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Roma News July 2021

LIVE at 18:00 TODAY - Webinar on police brutality against Romani people with MEP Romeo Franz and director of RomanoNet Michal Miko

On 1st July, Romea.cz/en reported that the European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network was holding a webinar at 18:00 CET that day about police brutality against Romani people. The online meeting, which was organized together with MEP Romeo Franz, was responding to the death of Stanislav Tomáš after the intervention against him by police in Teplice, Czech Republic.   

It was noted that Michal Miko, director of the RomanoNet organization in the Czech Republic, would participate, as would Jonathan Lee of the European Roma Rights Centre, which was collaborating with nonprofit organizations in the Czech Repulbic to provide legal aid to Mr Tomáš's family. You can follow the webinar here on Romea.cz or on Facebook.

 

Russia calls for investigation of the death of Stanislav Tomáš after intervention by police in Teplice

 

On 2nd July, Romea.cz/en reported that Russia was joining the Council of Europe's call for an independent investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš after an intervention against him by police in Teplice, Czech Republic; according to the TASS press agency, Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, made the statement during a briefing on Thursday, 1 July. "This incident goes hand in hand with the adverse state of the rights of the Romani minority in that country and with manifestations of discrimination and segregation," she was reported as saying. 

"The Czech Republic is regularly criticized for this by international institutions that are specialized, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the Council of Europe," Zakharova said. "We are supporting the calls by the leadership of the Council of Europe for the independent investigation of this death."

 

Roma Lives Matter demo in Czech capital hears eyewitness testimony that Stanislav Tomáš was carried motionless on a stretcher into the ambulance

 

On 2nd July, Romea News reported that roughly 100 people had assembled Wednesday on Palackého náměstí in Prague to demonstrate about the death of Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice, who had died after police had intervened against him. Activists were reported as criticiising the police approach during the event, which was called Roma Lives Matter
 
It was noted that those attending had protested against discrimination and racism. And that the case had sparked a sharp reaction from Romani organizations abroad as well as protests abroad and in the Czech Republic.  

 

Commentary: The dictatorship in a hostile Russia is criticizing the Czechs about human rights over the death of Stanislav Tomáš

On 2nd July. Romea.cz/en reported Miroslav Brož as saying this:

This is bad. The authoritarian regime in Russia has joined those criticizing the Czech Republic for violating the rights of Romani people and is calling for a thorough investigation of the death of Stanislav Tomáš

It bothers me greatly that the Czech Republic is now in a situation where a dictatorship that is hostile to us thinks it has something to teach us about upholding human rights. The situation of Romani people in Russia is just as bad as it is here, to say nothing of the arrests and other methods police use in Russia. 

The worst thing is that this is about applying pressure to a live case and that there is actually something to criticize here - the rights of individual Romani people and the minority as a whole are indeed violated in the Czech Republic on a daily basis, Romani people face discrimination or outright segregation in just about every area of life. No administration has ever genuinely addressed this problem.  

Antigypsyism is such a mainstream, majority, "normal" opinion here that most people are incapable of recognizing or even seeing it in their own behavior and mindset or that of others. The Czech Republic has actually been criticized for years, over and over, for this sad state of affairs in reports by various European and international insitutions and has been called upon to correct the situation, but no steps to remedy it are being taken - on the contrary, the stituation continues to deteriorate, the exclusion and poverty of Romani communities is intensifying.

I will not reanalyze here how scandalous it is that the Czech Police and politicians have publicly stated that everything about the police intervention against Stanislav Tomáš was just fine, that the officers proceeded absolutely correctly, that basically nothing wrong happened - and that they are making these claims before the investigation is even finished. Some made those claims before it had even begun. 

The fact that the Prime Minister and others are saying on television that they already know how an ongoing investigation will turn out, that they are thanking police for undertaking an intervention during which somebody died, naturally undermines the faith of Romani men and women (and probably not just them) in the rule of law here. As a citizen and as a voter, it angers me that we have not found a single politician, neither female nor male, who would visit the bereaved, bring them flowers, express sincere condolences, and offer aid and support. 

What the family of Mr Tomáš is going through right now is something I wouldn't wish on anybody. Be that as it may, we have been informed that next week several European politicians will come to do what the Czech politicians are failing to do, given that the elections are coming up and that they fear the antigypsyist majority voters won't cast their ballots for them if they do the right thing.  

That visit is still a week away, though. I really hope this does not end up with the biggest possible embarrassment, that Russian President Putin sends flowers and makes humane gestures of condolence toward the bereaved family through the Russian Ambassador.  

I also believe this media statement by Russia was not made for the Czech public, because it is just angering Czechs and their fans, but it has been made for international public opinion and the international Romani community. The Czech media is not reporting on it much, but the scandal of Mr Tomáš has resonated abroad to a great extent, and rather big demonstrations have been held in front of Czech consulates and embassies across Europe almost every day since the news of the circumstances of his death broke. 

