Sources : C.I.S. and Eastern Europe on File 1993, p. 3.01. Czechoslovakia: A Country Study Aug"" 1987, p.xx.
This report on state protection is one of several being prepared by the Research Directorate on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic. Previous reports include Responses to Information Requests CZE26377.EX of 21 March 1997, CZE26661.E of 14 April 1997, CZE26739.E of 17 April 1997, CZE27587.E of 31 July 1997, CZE27588.E of 31 July 1997, CZE27586.E of 1 August 1997, CZE27603.E of 6 August 1997 and CZE 27718.E of 18 August 1997. This particular report follows two weeks of personal interviews conducted by the Research Directorate with Romani leaders, governmental and non-governmental representatives in the Czech Republic in September and October 1997. Information on most of the persons and organizations cited in this paper is included in the Notes on Selected Sources section. The information contained in this report is taken almost exclusively from these interviews and from documentary information provided to the Research Directorate during these interviews. Because of the need to make the information from these interviews available as quickly as possible, other documentary sources generally consulted by the Research Directorate in preparing its reports have not been researched for this paper. Additional reports also based on these interviews will focus on issues such as identity, citizenship, internal flight alternatives, education and discrimination.
2. RACIAL VIOLENCE AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
A number of sources cite the existence of widespread racist and intolerant tendencies within Czech society (ERRC 22 Oct. 1997; Council of Europe 8 Sept. 1997; UNHCR 23 Sept. 1997; Holomek 24 Sept. 1997; Kvocekova 1996, 37; Country Reports 1996 1997, 921; HRW/H June 1996, 5). In a May 1997 seminar given by the Czech Council for National Minorities and the United States Embassy, Minister without Portfolio Pavel Bratinka, the chairman of the Council for National Minorities, stated that "a high degree of racism, xenophobia and intolerance [exists] among the majority population"1 (ERRC 1997). According to a September-October 1996 survey, 87 per cent of Czechs surveyed would object to having a Rom as a neighbour (Gabal Dec. 1996, 6).
According to Petr Uhl, a Czech journalist and former dissident, being a Rom in the Czech Republic in 1997 represents in and of itself a danger to the daily of life of the Rom. "Roma in the Czech Republic face the danger of being discriminated against, mistreated, marginalized and even being the victims of physical attacks" (27 Sept. 1997).
Similarly, numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have noted an increase in racist and skinhead attacks on Roma and other visible minorities since 1990 (Consulate-General Czech Republic Feb. 1997, 8; Kvocekova 1996, 37; Country Reports 1996 1997, 921; HRW/H June 1996, 5; Council of Europe 8 Sept. 1997; ERRC 22 Oct. 1997). According to the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Czech NGO, HOST, has documented 1,250 racially motivated attacks on Roma since 1991, including ten murders2 (22 Oct. 1997; ibid. 24 Sept. 1997). An October 1997 ERRC press release notes that "since Roma tend not to report racially motivated attacks to the police, the real number of attacks against Roma is probably considerably higher" (22 Oct. 1997; ibid. 22 Sept. 1997; Gina 26 Sept. 1997). Ondrej Gina, a Romani leader in West Bohemia, states that there have been 90 reported cases of physical attacks on Roma since 1 January 1997 (26 Sept. 1997). Gina stresses that this figure only reflects incidents reported to police. According to Gina, verbal attacks, physical attacks resulting in minor injuries and regular discriminatory acts such as being refused entry into pubs and restaurants are usually not reported to police. Jarmila Balazova, a Romani journalist and member of the government's Council for National Minorities' Ad Hoc Working Group on Romani Affairs3, states that she is convinced that in Brno, her home town, everyone has had at least one family member attacked in the past (25 Sept. 1997). Balazova is certain that the situation is comparable throughout the Czech Republic. On 24 September 1997 the ERRC's Prague-based researcher stated that he is aware of figures which indicate as many as thirty Roma have been killed in racist attacks in the Czech Republic since 1990. According to the ERRC, this figure may include incidents that occurred in the Slovak Republic prior to the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia. Further, this larger figure may also represent indirect deaths, such as suicides prompted by the difficult situation faced by Roma in the Czech Republic.
Czech media and government attention focused upon societal discrimination and racist violence toward Roma after a particular incident in May 1995 (ERRC 22 Sept. 1997; HRW/H June 1996). On 13 May 1995 a Rom named Tibor Berki was attacked and beaten with a baseball bat by a group of four skinheads in his home in Zdar nad Sazavou (ERRC 22 Sept. 1997; ibid. 22 Oct. 1997; MFA nd, 18); Berki died of his injuries the following day (ibid.; ERRC 22 Sept. 1997). According to the ERRC, the skinheads had been overheard in a pub before the attack stating that "they would go for 'some Gypsy'" (22 Sept. 1997). A Czech Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) report entitled The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Initial and the Second Periodic Report of the Czech Republic (1993-1996), states that the "four offenders [had] previously agreed to go and harass Romas" (nd, 18). In December 1995 a Brno regional court sentenced one attacker charged with murder to twelve years in prison; the other attackers received shorter jail terms and suspended sentences (ERRC 22 Sept. 1997). The court ruled, however, that there was no racial motivation in the crime because the attackers did not actually utter racial slurs during the physical attack (ibid.). This decision was appealed and on 23 May 1996 an appellant court in Olomouc affirmed the existence of a racial motive in the attack (ibid.; MFA nd, 18). The sentence of the main defendant in the case was increased by one year to 13 years (ibid.).
