Czech Republic: Government response to neo-Nazi groups in the country, including political parties and gangs (2009-February 2012)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||2 March 2012|
|Related Document||République tchèque : information sur les mesures prises par le gouvernement par rapport aux groupes néo-nazis dans le pays, y compris les partis politiques et les gangs (2009-février 2012)|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Czech Republic: Government response to neo-Nazi groups in the country, including political parties and gangs (2009-February 2012) , 2 March 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f968e612.html [accessed 27 November 2014]|
1. Government Actions Against Extremism
According to the Czech government, the fight against extremism is primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and the police (Czech Republic June 2011, 43). As part of its strategy for combating extremism, the Ministry of the Interior, intelligence services, the police and other government authorities compile an annual report on the issue of extremism in the Czech Republic (ibid. n.d.). In addition to describing issues related to extremism, the report evaluates the Czech Republic's strategy for combating extremism (ibid. 2010, 1).
According to the 2010 report, the websites of the Ministry of Interior and the Police regularly provide updates and publish reports and other documents related to extremism (Czech Republic 2010, 84). The Ministry of the Interior also organizes training devoted to the issue of extremism for police and judicial officers (ibid., 103, 106). A website maintained by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports provides teachers with guidelines on how to prevent extremist and racist attitudes in schools (ibid., 86). As well, under the terms of a "'Threats of Neo-Nazism'" initiative, police officers have participated in seminars organized for teachers and representatives from the force's anti-conflict team and from among the criminal investigators specializing in extremism have given lectures in schools (ibid., 87).
According to the June 2011 government Progress Report on the Situation of the Roma Minority in the Czech Republic in 2010, the Czech government has been providing support to a campaign against racism with the goal of "suppressing the latent racism and xenophobia of the majority population" (Czech Republic June 2011, 43). Also, under its crime prevention strategy, for example, regional and municipal priorities include the "prevention of racism and xenophobia" (ibid., 44). The priorities are addressed through specific crime prevention projects that aim to eliminate or reduce "deep-rooted discriminatory and xenophobic stereotypes" and "to promote coexistence between the majority and ethnic and national minorities" (ibid., 44).
A November 2010 report by the Organization for Co-Operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) on hate crimes in the OSCE region indicates that, in 2009, the government of the Czech Republic "launched a number of programmes related to combating extremism" (Nov. 2010, 33). For example, in order to improve responses to extremist crimes, the government developed manuals and training programmes for the criminal police, investigation services, police specialists and judicial officials (OSCE Nov. 2010, 33). In 2010, the government provided financial support to the campaign against racism, which included projects "aimed at informing the public about the Roma Holocaust" (Czech Republic June 2011, 43).
In 2009, the first legal-counselling centre was established by the Czech NGO In IUSTITA, which provides legal assistance to "victims of hate crimes, legislative analysis and training for law-enforcement personnel" (OSCE Nov. 2010, 36 n. 128, 50). In 2009, In IUSTITA trained 80 public officials on freedom of assembly and the protection of public spaces against the gatherings of far-right groups (In IUSTITIA n.d.). In 2009 and 2010, the NGO participated in training over 120 police officers on how to fight extremism (ibid.).
1.1 Response to Extremist Crime
According to Section 42 (b) of the Criminal Code, which came into force on 1 January 2010, judges are to take offences motivated by national, racial, ethnic, religious, class or other similar grounds into account as an "aggravating circumstance" when sentencing (Council of Europe 3 Mar. 2011, para. 20).
The Czech government's 2010 report on issues of extremism indicates that, out of the 313,387 crimes recorded in 2010, 252 crimes had an extremist subtext, a decline of 4.9 percent from 2009 figures (Czech Republic 2010, 34). According to the government's Progress Report on the Situation of the Roma Minority in 2010, "the North Moravian, South Moravian, North Bohemian regions and the capital city of Prague are those most affected" by crimes with an extremist subtext (ibid. June 2011, 42). However, the 2010 report on extremist issues shows that both the number of persons charged and the number of persons prosecuted for committing crimes motivated by race, nationality or other types of hatred increased when compared to 2009 (ibid. 2010, 49). The report indicates that 225 people were prosecuted in 2010 and 194 in 2009, and that 213 persons were charged in 2010 compared to 183 in 2009 (ibid.).
