Mixed Judicial Outcomes in Czech Race Crimes

07 February 2004

In yet another inadequate ruling in a race crime in Czech Republic, on August 15, 2003, the Czech News Agency (ČTK) reported that Prague's Eighth District Court found 19-year-old Mr Jakub Melničák, 18-year-old Mr Filip Kousal and two other young Czech males guilty of racially motivated attempted bodily harm and causing public disorder, in accordance with Articles 221(1b) read with 8 and 202 of the Czech Criminal Code, respectively. The ruling was in connection with the severe October 25, 2002 attack on Mr Marek Polák, a then 17-year-old Romani youth, at a tram stop in Prague (further information on the incident is available at: Skinhead Attacks on Roma in Czech Republic). As a result of the attack, Mr Marek suffered a concussion and sustained abrasions all over his body. The Court sentenced Mr Melničák to only three years imprisonment suspended for four years, and three other young Czech males to 11-years-imprisonment suspended for two years. The four youth reportedly left the courtroom visibly angered with the verdict. The ČTK reported that the court ruled in accordance with the wishes of Czech State Attorney Ms Hana Vrbová, who in her closing speech told the court that the defendants' ages and the absence of any previous criminal convictions should be taken into account, and asked that the sentences should fall at the lower limit of the law.

In other news, according to the Prague-based news source Radio Prague, of June 27, 2003, a court in Karlovy Vary, northwestern Czech Republic, found three police officers guilty of abuse of power, in accordance with Article 158 of the Czech Criminal Code, in connection with the May 13, 2001 brutal attack by five officers on Mr Karel Billý, a Romani male. Officers Tomáš Mrňák, Pavel Holoubek and Eduard Kalla were sentenced to 10-months-imprisonment each, suspended for two years. Two additional officers were acquitted of all charges. Radio Prague reported that the court ruled the attack had not been racially motivated. On the day of the attack, Mr Billý, whose car had run out of fuel, was waiting for help at the side of a road when an officer stopped to check his documents, then called for backup. A police patrol car carrying three officers arrived at the scene and, after the first officer said "Take him with you and enjoy it", Mr Billý˝ was violently pushed into the second vehicle and driven to a nearby forest. In the forest, the officers brutally beat Mr Billý and threatened to kill him while shouting racial slurs at him. One of the officers also placed a pistol in Mr Billý's mouth before leaving him lying on the ground. According to the Prague-based Romani organisation Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH), as of November 26, 2003, an appeal was pending with the Regional Court of Plžen.

In an interview for the Czech daily Pravo, published on August 16, 2003, on the occasion of his appointment as head of the Czech Constitutional Court, and commenting on the actions of criminal authorities in relation to racially motivated crime, Mr Pavel Rychetsky stated, "I agree that the organs of the criminal justice system sometimes do not function adequately in this area. From the point of view of our legal regulations, we are the same as Germany, Holland and other continental European countries. From the point of view of the precision of their implementation, we are far behind those countries."

(ČTK, Radio Prague, RFE/RL, VPORH)


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