The investigation and subsequent trials of Tibor Berki's attackers generated significant media attention and the Czech government reportedly responded by applying increased pressure on police, prosecutors and courts to take more seriously qualifications for racial motivation (22 Sept. 1997; ibid. nd; Gina 26 Sept. 1997; Balazova 25 Sept. 1997; HRW/H June 1996, 2). According to the Czech Foreign Ministry report, in 1995 the Czech government "decided to sharpen [its] performance" with respect to racially motivated incidents in an effort to counter the "rising trend-line for racial violence" (MFA nd, 15; see also Country Reports 1996 1997, 921). In response to this perceived increase in racial violence the government undertook the following:
1. Amendment to the Criminal Code effective from 1 September 1995 makes provisions to increase the penalties for race-motivated crimes on the average by one year in jail;
2. Starting from 1 June 1995, public prosecutors are instructed to ensure prompt judicial action in cases of race-motivation crime . ;
3. Starting from 1 January 1996, each district police department has an expert on combating racial violence;
4. Starting from 31 October 1995, all police departments use standardized methods of recording racially motivated offences;
5. On 1 June 1995, a special riot police squad (170 men) was established in Prague; its tasks include handling public order violations committed by groups as well as offences motivated by racial and national intolerance. A similar squad has been functioning in Ostrava since 1 January 1993;
6. Binding Instruction of the President of the Police issued on 19 May 1995 determines the procedures to be observed by the police force when protecting public order in cases of its violations by groups and when investigating crimes motivated by racial intolerance;
7. Instruction of the Director of the Investigation Authority for the Czech Republic issued on 23 May 1995 determines procedures to be observed when investigating crimes motivated by racial intolerance;
8. Police officers who neglect their duties when handling the cases of race-motivated violence face strict sanctions . (MFA nd, 15; see also Consulate-General Czech Republic Feb. 1997, 9-10; Government of the Czech Republic, nd; Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997; Council of Europe 8 Sept. 1997).
According to the Ministry of Justice, among the changes initiated in 1995 was the supreme prosecutor's guideline 3/95 (30 Sept. 1997). The guideline governs prosecution procedures in cases motivated by racial hatred and has three main purposes:
· to map procedures applied in such offences
· to accelerate procedures
· to enhance the protection of victims (ibid.).
The guideline stressed the necessity to examine the motivation of such offences. In addition, a duty of more "initiative" was imposed on individual prosecutors. Prosecutors should maintain contact with police and take more initiative in following-up on cases motivated by racial hatred that they may hear of from the press or other sources. Furthermore, the guideline includes the right of a prosecutor to examine decisions made by police in such cases of racial motivation and enhances the supervisory role exercised by prosecutors throughout the entire pre-trial and trial process, including the supervision of remedies. Finally, at least once every six months a review of the effectiveness of the procedures included in this guideline is to be completed and included in a special report prepared by the prosecutor's office (ibid.).
The Council for National Minorities, an advisory body of the Czech government, has prepared a report for the government on the Romani minority in the Czech Republic (Council for National Minorities 29 Sept. 1997). According to representatives of the Council's Secretariat, this is an independent and objective report, which reflects the real situation of the country's Romani minority and has not been changed to reflect government policy. The report was presented to the government in August and September 1997 but was rejected and returned to the Council for further work on both occasions (ibid.; ERRC 22 Sept. 1997). The government maintained that the report was rejected because it lacked concrete measures but, according to critics, the report was rejected because it was severely critical of the government (ERRC 22 Sept. 1997; Balazova 25 Sept. 1997). A reworked version of the report was accepted by the government on 29 October 1997 (CTK 29 Oct. 1997)4. An examination of the relationship between Roma and society is included in the report, as is a description of government activities, citizenship questions, and other topics such as education, culture, social care, unemployment, housing, drug abuse, criminality, racially motivated crimes and the role of the media and the Romani community (Council for National Minorities 29 Sept. 1997). In the wake of the report's acceptance, Prime Minister Klaus presented a "Statement of the Czech Government on the Current Situation in the Roma Community." This statement is included in a press release issued on 30 October 1997 by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Canada and is attached to this paper.
An Interministerial Commission for the Affairs of the Roma Community, whose establishment was proposed to the government by the Council for National Minorities in the summer of 1997, is to begin operation in January 1998 (Council for National Minorities 2 Oct. 1997; ERRC 22 Sept. 1997). This Commission will be chaired by Minister Bratinka and will include the deputy ministers of ministries involved with Romani issues (Council for National Minorities 2 Oct. 1997). According to Viktor Dobal, the deputy minister of the Czech Council for National Minorities, the executive vice-chairperson will ideally be a member of the Romani community and the Commission will better co-ordinate the work of all participating ministries (ibid.).
3. LEGAL CONTEXT
3.1 Constitution and Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
The Romani minority in the Czech Republic has been granted the status of national minority (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). The rights of national minorities are enshrined in the Czech Republic's Constitution and Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (ibid.; Consulate General Feb. 1997, 1). According to the Ministry of Justice, the purpose of the Constitution and the Charter is to guarantee the complete freedom and liberty of all individuals; no legislation can be in contradiction to the Constitution (30 Sept. 1997). A Constitutional Court oversees this guarantee. Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms maintains that "all people are free and equal in their dignity and in their rights. Their fundamental rights and freedoms are inherent, inalienable, illimitable and irrepealable" (Consulate General Feb. 1997, 2). Article 24 states that "national or ethnic identity of any individual shall not be used to his/her detriment" (ibid., 1), while Article 25 guarantees that minorities enjoy:
· The right to education in their language
· The right to use their language in official contact
· The right to develop their own culture
· The right to impart and receive information in their language
· The right to associate in ethnic associations, and
· The right to participate in the decision-making concerning national and
ethnic minorities (ibid.).
Provisions of the Charter and the Constitution prohibit discrimination on the basis of race (ibid.; Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). These provisions guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms
to all irrespective of sex, race, colour of skin, language, faith, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, belonging to a national or ethnic minority, property, birth or other status. This principle is also embodied in other legislative norms, including the Civil Code, Civil Judicial Order, Penal Code and Penal Order, Administrative Code, Labour Code, Law on State Social Support, Family Code, Law on Retirement Insurance or Employment Law (Consulate General Feb. 1997, 2).
The Czech Republic is also bound by several international agreements that prohibit discrimination and protect the rights of national minorities (Consulate General Feb. 1997, 2). These include the following:
· International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
· International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
· International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
· Convention 111 of the International Labour Organization on
· Convention on the Protection of Fundamental Human Rights and
· Convention on the Rights of the Child (ibid.).