Various sources have reported on the violent attacks that have been carried out against the Roma by ultra-right supporters, hooligans and extremists over the years, including in
- 2008 (AI 2011, 122; ERRC 15 Jan 2012, 22, 23);
- 2009 (AFP 20 Oct. 2010; AI 2011; ERRC 15 Jan 2012, 21);
- 2010 (ibid., 17-20);
- 2011 (ibid., 5-16); and
- 2012 (ibid., 2-4).
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has compiled a report on the number of attacks against the Roma or their property that were reported by the media between January 2008 and January 2012 (ERRC 15 Jan. 2012, 1-23). Some of the incidents reportedly resulted in police arrests, detentions and investigations (ibid.). For instance, three right-wing extremist sympathizers face up to 10-years' imprisonment for their involvement in the murder of a Roma woman in Prague in January 2012 (ibid., 3). Sources also report that three neo-Nazi perpetrators were sentenced to 22 years in prison and a fourth to a term of 20 years for a "racially motivated" crime (AI 2011, 122; AFP 20 Oct. 2010). They were found guilty of attempted homicide and property damage in an arson attack against a Roma family in the village of Vitkov in April 2009 (AI 2011, 122; AFP 20 Oct. 2010).
However, in an incident reported by the Prague-based news server Romea.cz, a police officer in Sluknov attacked a Roma man, acted aggressively and used racist language (Romea.cz 5 Nov. 2011). The article indicates that the Roma man filed a complaint against the police officer and that the case has been transferred to the Prague Regional Police Directorate for investigation (ibid.). Corroborating information on the incident and the results of the complaint could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
1.2 Reaction to the Workers' Party
Various sources report that the far-right Workers' Party (Denkická Strana) was banned in 2010 by the Czech Republic's Supreme Administrative Court (AFP 17 Feb. 2010; Czech Republic 2010, 6; US 8 Apr. 2011, 11). The US Department of State's Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2010 indicates that the party had "mostly neo-Nazi membership" and that its program contained "xenophobia, chauvinism, homophobia, as well as a racist subtext" (ibid.). Other sources also report that the party was cooperating with neo-Nazi groups (AFP 17 Feb. 2010; Czech Republic 2010, 55, 75; The Irish Times 20 Feb. 2010). Although ordered to dissolve in 2010, the party reorganized itself as the Workers' Party of Social Justice (Delnická Strana Sociálni Spravedlnosti) and remained under the leadership of Tomáe Vandase, the former Workers' Party leader (PHW 2011). The Czech government's 2010 report on issues of extremism states that the Workers' Party of Social Justice also continued the efforts of the Workers' Party "to gain dominance on the Czech right-wing extremist scene" (Czech Republic 2010, 55).
In February 2012, Michaela Dupová, a member of the Workers' Party of Social Justice and former leader of the neo-Nazi group Resistance Women Unity, was arrested and faces charges for "wearing tattoos of banned extremist symbols [and] promoting and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms" (Romea.cz 4 Feb. 2012).
1.3 Response to Anti-Roma Demonstrations and Marches
According to multiple sources, right-wing extremists, including members of the Workers' Party of Social Justice and other neo-Nazi groups, held anti-Roma demonstrations across the country in 2011 (AFP 10 Sept. 2011; ERRC 15 Jan. 2012, 9) and in 2012 (ibid., 2). There were also reports of anti-Roma marches by members of neo-Nazi groups between 2008 and 2011 (AI 2010; ERRC 15 Jan. 2012, 8; ICARE 8 Oct. 2011). In 2010, there were 60 right-wing extremist meetings held near socially marginalized Roma communities; there were also other events organized by the Workers' Party of Social Justice, such as patrols through Smíchov district in Prague (Czech Republic June 2011, 42). However, "[t]hese events were typically conflict-free in 2010, apart from individual clashes between some of the participants and the police" (ibid.). According to the Czech government, "2010 was characterised by a reduction" in the number of right-wing extremist meetings (ibid.).