The author is with the Konexe organization.

Miroslav Brož, translated by Gwendolyn Albert”

 

 

Online response to Stanislav Tomáš's death includes hoaxes shared in the Czech Romani community

 

On 3rd July Romea.cz/en reported that a photograph that purported to show an expression of condolences to Stanislav Tomáš, who died after police intervened against him on 19 June, had been shared more than a thousand times among Romani users of Facebook. It was noted that the accompanying text falsely alleged the photograph is from England and that it shows the beginning of a sports match where an enormous Romani flag is being held by players on the field. 

It was said that the image was a fake, or more precisely, it was a photograph that had been altered using an application that allows users to insert any photograph in place of the flag. "England expresses condolences to the young Romani gentleman murdered by the Police of the Czech Republic, stop racism!" one Facebook user was reported as writing on Facebook in association with the image. 

 

 

Czech tornado has left many homeless, including Romani widow with six children

On 4th July, Romea.cz/en reported that the previous week a destructive tornado had swept through the South Moravian village of Hrušky, Czech Republic. It was also reported that local residents there were coming to terms with the horrible havoc that had been wreaked and with their own feelings of powerlessness.

It was noted that building inspectors had been scheduling the now unsafe homes for demolitions that had been gradually underway. One such case was that of Jarmila Poláková, a 38-year-old Romani woman who had lost the roof over her head and that of her six children in an instant.

 

European Roma Rights Centre: It may take years to legally resolve the death of Stanislav Tomáš, information cannot be released during an ongoing investigation

On 5th July Romea.cz/en reported that Jonathan Lee of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) had released a video statement explaining that the legal proceedings in the case of the death of Stanislav Tomáš after police intervened against him on 19 June in Teplice, Czech Republic, could be expected to take years. It was also noted that Lee had also reported on news related to the case in his statement.  

It was noted that the ERRC was calling on "interested parties"  to "refrain from requesting confidential information which cannot be shared publicly with representatives of the press or civil society" before the investigation of the case has been fully completed. It was also noted that along with nonprofit organizations in the Czech Republic the ERRC had arranged for a lawyer to represent the family of Mr Tomáš, who is currently legally addressing the case. 

TRANSCRIPT OF THE FULL ERRC STATEMENT

Hello, 

This is a legal update from the European Roma Rights Centre on the death of the Romani man, Stanislav Tomas, on the 19th June in Teplice, Czech Republic.

The ERRC have contracted a local lawyer in the Czech Republic who will represent the interests of Mr. Tomas’ surviving family going forward. This lawyer has travelled to Teplice earlier this week and signed a power of attorney agreement with a family member of Mr. Tomas. We have now also submitted a criminal complaint concerning his death which occurred while in police custody.
 
From this point onwards the timeline for the case will be dictated by the Czech judicial system. We cannot give a useful estimate as to how long this will take – but I can tell you that it is likely to take a number of years from this point based on other similar cases which we have taken in the past.

The ERRC and our local partners in the Czech Republic are committed to exploring all legal options available, both domestically and at a European level, to ensure that the family of the victim receives justice.

While the complaint is pending and legal action is ongoing, the legal counsel and members of the family request that interested parties refrain from requesting confidential information which cannot be shared publicly with representatives of the press or civil society.

What stands out about this incident is that it was caught on camera. Most of the many cases of police brutality or killings which the ERRC litigates are not filmed, and therefore do not receive this level of attention or public support. Just under 50% of all of our legal cases concern police misconduct against Romani people. It is without a doubt the most visible and one of the most common human rights abuses that Romani people face in Europe. We will continue to use all of our expertise, resources, and experience in challenging police misconduct. And we will continue to call out institutionally racist police forces, governments, and their apologists as we have done for the last 25 years.

Thank you very much for the messages of support we have received. We will of course keep you updated via our usual channels of any updates relating to the current case in the Czech Republic.

ken, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

 

Czech Helsinki Committee opens bank account to aid the family of Stanislav Tomáš, who died after intervention by police in Teplice

 

On 5th July, it wa sreported by Romea.cz/en that the Czech Helsinki Committee, a nonprofit organization with a more than 30 year tradition, had established a bank account for donations in support of the family of Stanislav Tomáš, who had died after an intervention by police on 19 June in Teplice. "In recent weeks, Stanislav Tomáš's loved ones have had to address many complicated situations and have had to make decisions about the unclear circumstances of his death while facing interest and pressure from the media, the police, and members of the broader public, who are justifiably interested in his sudden death and are calling for a thorough, impartial investigation of the entire case,"director Lucie Rybová was reported as saying, and it was also reported that she had announced that she had donated CZK 15 000 [EUR 600] to the family.