According to Article 10 of the Czech Constitution, "the provisions of all international treaties on human rights by which the Czech Republic is bound are directly binding and are superior in law" (ibid.).
3.2 Czech Criminal Code and Racially Motivated Acts
A number of crimes included in the Czech criminal code can be categorized as "racially motivated" if the motive of the crime is found to be racial or ethnic hatred (MFA nd, 15; ERRC5 Aug. 1997). These crimes include the following:
§ 196 Violence against a Group of Inhabitants and against Individuals
§ 198 Defamation of Race, Nation or Conviction
§ 198a Incitement to National and Racial Hatred
§ 219 Murder
§ 221-24 Injury to Health
§ 259 Genocide
§ 260-261 Sponsoring and Promotion of Movements Aimed to
Suppress the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens
(MFA nd, 13-15; ERRC Aug.1997).
As an example of the difference in punishment if a crime is considered to have a racial motivation, Article §219(1) states that "Whoever deliberately kills another will be punished with imprisonment for ten to fifteen years" (ERRC Aug. 1997). According to Article §219(2)g "The offender will be punished with imprisonment for twelve to fifteen years, or exceptional punishment, if s/he commits the crime referred to in paragraph 1 on another for his/her race, nationality, political conviction, creed " (ibid.). According to the ERRC translation of sections of the Czech criminal code, "exceptional punishment is imprisonment from 15-20 years, or for life, provided for by §29 of the criminal code." Please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the August 1997 ERRC attachments for further details on these sections of the Czech criminal code.
As stated in the previous section, since September 1995 individuals sentenced with crimes judged to have a racial motivation have had their penalties increased by an average of one year in jail (MFA nd, 15; Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). The judge presiding over a particular case has the final power to ascribe racial motivation to a crime (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997; Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). During the pre-trial investigation phase the police investigator or the state prosecutor can assess a case as being racially motivated based on the evidence assembled (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997), however, as the Czech judiciary is independent the judge is not bound by a preceding assessment of the case (ibid.; Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). Even if the state prosecutor labels the case as racially motivated, the courts can reject this (Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). Racial motivation can be ascribed to a crime at any point in the legal process, including at the appellant level (ibid.; Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). According to lawyer and Romani rights expert Barbora Kvocekova, there is a tendency to send a case to a higher court if the state prosecutor has stated that the crime is racially motivated and the court rejects his or her findings (23 Sept. 1997). Furthermore, the Minister of Justice can intervene in a case and request that it be heard by the Supreme Court (ibid.; Council for National Minorities 5 Nov. 1997).
The lack of a precise description of what constitutes racial motivation has raised concern among Romani leaders and NGOs (Holomek 24 Sept. 1997; ERRC 22 Sept. 1997). Karel Holomek, a Romani leader based in Brno, calls the racial motivation laws "insufficient": the border between what is and is not a racially motivated act is very unclear and the decision rests with the judge, one fallible individual who, according to Holomek, has the same prejudices toward Romani people as does the rest of society (Holomek 24 Sept. 1997). Officials with the Czech Ministry of Justice state, on the other hand, that the description of racial motivation is contained in the case law, and although case law is not binding, "in practice it is quite clear" (30 Sept. 1997). The European Roma Rights Centre has stated that the case law in this area is insufficient for courts and prosecutors to know how to prove racial motivation (22 Sept. 1997).
According to the Ministry of Justice, 271 persons were sentenced for racially motivated offences in 1996 (30 Sept. 1997). This figure includes incidents where Roma were the victims, but also includes attacks or crimes perpetrated against Vietnamese and Arabs, and crimes committed by Roma against the white population (ibid.). According to an April 1997 Ministry of the Interior Report on Criminality in the Czech Republic in 1996, however, 88 individuals were sentenced to "racial-context" crimes in 1996, 54 of whom were juveniles (Ministry of the Interior 25 Apr. 1997, np). Please see the attached excerpt from the MFA report entitled The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Initial and the Second Periodic Report of the Czech Republic (1993-1996), for further statistics on prosecutions, charges and final convictions for crimes "motivated by racial, national or other hostility" between 1993 and June 1996 (nd, 16).
Ministry of Justice spokespersons note that the number of racially motivated crimes is relatively low, but add that it is increasing (30 Sept. 1997; see also MFA nd, 15). In 1996, for example, individuals prosecuted for racially motivated offences constituted 0.6 per cent of all crimes committed in the Czech Republic, up 0.1 per cent from the previous year (30 Sept. 1997). The Czech Council on National Minorities and the Ministry of Interior believe that the rise in the number of racially motivated crimes reflects the fact that police are better identifying the issue of racial motivation and that judges and state prosecutors now have a clearer understanding of the issue (29 Sept. 1997; 30 Sept. 1997).
According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs report,
typically, the offender [in a racially motivated incident] is a skinhead or a sympathiser of the skinhead movement; the victim is a Roma or a person resembling a Roma . With several minor exceptions, race-motivated crimes are committed by at least two offenders, predominately by groups of 10-30 persons. Such cases are rather more demanding in terms of presentation of evidence and correct classification of individual acts (nd, 15).
Report on Criminality in the Czech Republic in 1996 states that most extremist crimes were committed in northern and southern Moravia and Prague (25 Apr. 1997, np). However, the Ministry of Justice states that most racist incidents tend to occur in northern Bohemia and in Moravia (30 Sept. 1997). Ondrej Gina also believes that most racially motivated incidents occur in western and northern Bohemia, and Moravia, especially in Ostrava and Brno (26 Sept. 1997). Many of these areas are close to the German border, and, according to Gina, the additional contact with German skinhead and neo-nazi groups reinforces the problem. Furthermore, Gina indicates that Czech nationalism is very strong in many of these areas.