The US Department of State indicates that Czech law provides for freedom of assembly and association; however, it "may legally restrict or prohibit gatherings, including marches, demonstrations, and concerts that promote hatred or intolerance, advocate suppressing individual rights, or jeopardize the safety of participants" (US 8 Apr. 2011, 11). According to the law, organizations, associations, political parties and foundations must register with local officials or the Ministry of the Interior (ibid.). Prior to holding demonstrations, these organizations must submit an application to the local government, which reviews it within three working days (ibid.). A representative of the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsman), in correspondence with the Research Directorate, corroborated the information about registering the intent to organize a public meeting (Czech Republic 8 Feb. 2012). She also noted that, if there is a suspicion that a meeting or demonstration will support racism or xenophobia, the municipality has the right to forbid it (ibid.). Further, if, during a meeting that has been permitted, "participants manifest racism," the municipality can ban and dissolve the meeting (ibid.). In such an instance, the police "must provide support" to dissolve the meeting (ibid.). For instance, the ERRC reports that a "police barricade halted the marches at the request of the town leadership" when 400 people, led by approximately 50 neo-Nazis, marched toward the Roma-occupied Sport residential hotel in the town of Varnsdorf in September 2011 shouting nationalist and xenophobic slogans (ERRC 15 Jan. 2012, 8).
Other sources also report on the arrests by the police of right-wing activists at "racially charged" anti-Roma demonstrations (AFP 10 Sept. 2011) and marches (ICARE 8 Oct. 2011). For instance, both Agence France-Presse (AFP) (10 Sept. 2011) and the ERRC (15 Jan. 2012, 9) reported on the demonstrations held by the Workers' Party of Social Justice in the towns of Novy Bor, Rumburk and Varnsdorf in September 2011. The demonstrations were organized to protest a rise in crime that demonstrators blamed on an influx of Roma from other parts of the country (AFP 10 Sept. 2011). According to the AFP, police arrested 21 right-wing activists, "including two wearing clothes marked with Nazi symbols" (10 Sept. 2011). The ERRC also reported on anti-Roma marches in the towns of Sluknov and Varnsdorf earlier in September of 2011, indicating that those events were stopped by the police (15 Jan. 2012, 9).
The US Department of State indicates that
[i]n June  eight members of National Resistance, a neo-Nazi group, were indicted in Prague on charges of supporting and promoting Nazism. The individuals posted propaganda materials in public places and organized neo-Nazi events. The defendants each faced multiple counts with a possible total of eight years in prison if convicted. The trial was postponed, and two defendants, who had been held without bail since October 2009, were released on bail in December. (8 Apr. 2011, 9)
Amnesty International reports that, on 4 April 2010, about 500 demonstrators marched through Roma neighbourhoods in the town of Prerov, chanting anti-Roma slogans (AI 2010, 120). There were 700 police officers on hand to prevent a direct attack against the Roma, but violence broke out "as demonstrators attacked riot and mounted police" (ibid.).
1.4 Response to Hate Speech
According to the US Department of State report, "[s]peech inciting hatred based on race, religion, class, nationality, or other group affiliation is illegal and carries a sentence of up to three years in prison" (8 Apr. 2011, 9). For instance, in November 2009 a one-year suspended sentence and three years of probation was handed to a representative of the ultra-nationalist, unregistered National Party for "speech inciting hatred based on race for a televised election advertisement that referred to a 'final solution of the Gypsy question'" (US 8 Apr. 2011, 10).
In June 2010, charges were filed against a contributor to the iDNES.cz news portal, for threatening the website administrator after he had removed racist comments from group boards (ibid.). Police then arrested the contributor, nicknamed "Kraxna," for "committing violence against a group or individual members of a group," but after promising not to commit the crime again, he was released and given a six-month suspended sentence (ibid.).
In January 2012, three people were arrested for verbally assaulting three Roma after a demonstration in Varnsdorf (ERRC 15 Jan. 2012, 2) The three people may face charges of up to two years in prison for "defamation of individuals due to their membership in an ethnic, national, racial or other group" (ibid.).
A 2011 report by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights states that racist and anti-Roma discourse is also present among mainstream politicians and in the media, which "continue to provide a platform for anti-Gypsyism" (Council of Europe 3 Mar. 2011, 3). The report indicates that the
Czech Republic has not yet ratified Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of racist or xenophobic nature committed through computer system. (ibid., 8)
In February 2012, the representative from the Office of the Public Defender of Rights indicated that neither protocol has been ratified yet (Czech Republic 8 Feb. 2012).
