Prosecuting discrimination and hate crime in the Czech Republic

11 July 2000

On May 24, 2000, police in the northern Moravian town of Orlová reconstructed the killing of a local Romani man, in a new attempt to establish responsibility for his death. Mr Milan Lacko was attacked by a group of skinheads outside the local U Málky pub in May 1998, and left unconscious in a road, where he was later run over and killed (see "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights, Spring 1998 and Roma Rights, Number 2, 1999). A local court originally exonerated the skinheads of responsibility for his death, accepting the state prosecutor's claim that responsibility for Mr Lacko's death lay with the driver of a lorry, whom police had failed to locate. In October 1998, four skinheads were found guilty of damage to health and racially motivated damage to health under Articles 221(1) and 221(2b) and disturbing the peace under Article 202(1) and were given suspended sentences. The verdict led to outrage in the Romani community, and was later overruled by a court of appeal and the case returned to the police for a fresh investigation.

On the nights of May 24 and May 25, 2000, the police of Karvina enacted a four hour long reconstruction of the death of Mr Lacko at the U Málky pub in Orlová. According to the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes on May 26, 2000, a Karvina investigator accused the police officer Marián Telega of aggravated bodily harm by negligence; police now believe it was Officer Telega who ran over Mr Lacko with his car and killed him. On May 27, 2000, Mladá Fronta Dnes quoted the state attorney as stating that the skinheads would be indicted for aggravated bodily harm resulting in death by negligence. According to an article in the daily Lidové Noviny on May 26, 2000, the reconstruction of Mr Lacko's death did not clarify the case as the police did not include all witnesses in the reconstruction. The daily reported that at least one of the skinheads, Mr Libor Legerski, has reportedly not been accused by police.

On June 1, 2000, the Romani commission of the Town Office of Orlová held a demonstration for human rights, attended by the ERRC. At around 3:00 PM, approximately forty people - mostly Roma - gathered in the main square of the old town of Orlová together with around twenty journalists. Nearby, dozens of policemen waited and controlled the streets leading to the square. The Roma held posters reading "Murders must not remain unpunished". Under a photo was a text outlining the details of the case, accusing the police of deliberately obstructing the investigation, and calling for justice. Holding the posters, the demonstrators marched to the Orlová cemetery. On the following day only one daily reported on the demonstration.

In another case, it was reported on May 10, 2000, by the Czech daily Právo, that Mr Ivo Blahout, owner of a restaurant in Rokycany, was found guilty of incitement to national and racial hatred under Article 198(a) of the Czech Penal Code and sentenced to pay a fine of 8000 Czech crowns (approximately 225 euro) by Judge Jaromír Veselý of the District Court of the Western Bohemian town of Klatovy. Mr Blahout was accused of incitement to national and racial hatred after it was reported that he told his employees not to serve Roma in 1995. He later confirmed this order in front of a camera when a documentary film director visited his restaurant (see "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights, Spring 1997). Mr Blahout was found not guilty three times by the court in Rokycany. A state attorney appealed the verdict each time, and the regional court in Plzen finally decided to transfer the case to another court. If Mr Blahout does not pay the fine, the sentence is to be served in the form of one month imprisonment. Mr Blahout appealed the verdict immediately.

Finally, four men have been indicted by the local state attorney, Mr Dolana, for their attack on three Romani men on December 18, 1999, in the northern Bohemian town of Děčín. The skinheads allegedly attacked, racially insulted, and severely injured three Romani men as they left a restaurant. The skinheads kidnapped one of the Romani men, Tomáš D., and forced him to drive them for several kilometres before they were stopped by the police and the Romani man was rescued (see “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights, 1/2000). Ms Kopecká, director of the investigation office in Děčín, informed the ERRC on March 31, 2000, that three of the attackers were indicted shortly after the incident, and the fourth one on February 4, 2000. All of the men have been accused of rioting and aggravated bodily harm under Criminal Code Articles 202(1) and 221(1). In addition, one of the three indicted in December 1999 has been accused of aggravated bodily harm with racial motivation under Article 221(2b). The man indicted in February has additionally been accused of damage to foreign property under Article 257(1). Mr Dolana told the ERRC on March 31, 2000, that it will be some time before the court will set a date for the trial. Two of the attackers, Mr Ivo L. and Mr Karel E., have been previously sentenced for their involvement in an attack on two Romani men on December 11, 1996, in Děčín. After a quarrel in the restaurant of the main railway station in Děčín, five skinheads attacked and severely injured two Romani men, Mr M.G. and Mr L.T. They kicked one of the men in various parts of the body, and then left him in a garbage bin, suffering from a broken jaw bone and a broken rib which pierced his lung. The man subsequently underwent surgery in a local hospital. All five of the skinheads involved in the December 1996 attack were indicted for rioting and serious damage to health with racial motivation, under Criminal Code Articles 202(1) and 222(2b). They were sentenced on April 2, 1998, and appealed the decision. The more recent attack in Děčín allegedly perpetrated by a group including Ivo L. and Karel E., took place two days after the verdict in the 1996 attack.

(ERRC, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Lidové Noviny, Právo)


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