The Interior Ministry's Department of Youth and Extremist Crimes organizes workshops and seminars on racially motivated and extremist crimes; they send Ministry trainers and experts to give lectures to police on these topics which are arranged at the local level (Ministry of Interior 30 Sept. 1997). This department of the Interior Ministry publishes manuals and guidelines that detail how to proceed in particular cases, how to make distinctions in behaviour and how to determine whether an act was racially motivated. The guidelines provide physical descriptions of skinheads and information on skinhead activities in order to assist in identifying them. These manuals and guidelines are internal documents, but articles on similar subjects are published in the Ministry of Interior's magazine Policeman. In addition, according to Ministry of Interior spokespersons, this type of information is addressed in police basic training. The problem of racism is included in the basic training syllabus. The spokespersons acknowledge that it cannot be confirmed that all police officers have received this training as the Ministry distributes the materials to the local level and the task is then up to the director of local units. Furthermore, the high turnover of police officers prevents the specialization of units in certain areas.
There are two distinct police forces in operation in the Czech Republic: the Czech or national police and the municipal police (Ministry of Interior 14 Oct. 1997; Municipal Authorities Usti 1 Oct. 1997; Uhl 27 Sept. 1997). These police forces function independently of one another and are regulated by different laws and carry out different tasks (Ministry of Interior 14 Oct. 1997). According to the Ministry of Interior, the Czech national police force is a nationally coordinated force that operates throughout the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Interior's Police Presidium coordinates the activities of national police officers.
Municipal police can be created by municipalities "as a tool for maintaining public order in areas the municipality is responsible for" (Ministry of Interior 14 Oct. 1997) and these forces do not have the same level of power or competence as do national police (Uhl 27 Sept. 1997). There is no national coordination of municipal police; they are managed by city councils, not by the Ministry of Interior (Ministry of Interior 14 Oct. 1997; Municipal Authorities 1 Oct. 1997; Uhl 27 Sept. 1997). Municipal police cannot substitute for national police and therefore both forces operate in towns where municipal police have been established (Ministry of Interior 14 Oct. 1997). While the Ministry of Interior does not have governing power over municipal police, the Ministry does "run entry examinations for municipal police officers to check if they meet entry criteria" (ibid.). According to Petr Uhl, the standards for recruitment among municipal police are not as strict as those faced by national police: "entry exams are not so detailed, in the end they accept anyone" (27 Sept. 1997). The Ministry of Interior states in a 31 October 1997 e-mail that municipal police do not receive the same training as do national police. According to the Ministry, municipal police "have compulsory entrance examinations, however, it is not defined how they should acquire required knowledge" (31 Oct. 1997).
Ministry of Interior spokespersons knew of only "a few, less than ten" Romani national police officers in the country (30 Sept. 1997; ibid. 14 Oct. 1997). The head of the municipal police in Usti nad Labem stated that there are seven Romani police officers in the Usti municipal police force (Municipal Authorities 1 Oct. 1997). A Ministry of Interior spokesperson stated that the Ministry initiated a campaign to recruit Romani police officers in 1995 (30 Sept. 1997). The Ministry mitigated criteria for Romani applicants and contacted 40 Romani organizations to assist in distributing recruitment material. The campaign was unsuccessful and no Romani police officers were recruited to the force. According to the spokesperson, there is a lack of will among Roma to become police officers (ibid.). The Prague-based ERRC researcher knows of one Romani police officer in East Bohemia, noting, however, that he has never seen a Romani police officer in uniform (22 Sept. 1997). The researcher notes that there is generally strong resistance to affirmative action in Czech society (ibid.). Barbora Kvocekova knew of one Romani police officer in the entire country (23 Sept. 1997).
The Ministry of Interior stated that they have never had good experiences with community-based policing and that in the past such projects have always failed (30 Sept. 1997). The municipal police, however, are more able to organize and initiate Romani community activities. In 1997 the municipal police established an Information Centre in Usti nad Labem (Municipal Authorities 1 Oct. 1997). The two employees working in the Information Centre have been trained by the district labour and social affairs offices and assist individuals, especially Roma, in communicating with the state and public administrative bodies. Municipal police in Usti have participated in holiday camps with Romani children in an attempt to establish better contacts between the police and the children.
4.2 Complaint Procedures
The following information on complaint procedures was provided by the Czech Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and lawyer Barbora Kvocekova.
1. An individual goes to the police station or local municipal office and
submits a complaint. This can be done verbally or in writing. Occasionally the individual is asked to go to the police station and make a deposition in person. The complaint is recorded in a police report (Ministry of the Interior 30 Sept. 1997).
2. Based on the criminal complaint made by the individual it is deduced by police what kind of offence it could be according to the content of the complaint. Usually a police officer would handle the case, although if there is a suspicion that the alleged offence may entail a punishment of more than three years, the case may be handed over to a police investigator (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997).
3. The police officer or investigator then conducts the investigation, collects evidence and facts relating to the case (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997; Ministry of the Interior 30 Sept. 1997). It is at this stage that the complaint will be first assessed as to whether racial motivation may have been involved (ibid.).
4. The police officer decides whether or not the complaint should be followed up and whether charges should be laid (Ministry of the Interior 30 Sept. 1997). The complainant can appeal the police officer's decision to the state prosecutor if he or she disagrees with it. The state prosecutor can approve the police report and effectively reject the appeal or he or she can refer the complaint back to the police for further investigation (ibid.; Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997).
5. If the police officer believes that the facts justify charges being laid, the case is then handed to an investigator and the investigation continues (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997).
6. The case is then either proposed to the prosecutor to bring judicial action or the prosecution is dropped and the offence considered a minor administrative offence. Only the prosecutor is entitled to bring about judicial action. The prosecutor has the power to decide to stop prosecution and to deem the offence a minor administrative offence (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997).
7. The trial phase begins (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997; Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). If pre-trial facts collected do not prove the justification of the criminal complaint, or if the courts perceive the case as not a serious crime, the complaint is rejected (ibid.; Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). The case may then be returned to the prosecutor for further work before it is returned to the courts (Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). However, there is a remedy against the decision to stop court proceedings (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). The state prosecutor can appeal the case if the courts dismiss a case (Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997).
