Suspended Sentences for Perpetrators of Violent Attack on Roma in Czech Republic
28 May 2004
According to a January 5, 2004 report by Radio Prague, Judge Miloš Kubíček of the Jeseník First Instance Court ordered three-year suspended sentences for three Czech youths who had violently attacked a Romani couple in their home in the northeastern Czech town of Jeseník. Ms Petra Zhrivalova, a Prague-based human rights activist, informed the ERRC that on June 28, 2003, the three Czech youths - Petr Blajze, Martin Jaš and Martin Stiskala - in a drunken state and impersonating police officers, knocked at the door of 27-year-old Mr Jan Ziga and 21-year-old Ms Lýdie Zigová and demanded to be let in. Ms Zigová, who was pregnant at the time, opened the door and was hit in the eye with a cobblestone. Mssrs Blajze, Jaš and Stiskala then reportedly attacked Mr Ziga with broken bottles, cutting his face and chest. As a result of the attack, Ms Zigová lost her sight in the injured eye.
On January 9, Radio Prague reported that outraged Romani activists petitioned the Czech government and the Ministry of Justice, demanding a fair trial. Mr Petr Mares, deputy prime minister, reportedly demanded an explanation from the Ministry of Justice. Mr Jan JaĹ™ab, the Czech human rights commissioner, was quoted as having stated, "I think it is correct to call it an outrage but it wouldn't be correct to call it a surprise, because in the last fourteen years we have seen a number of such verdicts and it seems that it is the rule, not the exception, that people who commit such attacks - very brutal racist attacks against the Roma - and the offenders are themselves mostly members of Neo-Nazi organizations - they are treated very lightly […]."
The Olomouc Appeals Court ordered a retrial in the case, according to Radio Prague of January 26, after the State Prosecutor failed to appeal the verdict of the lower court, reportedly due to political interference. According to the Czech daily newspaper Lidové Noviny of March 26, 2003, Judge Kubíček of the Jeseník First Instance Court send a notice to the Olomouc Appeals Court in which he stated that the Court declined to hear the case because of pressure for stronger punishments from the media, Romani representatives and a number of politicians.
On February 11, 2004, Mr Dušan Badi, president of the Jeseník-based Association for Romani Human Rights, who is providing assistance to Mr and Ms Ziga, testified to the ERRC that two weeks following the court's decision, as Mr and Ms Ziga were walking through Jeseník, Mr Stiskala and a group of Neo-Nazi youths began to chase them, shouting racial epiteths. Mr and Ms Ziga escaped the group by entering a local shop. According to ERRC research, on March 3, 2004, Mr Blajze and Mr Jaš assaulted Mr Lukas Tokar, a young mentally handicapped Romani man, at a bus station. Mr Blajze and Mr Jaš verbally insulted Mr Tokar, shouting "Black Monkey" at him. Mr Jaš then punched Mr Tokar in the face causing him to fall to the ground, and proceeded to kick him in the chest. Mr Tokar was taken to a local hospital where his broken nose was treated, according to ERRC research. Mr Blazje and Mr Jaš reportedly threatened Mr Tokar with death should he report the incident to the police. Police detained Mr Blajze and Mr Jaš, who were reportedly charged in accordance with Article 221 (injury to health) of the Czech Criminal Code and Article 202 (disturbing the peace), 221 (injury to health) and 198 (defamation on the basis of race), respectively. In yet another attack, on April 14, 2004, Mr Stiskala attacked a 19-year-old Romani man, according to ERRC research. Mr Stiskala reportedly kicked the young Romani man while shouting racial slurs, until both men fell to the groung. The young Romani man reportedly held Mr Stiskala until the police arrived and detained him. Mr Stiskala reportedly faced 3-years imprisonment. (ERRC, Lidové Noviny, Radio Prague)