Czech Republic: Recourse available to Roma victims when police refuse to respond or respond inadequately to requests for state protection; procedures for filing a complaint against the police (2009-2010)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||1 March 2011|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CZE103682.E|
|Related Document||République tchèque : information sur les recours à la disposition des victimes roms lorsque la police refuse de répondre ou répond inadéquatement à une demande de protection de l'État; information sur la marche à suivre pour déposer une plainte contre la police (2009-2010)|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Czech Republic: Recourse available to Roma victims when police refuse to respond or respond inadequately to requests for state protection; procedures for filing a complaint against the police (2009-2010), 1 March 2011, CZE103682.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d9d5fc82.html [accessed 28 January 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Police Investigation of Crimes Against Roma Citizens
A European Network Against Racism (ENAR) shadow report on racism and discrimination in the Czech Republic describes police investigation of crimes against Roma citizens as "inadequate," and adds that such investigations are "presumed" to be the result of "ethnic profiling" (n.d., 23). The report, which the Research Directorate obtained in advance of its 21 March 2011 publication date, also describes the police reaction as a form of "secondary victimization" stemming from the "assumption that [the Roma] committed the criminal act or provoked it with their behaviour" (ENAR n.d., 23). As the ENAR explains, the phenomenon is "particularly prominent in cases of hate crimes; for example, many arson attacks on Roma families were not investigated or the investigation was adjourned" (ibid.).
However, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ottawa, in February 2011 correspondence with the Research Directorate, counters that "ethnicity has no effect on the quality of the services rendered by the Police of the Czech Republic: all are treated equally, without discrimination" (Czech Republic 16 Feb. 2011). The Embassy of the Czech Republic acknowledges that although there can be "individual cases of failure to comply" with its standards, the police "have the power, in such cases, to employ means that identify and punish discriminatory conduct of police officers" (ibid.).
Recourse Available to Roma Citizens
The Inspection of the Police of the Czech Republic, an independent body under the Minister of the Interior, undertakes the criminal investigation of police officers, reports the Embassy of the Czech Republic (Czech Republic 16 Feb. 2011). Citizens can also register "complaints about police inaction and non-serious offenses by police officers" with the Office of Internal Control, which is part of the Police of the Czech Republic (ibid.). Information on the Police of the Czech Republic website also states that complaints about the police force generally or individual policemen in particular are to be sent to what it translates as the "Office of Internal Inspection" (ibid. 2010). Citizens do so by sending an email or calling (ibid.). The complaints will either be immediately addressed or "submitted for inspection" to the responsible bodies (ibid.).
Nevertheless, Liga Lidskych Prav, a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Czech Republic (Liga Lidskych Prav n.d.b), points out that there is no "single, independent police complaints commission" that can investigate all types of complaints against police, including accusations of misconduct or criminal charges against the police (ibid. n.d.a). Instead, these types of complaints "are investigated by the police's own internal monitoring body"; and the Interior Minister's Inspectorate, which is "exclusively made-up of retired police officers, all of whom still retain their rank," determines "the most important stage of the investigation" --- whether a crime was actually committed (ibid.).
Public Defender (Ombudsman)
In addition to the police complaints investigation bodies, reports the Embassy of the Czech Republic, the Czech Republic has a Public Defender of Rights - Ombudsman (Feb. 2011). The Public Defender of Rights is responsible for protecting
citizens against the improper conduct of authorities and other institutions when this conduct is: i) against the law; ii) strays outside the democratic principles and principles of good administration, or iii) in case the authorities remain inactive towards specific cases. (Czech Republic 16 Feb. 2011)
It carries out its responsibilities by investigating whether public administration in specific cases complies with the law (ibid. 15 Feb. 2011).
According to the Deputy of the Public Defender of Rights, in her correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Public Defender has the authorization "to deal with complaints against the activities" of many public bodies, including the Police of the Czech Republic except in criminal investigations in which the police are engaged (ibid.). Furthermore, the Public Defender
may conduct independent inquiries but he cannot substitute for the activities of state administrative authorities and he cannot cancel or alter their decisions. However, when a shortcoming is ascertained, the Defender may request that authorities or institutions ensure remedy. (ibid.)
As part of the government's overall efforts to improve the position of the Roma, the Public Defender "set up a separate Equal Treatment Department, where 6 staff handle specific cases of the application of discriminatory practices to Czech citizens" (Czech Republic Sept. 2010, 15). Services offered by this department include "methodological assistance to discrimination victims," "legal assessments of cases of discrimination," and "advise [sic] or ... cooperation in obtaining evidence" (ibid.). Approximately 20 percent of cases handled by this department involve discrimination against Roma (ibid.).
However, the Deputy Public Defender points out that "the Defender deals with complaints equally, and generally does not check whether a particular complainant is a Roma or not" (15 Feb. 2011). She also notes that "in the main part of his mandate, the Defender has no statistical data concerning Roma or any other minority, social group, etc." (Czech Republic 15 Feb. 2011). The Deputy also mentioned that there have been ten discrimination complaints submitted to the Public Defender by Roma since December 2009, of which nine were determined non-discriminatory, and one as being possible discrimination in education (Czech Republic 15 Feb. 2011).
