack on a public official, under Article 198(1)(a) with defamation of nation or race and under Article 202(1) with rioting. He has not been taken into custody. He reportedly has a prior criminal record.
(ČTK, ERRC, Lidové Noviny, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Právo, Romani Christian Assembly)