According to the Ministry of Interior if an individual lodges a complaint of police misconduct, or an allegation that a police officer may have been complicit in a crime, the complaint is forwarded to a special department within the Ministry of Interior that investigates such cases (30 Sept. 1997). In minor disciplinary cases, for example if a police officer violates a procedure, the local director of police can handle the situation. If there is a belief that an officer committed an offence, the investigation is handled by the special department within the Ministry of Interior.
Lawyer Barbora Kvocekova stated in an interview on 23 September 1997 that the individual making the complaint must make the accusation at the local police office, in effect to the same people about whom the individual is complaining. The complaint may go to the Police Presidium, but they then direct local police to conduct the investigation into the allegation.
The ERRC researcher also commented that the problem with laying an allegation of police misconduct is that in the first instance the people about whom you are complaining are the people with whom the complaint must be lodged (22 Sept. 1997). The researcher is unaware of any successful investigations of police officers.
4.3 Potential Barriers to Seeking Protection
The ERRC researcher indicates that Roma do not report crimes to the police because they have not received assistance from police in the past (22 Sept. 1997). According to the ERRC, many Roma have experienced the police from the "other side," and there is a general feeling among the Romani community of being on the other side of the police; essentially, the Roma have no positive experiences with police. They have told the ERRC that police randomly stop Roma in vehicles and that police are reluctant to arrest or charge non-Roma involved in disturbancespolice may break up incidents, but they fail to arrest or charge possible non-Roma instigators (ibid.). Barbora Kvocekova states that police do not stop or charge skinheads who enter towns uttering racist slogans; police only act when an actual attack begins or when someone is injured (23 Sept. 1997). Kvocekova further believes that there is a tendency not to charge individuals with racial motivation; commonly, racial motivation will only be ascribed after a case becomes public and attains a high profile. According to Kvocekova, police handle incidents involving whites and Roma in a different manner; there is a tendency among police not to assist a Rom who is being beaten, which reflects society's general prejudice against Roma. As well, in certain cases such as restrictions upon entry to restaurants, police do not launch investigations (ibid.).
Karel Holomek, a Romani leader in Brno, believes that police protect Roma poorly. Based on his own personal experience Holomek stated that there is a high level of prejudice within the Czech police and he points to the Pisek case6 as an example of the problems found within the Czech police and judiciary (24 Sept. 1997).
The ERRC researcher states that surveys of the police academy reflect that 80 per cent of students display high levels of racism; this percentage is reportedly worse than any other student group. Jarmila Balazova reports that two years ago the Ministry of Interior conducted a survey in the police academy (25 Sept. 1997). The students were asked whether they would help a Romani child that they saw being attacked on the street. A large majority of the students surveyed said that they would not help the Romani child (ibid.; see also CEO 30 Sept. 1997). According to an interview conducted with Balazova by Central Europe Online (CEO), "all of those who said they would not help a Roma child are now on the streets as police officers. Every year society produces a new generation of racists and we don't do anything about it. If the government ignores the situation then the police, lawyers and judges will be among the racists" (30 Sept. 1997). She reports that an opinion poll conducted after the last election showed that the army and police voted in a large majority, approximately 70 per cent, for extremist parties, particularly the Communist and Republican parties (ibid.; Balazova 25 Sept. 1997). Balazova believes that very often racially motivated attacks on Roma are qualified as disorderly conduct and the paragraphs qualifying an incident as racially motivated are not put into practice (25 Sept. 1997).
Ondrej Gina believes that the key reasons for and solutions to the problems facing the Romani population lie in local district offices (26 Sept. 1997). According to Gina, at the local or district level protection is often difficult or impossible to receive. Gina does acknowledge that especially outrageous incidents, such as police simply watching while a Roma is attacked, no longer occur. However, he states that Roma do not trust police and unless the crime is of a very serious nature, it is not reported as Roma believe there is no point. Gina also believes that local authorities are reluctant to use racial motivation clauses and he is of the opinion that it is crucial that such qualifications are made at a local level.
Petr Uhl states that the relationship between the police, the judiciary and the Roma minority is related to the situation that exists between the white non-Roma majority and the country's minorities (27 Sept. 1997). This relationship has traditionally been poor. According to Uhl, prejudice and racism exist in society and the same sentiments are found within the police. Skinheads are considered by society to be people who bring order and there is a certain sympathy within society for skinheads. According to Uhl, this sympathy is reflected in the police. Uhl differentiates between the two police forces in the Czech Republic: "If in the state police from time to time you can recognize a sympathy toward skinheads among municipal police, this force is sometimes made up of skinheads." Uhl believes that the police are not able to protect Roma.
Petr Uhl also states that Roma are either afraid to go to the police or they believe that it is not worth the effort to go to the police. There are many levels and bureaucracies involved in laying a complaint with police and many Roma may be afraid of this bureaucracy. Uhl believes that Roma are generally aware that one cannot discriminate, but they do not know the details of laws or to whom they should address their complaints. Uhl stated that he questions exactly how to assist a Rom who has been a victim of discrimination: does one present oneself to the national police, to the municipal police, to the commercial licensing regulatory body, to the town's mayor? According to Uhl, employees of these offices will send you off to the other office, each refusing to complete the requisite forms with the complainant. According to Uhl, Czech laws need to be clarified, particularly the aspects that determine where a complaint should be made, with whom it should be made, etc.
Uhl admits that the Ministry of the Interior has attempted to positively influence the national police regarding tolerance and racism, but adds that the Ministry of Interior's influence does not extend to the municipal police "who are always worse than national police." Uhl believes that instructions are given to the head of the national police force, whom he describes as xenophobic, like the rest of the police force. It is difficult for such an individual to pass instructions along. According to Uhl, Ruml, the Minister of the Interior until October 1997, is not a xenophobe, but Uhl supposes that the recommendations and stands of the Minister are considered to be "whims" by the ministry.
