Roma attacked in Czech Republic

03 October 2000

On July 27, 2000, around 3:00 PM, a group of men reportedly attacked nine Roma, mainly women and children, at the OMV petrol station at Houžna, two miles from the southwest Czech town of Vimperk. According to the Roma, the men pulled up in three cars wit h Ostrava licence plates, jumped out and began to threaten them with baseball bats and power saws. Ms G., one of the victims, told the ERRC on July 31, 2000, that there had been fifteen attackers, and they shouted racist slogans like "black whores" and "go back to India", and threatened to kill them. Ms G. says that she was thrown into a ditch and one of the attackers shot into the ditch. She saw two men with pistols. The attackers drove her brother-in-law across the road, cut him with a power saw, and stole 12,000 Czech crowns (approximately 340 euros) and his mobile phone. The attackers reportedly almost completely destroyed the car of one of the victims with baseball bats, axes and their feet.

A local policeman arrived quickly and managed to catch four of the attackers, but the main attackers, who allegedly fired shots, escaped. After an hour and a half criminal police officials arrived. Although the Roma told them that the main attackers had escaped in a car with a licence plate which included the letters OVS, they reportedly were not interested in this information.

Mr Rybáček, deputy director of the District Office for Investigations in Vimperk, informed the ERRC on July 31, 2000, that the investigator for the case, Mr Pangl, had accused four men aged between 18 and 27 of rioting and damage to property according to Criminal Code Articles 202 and 157(1). The accusation states that the men had a quarrel with the Roma ("used strong words") and broke the window of their car. On August 17, 2000, Mr Pangl told the ERRC that the accused men Mr T.R. and Mr P.R. from Karvina, 25 and 19 years old, Mr M.K., from HavíĹ™ov, 18 years old, and Mr T.B., from Karvina, 27 years old, claimed that they had been passing by the service station, stopped "to have a look", and became involved in an oral conflict. Eventually the Roma provoked t hem and the four men damaged their car. One of the accused has been convicted in relation to a fight in Ostrava in the past. According to Mr Pangl, the Roma had caused problems for the police before; one of them "was known to have been working as a pimp". Although Mr Pangl observed that one of the Romani men was injured during the attack, he stated that he had not received a doctor's report and therefore had no evidence for aggravated bodily harm. On October 10, Mr Pangl informed the ERRC that there had not yet been an indictment in the case.

In another incident, in the late evening of July 5, 2000, three men attacked a group of six Roma on the road from Rokycany to the village of Osek, in the western Czech Republic. The Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on July 19, 2000 that the men shouted racist insults at the Roma, then attacked two of them physically, causing injuries. According to Ms Jana Tomková, spokesperson for the Rokycany police, the group of six Roma, ages 15 to 33, two of them girls, were walking quietly down the road. As they passed a restaurant, some young men sitting there shouted racist slogans. The Roma ignored them and continued on their way to Rokycany. Three of the restaurant guests, aged 20 to 21, followed the Roma and caught up with them outside of the village. They continued to insult the Roma and then attacked two of them. The other Roma managed to escape and phone the police, who arrived very quickly. Two of the attackers were caught on the spot and the third one not long after. The victims were treated by doctors for abrasions and contusions. According to the Mladá Fronta Dnes article, the investigator accused the attackers of rioting, violence against a group of people or individuals, and defamation of race, under Criminal Code Articles 202, 196(2) and 198. Investigation was still reportedly open as of October 10.

The increasing number of incidents of racially motivated violence against minority groups, particularly against Roma, was one of the main areas of concern noted in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's (CERD) report on the Czech Republic following its 57th session, in August 2000. The report further noted that many such racially motivated attacks may not even be reported. The Committee expressed concern about the lack of effectiveness and confidence in the criminal judicial system to prevent and combat racial crimes and the ineffective implementation of existing legislation to prosecute perpetrators of incitement of racial hatred. In this connection, concern was also expressed about the degrading treatment minority groups are subjected to by members of the police force. The CERD recommended that the Czech government strengthen measures to intensify enforcement of criminal law against racially motivated crimes, and continue and strengthen training programmes for police and all officials in charge of implementing the law on issues related to racially motivated crime.

A second major area of concern noted in the CERD's report was discrimination against Roma in housing, education and employment; and segregation in housing and education. Of particular concern was the practice of placing many Romani children in special schools which offer a substandard education, reducing their chances for further study or employment. The Committee recommended that measures be taken immediately to end the practice of racial segregation, especially the placement of a disproportionate number of Romani children in special schools, that legislation be strengthened to prohibit racist organisations, and that the government undertake legislative reform to ensure the enjoyment by all segments of the population, of economic, social and cultural rights. Furthermore, the Committee recommended that the government extend and intensify measures taken in the field of teaching, education, culture and information to combat racial discrimination and raise the awareness of the population on all aspects of racism and racial discrimination.

(CERD, ERRC, Mladá Fronta Dnes)


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