According to the Deputy, if a complaint does not fall under the mandate of the Public Defender, the complainant is provided with contact information for NGOs that might be able to help (ibid.).
Procedures for Filing a Complaint Against the Police
Submitting a complaint to the police
According to the Police of the Czech Republic, citizens who wish to submit a complaint against the police should report the complaint to the director of the unit "who is the supervisor of the members or staff of the Police you are filing your complaint against"; and report the complaint to the supervising unit if the director does not address it appropriately (Czech Republic 2010).
If the complaint is submitted to a unit that is not responsible, the unit will pass the complaint to the responsible unit and inform the complainant (ibid.).
When submitting the complaint, make it "as detailed as possible" and include the following information:
All information known about the officer in question, such as name and service number. Details of the event, list of witnesses, and so on. The complainant's name, mailing address and signature. Information about the complainant's legal representative. Information describing the redress wanted by the complainant and how his or her rights were violated (ibid.).
If a complaint is not resolved immediately, it should be solved within 60 days after its delivery to the unit responsible for its handling. The complainant shall be, duly and within the statutory period, informed of the results. The statutory period may be exceeded only when it is not long enough to determine all facts necessary to solve the complaint. (ibid.)
If the complaint is against the Police Presidium or units within the Police of the Czech Republic that have national responsibilities, the complaint is sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (ibid.). Complaints concerning other police units or individual police officers or staff members can also be submitted to this email address; however, those wishing to expedite their claim are "advised to turn directly to the respective regional headquarters responsible for such units" (ibid.).
Submitting a complaint to the Public Defender
The Public Defender of Rights notes that before a complaint is submitted to its office, the complainant must clearly demonstrate that he or she has already "actively addressed the authority to which the complaint pertains" without receiving a result, as well as appealed to the superior body of that authority (Czech Republic n.d.a). The complaint to the Public Defender can then be submitted in one of the following ways:
In writing: send the printed complaint form as a letter, or as a personal letter describing the problem, naming the accused authority, and stating the goals of the complaint.
E-mail: attach the complaint form as a file to the email, or write a personal email detailing the necessary information, including the problem and naming the accused authority.
Data box: send a completed complaint form or personal letter detailing the problem and identifying the accused authority.
Interactive online form: (in Czech only) all important fields must be completed, otherwise the form-filler will not be able to proceed to the next step.
Personal delivery: the written complaint can be delivered by hand to the filing department of the Office of the Public Defender in Brno.
In-person: a complaint can be submitted in person to a lawyer from the "Complaints in Person" Office of the Public Defender, who will draw up the complaint, explain any ambiguities, and discuss the steps that could be taken (Czech Republic n.d.b).
Assistance for Roma Citizens Subject to Police Inattention or Misconduct
Seventy-one percent of Czech Roma citizens who participated in a European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS) carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reported that they did not know where people who had been subject to discrimination could go for support or advice (EU 2009, 7).
Nevertheless, the Czech Republic embassy notes that "[a]ll citizens can apply to non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian and legal advice and assistance to the socially disadvantaged" (16 Feb. 2011). While indicating that most such organizations "do not provide assistance on the basis of nationality or ethnicity," it describes the "Ma den Pes!" project as one of the exceptions (Czech Republic 16 Feb. 2011). Run by two NGOs with financing from the Ministry of the Interior since 2009, the project provides a free telephone line through which Roma cancontact the project staff with requests for legal assistance in cases where they became targets of discrimination, including cases of misconduct by the police or cases where the police did not respond adequately to their complaints. (ibid.)
The embassy also noted that "[f]rom dozens of relevant cases, none of them indicated a well-founded misconduct by the police" (ibid.).
The Embassy of the Czech Republic lists the following government-funded NGOs as offering help to "victims of crime and socially disadvantaged citizens:"
The White Rescue Ring, which "provides assistance to victims of crime;" Romea, which "provides legal assistance to victims of discrimination;" and Drom, which "organizes social work, educational activities, employment for the socially disadvantaged, and provides legal advice" (ibid.).
In addition, the embassy indicates that, if a citizen feels "socially disadvantaged" or "uncomfortable" when dealing with the police during criminal proceedings, they have a right to a "private attorney'," not necessarily an "accredited lawyer," who, "by written authorisation, assist[s] citizens in their communication with the police, or even communicate on their behalf with the police" (Czech Republic 16 Feb. 2011).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Czech Republic. 16 February 2011. Embassy of the Czech Republic, Ottawa. Correspondence with an official.
_____. 15 February 2011. Office of the Public Defender of Rights - Ombudsman. Correspondence with the Deputy of the Public Defender of Rights.
_____. September 2010. "Report on Steps Taken by Public Administration and Other Bodies to Improve the Position of the Roma Minority in the Czech Republic." Document sent to the Research Directorate by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ottawa on 18 January 2011.
_____. 2010. Police of the Czech Republic. "Complaints."
_____. N.d.a. Office of the Public Defender of Rights - Ombudsman. "What Should Precede a Complaint Addressed to the Defender."