5. THE JUDICIARY
The Czech Republic has an independent judiciary (Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997; Council for Nationalities 29 Sept. 1997; Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997) which maintains a principle of two instances: lower courts hear cases in the first instance and their decisions can be appealed to a superior instance (ibid.). Appellant court decisions are final, although they can be reviewed through either a renewal of proceedings or on a complaint of violation of law, which entails a legal review by the Supreme Court (ibid.).
The local court level in the Czech Republic includes district and regional courts (Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). There is also an upper court (ibid.). The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the country (ibid.). The Constitutional Court rules on questions of constitutionality (ibid.; Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). Cases are heard by regional courts in instances where the minimum punishment for the crime would be at least five years imprisonment; the district court has jurisdiction where the law does not identify at which court the case should be heard (Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997). A district or regional court hears cases in the first instance (ibid.). The upper court deals with appeals from the regional court, while district courts appeal to regional courts (ibid.). An appeal usually would go to an upper court before it is brought to the Supreme Court (ibid.), which is based in Brno (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997).
Prosecutors' offices in the Czech Republic function parallel to the court system (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997). For instance, at the district court level there is a parallel district prosecutor's office (ibid.).
Cases considered to be of a less serious nature are heard by a single judge; more serious crimes, including cases involving serious injury with racial motivation, for example, are heard by a panel of judges (Ministry of Justice 30 Sept. 1997).
The Ministry of Justice representatives were not aware of the existence of Romani judges in the Czech Republic (30 Sept. 1997).
5.2 Judicial Application of the Racially Motivated Crimes Provision
Advocates of Romani rights and Romani leaders have voiced dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Czech judicial system handles cases involving Roma (ERRC 22 Sept. 1997; Kvocekova 23 Sept. 1997; Holomek 24 Sept. 1997; Balazova 25 Sept. 1997; Gina 26 Sept. 1997). The Prague-based ERRC researcher believes that the original trial of Tibor Berki's attackers is an example of a tendency among Czech judges to take a positivistic interpretation of the law, thereby making it more difficult to apply racial motivation (22 Sept. 1997). "There is a tendency to require a level of proof of racial motivation which is substantially higher than the proof required generally in courts" (ibid.). He believes that the racial motivation qualification is underused and that sentencing, therefore, does not reflect racial motivation in the way that the law implies it will. Generally the researcher believes that judicial redress available to Roma in the Czech Republic is consistent "in its inconsistency."
Barbora Kvocekova states that it is her belief that courts do not apply racial motivation in many cases where it could be applied (23 Sept. 1997). Kvocekova believes that courts give Romani individuals more severe sentences than are given to white people in similar instances. She acknowledges that this is difficult to prove given the independence of the judiciary and the fact that judges maintain that every case is different and the courts therefore must take different conditions into consideration in each case.
Jarmila Balazova states that paragraphs of the criminal code designed to provide for racially motivated crimes are not being put into practice in the court system (25 Sept. 1997). Balazova believes that this is a regular practice as "very few judges are prepared to use the laws the way they were intended." She linked this situation to the fact that 80 per cent of Czechs have stated in polls that they do not like Roma and judges must be among this 80 per cent.
Ondrej Gina acknowledges that, in theory, Roma are entitled to the same rights as are other citizens, and that Roma are equal to other citizens in the eyes of the country's constitution and laws. Gina believes, however, that in practice it is difficult and sometimes impossible for Roma to obtain protection at the local or district level (26 Sept. 1997). Gina raised the example of the drowning death of Tibor Danihel in Pisek as a case in point that "fortifies our views that the justice system just doesn't work". According to Gina, the court did not fulfil its duty in Pisek. Gina believes that examples such as this explain, in part, why Roma do not trust police and are often unwilling to report incidents to police. Gina believes that except in very serious cases such as rape, murder, or serious injury, incidents go unreported, cases do not go to court and justice is not fulfilled. The good intentions of the government are thereby wasted. Gina is certain that local authorities are reluctant to ascribe racial motivation to cases and he believes that if the prosecutor does not label a case as having a racial motivation, it will not be applied at a later stage.
Petr Uhl indicates that prior to the changes in 1989 there were a substantial number of unjust and undemocratic verdicts arrived at by the judiciary; verdicts passed on Romani individuals at that time were two to three times more often unjust judgements than those passed on non-Roma (ibid.). Related to this, Uhl expressed concern that over 50 per cent of the current judges are left over from the pre-Velvet Revolution era (ibid.).
Uhl also states that "it is not like the state is paying the skinheads, but the attacks are not prosecuted, or at least few are prosecuted." He indicates further concern that while violent crimes or threats of violence may at times be prosecuted, discriminatory acts in particular are rarely prosecuted. Uhl believes that despite the Czech Republic's international commitments that forbid discrimination "one can commit a racially motivated act but you do not face punishment unless you publicly incite others to commit such crimes." Citing section 198(a) of the Czech criminal code on "incitement to national and racial hatred" (ERRC Aug. 1997), Uhl questions why the state does not create a separate law that punishes the individual (27 Sept. 1997).7
5.3 Potential Barriers to Seeking Redress
According to one Ministry of Interior spokesperson interviewed on 30 September 1997, how well Roma know of and use the avenues of redress available to them depends upon the individual case. In terms of appeals, the spokesperson said that the Roma are aware of this possibility and states that they normally use the process. He added that if legal proceedings are stopped, an explanatory note is provided to those involved in the case; the note includes information on how to appeal decisions. A similar note is provided after court verdicts. Many Roma have access to lawyers or legal aid to guide them through the process. While acknowledging that Roma do not have a great deal of legal knowledge, the spokesperson states that because Roma are well versed in ways to circumvent laws they are very capable of finding ways to claims their rights and be heard.
During the same interview another representative of the Ministry of Interior stated that once criminal proceedings begin the criminal code provides instruction on what steps can be taken. However, this representative stated that in day to day life Roma are not aware of their human rights and citizen's rights nor how to exercise them; their legal knowledge is limited.