2. Reaction by Extremists
Sources indicate that two state-appointed legal experts on extremism have resigned from their positions due to the threats from extremists (The Prague Post 18 Jan. 2012; see also Romea.cz 13 Jan. 2012). One of the experts, who resigned in January 2012, stated that he "'is not a public official [and he does not] get any special protection'" (qtd. in Romea.cz 13 Jan. 2012). He also claimed that the "current system left him too exposed to threats and pressure from the racist groups whose illegal activities he helped [to] curb" (The Prague Post 18 Jan. 2012). The other expert, who resigned from his position in 2009, expressed the opinion that "the state puts too much emphasis on the roles of such experts [and] burdens [them] with a responsibility that should be equally shared by police, judges, and prosecutors" (qtd. in The Prague Post 18 Jan. 2012).
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.
Agence France-Presse (AFP). 10 September 2011. "Czech Police Arrest 21 in Anti-Roma Demonstration." (Factiva)
_____. 20 October 2010. "Czech Neo-Nazis Get Up to 22 Years for Arson Attack on Roma." (Factiva)
_____. 17 February 2010. "Czech Court Dissolves Far-Right Workers' Party." (Factiva)
Amnesty International (AI). 2011. "Czech Republic." Amnesty International Report, 2011: The State of the World's Human Rights.
_____. 2010. "Czech Republic." Amnesty International Report, 2010: The State of the World's Human Rights. http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_AZ_EN.pdf#page=67 [Accessed 5 Jan. 2012]
Council of Europe. 3 March 2011. Commissioner for Human Rights. Report by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Following His Visit to the Czech Republic from 17 to 19 November 2010.
Czech Republic. 8 February 2012. Office of the Public Defender of Rights. Correspondence from an official to the Research Directorate.
_____. June 2011. Government of the Czech Republic. Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005-2015: Progress Report, 2010. Sent to the Research Directorate by the Office of the Public Defender of Rights, 8 February 2012.
_____. 2010. Ministry of the Interior. The Issue of Extremism in the Czech Republic in 2010: Evaluation of the Policy for Combating Extremism, 2011 Policy for Combating Extremism.
_____. N.d. Ministry of the Interior. "Documents on the Fight Against Extremism."
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 15 January 2012. Attacks Against Roma in the Czech Republic: January 2008-January 2012.
Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe (ICARE). 8 October 2011. "Two Detained After Neo-Nazi Provocation in Ústí Nad Labem (Czech Rep.)."
The Irish Times [Dublin]. 20 February 2010. Daniel McLaughlin. "Czechs Ban Far-Right Workers' Party." (Factiva)
In IUSTITIA. N.d. "Police."
Organization for Co-Operation and Security in Europe (OSCE). November 2010. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region - Incidents and Responses: Annual Report for 2009.
Political Handbook of the World (PHW) 2011. 2011. "Czech Republic." Edited by Thomas C. Muller, William R. Overstreet, Judith F. Isacoff and Tom Lansford. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
The Prague Post. 18 January 2012. Markéta Hulpachová. "Extremists Threaten Legal Expert: Advisor Resigns from State Post Amid Racism and Scapegoating."
Romea.cz. 4 February 2012. "Czech Republic: DSSS Member Arrested for Promoting a Movement to Suppress Human Rights."
_____. 13 January 2012. "Czech Expert on Extremism: You Have to Ignore the Gossip and Insults."
_____. 5 November 2011. "Czech Republic: Romani Man Complains Against Member of Police Special Forces Unit."
United States (US). 8 April 2011. Department of State. "Czech Republic." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ottawa, the Czech Helsinki Committee, and the European Roma Rights Centre were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: Antifa.cz; Czech Helsinki Committee; Election Guide; European Network Against Racism; Czech Republic — Government of the Czech Republic, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, Senate of the Parliament, Policie.cz, Public Defender of Rights; Human Rights Commission; Human Rights Watch; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Institute for Public Administration; International Crisis Group; Newton Media; Open Society Foundations; People in Need; Prague Daily Monitor; Roma in the Czech Republic; Stratfor Global Intelligence; Tyden.cz; United Nations Human Rights.