Police abuse of Roma in Písek, Czech Republic

15 July 1997

The Czech Council for Nationalities' Ad Hoc Working Group for Romani Nationality Affairs, a governmental advisory body, has documented a series of incidents in Písek, southern Czech Republic, which suggest an ongoing pattern of police abuse of Roma.

On June 14 1997, a group of Roma were verbally attacked in the park in the centre of Písek in front of the U Reinerů pub. Among the Roma were members of the family of Tibor Danihel, a Romani man killed by skinheads in Písek in 1993 (see Roma Rights, Spring 1997). A group of skinheads allegedly told them, "Gypsies get out, you darkie swine" and that the Czech Republic was for whites. They also allegedly threatened, "We'll kill one of you." The Roma called for help from some soldiers who were nearby; the soldiers apparently came quickly and supported the Roma. The victims identified one of their assailants as Milan Brat, one of the skinheads convicted in the killing of Tibor Danihel. Brat's suspended sentence in the Danihel killing had recently been upheld by an appeals court in České Budejovice on June 18. The other skinheads were from Strakonice, according to victim Daša Danihelová. With the assistance of members of the ERRC and the Czech Helsinki Committee, Ms. Danihelová later filed an official complaint with the police.

In another case which took place on January 7, 1997, a ten year-old boy named P.O. was detained and coerced into providing information about a series of thefts from stalls; P.O. was held for three hours, during which time he was allegedly physically abused and was made to give a statement which was not shown to his parents. His parents were not informed of his arrest. In explanation to the boy's father, the police claimed that even under-age people are allowed to be held until 10 p.m. There is no such provision under Czech law.

A similar case of police abuse took place in April 1996, when a Romani man named M.B. was beaten by police in a public park in Písek. The incident evidently took place when police who had been called in to restore order in a pub decided, without apparent reason, to harass a group of Roma near the pub who had nothing to do with the incident. When M.B. asked the police to justify their actions and to present their identification numbers, police officers allegedly forced him to the ground and beat him with truncheons on his body and head, then insulted him and took him to the police station. He reported that the police also confiscated the medical protocol which he had requested while still in custody. On the day following the beating however, a second doctor certified M.B. unfit to work for several days as a result of his injuries. Despite this, M.B. now faces trial for attacking a public official, since he allegedly sprained a finger of one of the policemen.

Another case from April 1996 involves a Rom who was taken by the police at approximately 7 p.m. from nearby his house to a police station. When he asked the police why he was being held, they beat him and only released him at about midnight. He was not charged.

These incidents, taken in con junction with the delays and inadequacies in the trial of the killers of Tibor Danihel, are cause for deep concern about the situation of Roma in the southern Bohemian town. The Ad Hoc Working Group has asked the president of the Council for Nationalities to app roach the Minister of the Interior and demand investigation of these cases. (Ad Hoc Working Group for Romani Nationality Affairs, ERRC)


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