The Head of the Municipal Police in Usti nad Labem, a city in northern Bohemia, states that the Roma in Usti know whom to contact and where to go if they have a problem (Municipal Authorities 1 Oct. 1997). Furthermore, when asked whether Roma might be reluctant to seek police assistance because of a belief that police may be unwilling to assist them, he indicated he did not believe this to be the case.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson states that the Roma are very well aware of their rights and means of redress available to them, adding that the Roma in fact use the system too much and abuse it (30 Sept. 1997). He noted that if an individual goes to the police with a complaint, a report must be filed and the police cannot refuse to do this. The case is then investigated according to the code of criminal proceedings (ibid.).
On 5 November 1997, however, a member of the secretariat of the Czech Council for National Minorities indicated that the Roma are not fully aware of their rights. The existing way of obtaining this informatin is through counsellors and legal assistant centres organized by NGOs. According to the secretariat member, "we know that this is not enough.In light of the adoption of the Council's Report on the Roma Community on 29 October 1997, there is now a chance to change [this situation]."
Barbora Kvocekova states that Roma have the same rights to judicial remedy as do other citizens but adds, however, that Roma are not aware of their rights and do not know what remedies are available to them (23 Sept. 1997). According to Kvocekova, Czech law dictates that victims must know all possible ways to seek redress; if they do not, it is their own fault as not knowing the law cannot be used as an excuse. "The problem is certainly in information. The police and state prosecutors often do not inform victims of the crimeall the victims generally, but Roma especiallyof how to obtain remedies" (ibid. 13 Oct. 1997). Kvocekova states that when an individual's rights are presented, they are not described in a layman's non-legal manner that the victim can understand (ibid.).
An ERRC researcher states that where previously a complainant was automatically notified of the progress in the case after a month's time, one must now request this notification (22 Sept. 1997). The ERRC researcher once accompanied a Romani woman to a police station to make a complaint and she was not informed of her right to receive notification of the progress in the case. The researcher reports that in all administrative contact with Roma there seems to be a tendency to systematically not inform the Roma of their rights.
For information and updates on the situation of Roma please consult the documentary sources and IRB databases available at Regional Documentation Centres.
6. NOTES ON SELECTED SOURCES
Jarmila Balazova is a Romani journalist. Jarmila Balazova currently works for Czech Radio where she is responsible for Romani radio transmissions. She is also a member of the Czech government's Council for National Minorities' Ad Hoc Working Group on Romani Affairs.
Council for National Minorities
The Council for National Minorities is an advisory, initiating and co-ordinating body of the government for matters of government policy toward members of national minorities in the Czech Republic (Government Czech Republic nd). The Council's activities remain untouchable by the powers of the Ministries and their administrative offices (ibid.). The Research Directorate conducted interviews with the three members of the Council's Secretariat and with Deputy Minister Viktor Dobal. The Secretariat of the Council for National Minorities performs "the organizational and expert work connected to the business of the Council" (ibid.). Please see the Government of the Czech Republic attachment for further details on the statute and composition of the Council for National Minorities and the Council's Secretariat.
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
The ERRC is a Budapest-based international public interest law organization which monitors the human rights situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. The ERRC has a Prague-based researcher who monitors the situation of the Roma in the Czech Republic and reports to Budapest.
Ondrej Gina is a Romani leader and a member of the Council for National Minorities and a member of the Council's Ad Hoc Working Group on Romani Affairs. Ondrej Gina is the chairperson of the Rokycany-based (west Bohemia) Foundation for Mutual Hope and Understanding and the chairman of the Council of Rokycany Roma.
Karel Holomek is an engineer and Romani leader based in Brno, Moravia. Karel Holomek is the chairman of the Brno-based Society of Professionals and Friends of the Museum of Romani Culture, a founding member of the Association of Roma in Moravia and the appointed President of the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly Roma Section. He is also a member of the Czech government's Council for National Minorities Ad Hoc Working Group on Romani Affairs.
Ministry of Interior
The Research Directorate conducted an interview in Prague with three representatives of the Czech Ministry of Interior on 30 September 1997. This interview was conducted with the Director and Deputy Director of the Crime Prevention Department of the Interior Ministry and with a representative of the criminal service sector of the police who is the head of the department responsible for extremist groups, youth crime and crimes against youth and children.
Ministry of Justice
The Research Directorate conducted an interview in Prague with representatives of the Czech Ministry of Justice on 30 September 1997. Information provided during the interview came chiefly from the Brno-based Supreme Court State Prosecutor and the Deputy Chairman of the Higher Court in Prague.
Barbora Kvocekova is a lawyer who wrote her thesis on the legal situation of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic. Barbora Kvocekova is currently pursuing her doctorate; her dissertation will be on Romani minority rights. Barbora Kvocekova currently works for the Tolerance Foundation and previously worked for the Legal Advice Bureau of the Czech Helsinki Committee. The views attributed to her in this report are her own.
Municipal Authorities Usti nad Labem
The city of Usti nad Labem is located 100 kilometres north of Prague in northern Bohemia. Interviews were conducted on 1 October 1997 with the head of the local municipal police, the local labour office and the local social affairs office.
Petr Uhl is a Czech writer and journalist. Petr Uhl is a member of the Czech government's Council for National Minorities' Ad Hoc Working Group on Romani Affairs and a member of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Commission Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. He is also a member of the Czech Helsinki Committee.
Balazova, Jarmila, Prague. 25 September 1997. Interview.
Central Europe Online [Prague]. 30 September 1997. Interview Series. Interview with Jarmila Balasova. Young Rom Reflects on the Plight of Roma in the Czech Republic.
Consulate General of the Czech Republic, Montréal. February 1997. Information on the Situation of the Roma National Minority in the Czech Republic.
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. 8 September 1997. (ADOC7898.ADD). Addendum to the Report on the Obligations and Commitments of the Czech Republic as a Member State. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
Council for National Minorities. 5 November 1997. E-mail to Research Directorate from member of the Council's Secretariat.
Council for National Minorities. 2 October 1997. Interview with Viktor Dobal, Deputy Minister of the Czech Council for National Minorities.
Council for National Minorities. 29 September 1997. Interview with representatives of the Council's Secretariat.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996. 1997. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.
CTK News Agency. 29 October 1997. CTK News Summary: Government Approves Romany Report. [Internet] (http://www.ctknews.com/wedctk.html) [Accessed 30 Oct. 1997]
Czech Helsinki Committee (CHC). 1997. Czech Helsinki Committee: Report on the State of Human Rights in the Czech Republic 1996. Prague: CHC.
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Ottawa. 30 October 1997. Press Release on the Statement of the Czech Government on the Current Situation in the Roma Community.
European Roma Rights Centre, (ERRC) Budapest. 22 October 1997. Press Release on Events in Great Britain. Budapest: ERRC.
European Roma Rights Centre, (ERRC) Budapest. 24 September 1997. Interview with Prague-based researcher.
European Roma Rights Centre, (ERRC) Budapest. 22 September 1997. Interview with Prague-based researcher.
European Roma Rights Centre, (ERRC) Budapest. August 1997. Pisek: Description of the Facts. Prague: ERRC.
European Roma Rights Centre, (ERRC) Budapest. August 1997. Unofficial Translation of Select Sections of the Czech Criminal Code. Prague: ERRC.
European Roma Rights Centre, (ERRC) Budapest. 1997. Unofficial Translation of Minister without Portfolio Pavel Bratinka's paper for the May 1997 Seminar on the Prohibition of Discrimination and Securement of Equal Opportunity in the Area of Civil Society.
Gabal, Analysis & Consulting. December 1996. Ethnic Climate of the Czech Society: Comparison 1994-1996, Selected Results. Prague: Gabal, Analysis & Consulting.
Gina, Ondrej, Rokycany. 26 September 1997. Interview.
Government of the Czech Republic. Nd. Appendix to the Government Edict dated 11 May, 1994, no. 259: Statute Nationalities Council of the Czech Republic Government.
Holomek, Karel, Brno. 24 September 1997. Interview.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (HRW/H). June 1996. Vol. 8, No. 11. Czech Republic: Roma in the Czech Republic: Foreigners in Their Own Land. New York: HRW/H/H.
Kvocekova, Barbora, Prague. 3 November 1997. E-Mail to Research Directorate.
Kvocekova, Barbora, Prague. 13 October 1997. E-Mail to Research Directorate.
Kvocekova, Barbora, Prague. 23 September 1997. Interview.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Human Rights Office. Nd. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Initial and Second Periodic Report of the Czech Republic (1993-1996). Prague: MFA.
Ministry of Interior, Prague. 31 October 1997. E-mail to Research Directorate received from Deputy-Director of the Crime Prevention Department.
Ministry of Interior, Prague. 14 October 1997. E-mail received from Deputy-Director of the Crime Prevention Department.
Ministry of Interior, Prague. 30 September 1997. Interview with three ministry representatives.
Ministry of Interior, Prague. 25 April 1997. For the Meeting of the Government of the Czech Republic: Report on Criminality in the Czech Republic in 1996 (as Compared to 1995).
Ministry of Justice, Prague. 30 September 1997. Interview with ministry representatives.
Municipal Authorities Usti nad Labem, Usti nad Labem. 1 October 1997. Interview with the head of municipal police, local labour office and local social affairs office.
Uhl, Petr, Prague. 27 September 1997. Interview.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Prague. 23 September 1997. Interview with representatives of UNHCR Prague office.
Embassy of the Czech Republic in Canada, Ottawa. 30 October 1997. Press Release.
European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest. 22 October 1997. Press Release on Events in Great Britain.
European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest. August 1997. Pisek: Description of the Facts.
European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest. August 1997. Unofficial Translation of Select Sections of the Czech Criminal Code. Prague: ERRC.
Government of the Czech Republic. Nd. Appendix to the Government Edict dated 11 May, 1994, no. 259: Statute Nationalities Council of the Czech Republic Government.
Human Rights Office of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Nd. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Initial and Second Periodic Report of the Czech Republic (1993-1996). Prague: MFA, pp. 1-3, 10-18.
Ministry of Interior. 25 April 1997. For the Meeting of the Government of the Czech Republic: Report on Criminality in the Czech Republic in 1996 (as Compared to 1995).
1. This quotation is taken from an unofficial ERRC translation of a paper presented by Minister Bratinka at the seminar.
2. One of these murders included the death of a Turkish man who was mistaken for a Rom by skinheads (ERRC 22 Oct. 1997).
3. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Romani Affairs was formed in late 1996 by Minister without Portfolio Pavel Bratinka, the chairperson of the Council for National Minorities (Council National Minorities 29 Sept. 1997). This group was formed in response to incidents of racially motivated crime and is composed of independent Romani representatives (ibid.). Among the first tasks of the group was to research and prepare a report on events in Pisek (please see footnote six for further information on the Pisek case (ibid.). The recommendations of this report were adopted by the Council for National Minorities on 29 April 1997 and presented to various government ministries (ibid. 5 Nov. 1997).
4. An English version of this report will be distributed to IRB Regional Documentation Centres as soon as it becomes available.
5. This ERRC document is a translation of select sections of the Czech criminal code.
6. On 24 September 1994 a group of approximately 40 skinheads harassed and attacked four young Roma who were on an island in the Otava River in Pisek (ERRC Aug. 1997; MFA nd, 16-17). The Roma were chased into the river and prevented from getting out by the skinheads (ERRC Aug. 1997). One of the Roma, Tibor Danihel, drowned (ibid.). Romani rights activists have criticized the role of local authorities in this case. Please see pages 16-17 of the MFA attachment and the August 1997 ERRC attachment entitled Pisek: Description of the Facts for more detailed information on this case.
7. Regarding discrimination, Uhl believes that a great deal should be done in Czech law to address questions of discrimination, particularly referring to the fact that racial motivation clauses are absent from Czech commercial law. The law forbids a shopkeeper from discriminating among his clients, but racial motivation is not mentioned in the law.
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