 

Chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee: Czech society is racist towards Romani people

 

ON 7th July, Romea.cz/en reported that this speech below by the chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Václav Vlk, had been read aloud on Saturday 26 June 2021 during the commemorative assembly for Stanislav Tomáš by Mikuláš Vymětal of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, who is their clergyman serving minority groups. News server Romea.cz published the speech in translation as follows:  

Dear bereaved survivors, dear family members, dear fellow mourners,

You have assembled here for a commemorative gathering in memory of Stanislav Tomáš, a human being who lived life just like all of us, with the evil that accompanies us. He died under circumstances that many of us perceive as tragic, during a clash with law enforcement, and his death has become an object of public communication that is evoking all kinds of passions. These passions are based on the fact that he was a Romani man and that he lost his life in Czech Police custody. I would like to emphasize that Stanislav Tomáš was a human being, a flawed human being, as we all are. His death can still bring about an impulse for change, both to Czech society as a whole and to the Romani community.  

It is necessary to say here, at this place, that Czech society is racist towards Romani people. It is necessry to say here, at this place, that the general approach taken by the Czech Police toward this case is not a good one and that their expression of regret for the loss of life came too late.

It is necessary to say that a violent death at the hands of police is not customary in the Czech lands and that this is an isolated incident.

It is necessary to publicly say that there are ghettos where Romani people live.

It is necessary to publicly say that the lives Romani people live here that are a thousand times more difficult than the lives of the average citizen, irrespective of what it is they are trying to accomplish, and that they are striving for dignity and inclusion into regular society. 

It is necessary to publicly say that this is the responsiblity of each of us.

Each of us is able to contribute to changing this.

I support the efforts of all representatives of the Roma to be broadly included into society, Romani people are citizens just like anybody else and they must be equal both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.

This death and the circumstances around it can become a touchstone and a launchpad for progress. If the death of Stanislav Tomáš has been for a reason, then it is because a higher power wanted it that way and it is a sign of fate. 

May Stanislav Tomáš rest in peace, may his family and loved ones find strength, and may all involved fulfill the vision of a society free of anti-Romani prejudice.

JUDr. Václav Vlk
Chair
Czech Helsinki Committee

ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

 

Kosovo: Demonstrators call for investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, who died in police custody in Teplice

On 8th July Romea.cz/en reported that news serve Balkan Insight was reporting that activists and members of the Romani community in Kosovo had held a protest march to the Czech Embassy in Prishtina on Sunday calling for an investigation into the recent death of Romani community member Stanislav Tomáš after an intervention against him by police in Teplice, Czech Republic last month. "We are expressing our concern over [Czech] police brutality and calling for an investigation of this case because Romani people deserve respect in Europe," a representative of a local NGO, Roma Versitas Kosovo, was reported as telling the news server. 

"Romani people continue to be considered outlaws. Not only is the violence against them never punished, it is even praised," another Roma Versitas Kosovo representative  was reported as telling the crowd of protesters. 

It was noted that the demonstrators had arrived at the Czech Embassy carrying signs reading "We are Tomáš" and "How many were never filmed?". It was said that bystander video of his arrest had been posted to social media, republished by news server Romea.cz, and broadly criticized by both Czech and international activists and organizations, prompting protests all over Europe

It was reported that the video shows a police officer kneeling on Mr Tomáš's neck area in a way reminiscent of the arrest during which the African-American community member George Floyd was killed in May 2020. It was also reported that Czech security forces had repeatedly rejected the idea that they could have contributed in any way to Mr Tomáš's death, stating that he had been aggressive toward the intervening officers, assaulted them, and that the use of force was necessary.  

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

 

 

Romani Rose, chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, returns Hungarian honors to protest anti-LGBT law

On 8th July, Romea.cz/en reported that the chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, had returned his prestigious Hungarian state honors to protest a controversial amendment banning education about sexual minorities in Hungarian schools, among other matters. It was noted that during their June summit, the leaders of other European Union countries had objected to the amendment, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán rejects all criticism of it. 

"The adoption of the Hungarian law on information restrictions about homosexuality and transsexuality is the crossing of a red line for me. I feel bound by my conscience to respond and, as a sign of my disagreement, I am returning the commendations previously awarded to me," Rose was reported as saying.  

It was also noted in his statement, Rose had also called on others to defend democratic values in the EU. It was also noted that he was personally awarded the Hungarian Order of Merit by Orbán in 2012.   

 

VIDEO: "Kneeling on the neck means death" - debut from Romani rapper Filip Šenki in the Czech Republic

On 8th July Romea.cz/en reported that the scandal of the death of Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice, Czech Republic was already resonating in cultural output. It was reported that young rapper Filip Šenki (15), the son of Milan Šenki, a famous activist, actor and musician (who plays with the band of David Kraus and performed in the films "Bony a klid" and "Roming") had produed a video called "Kneeling on the neck means death" (To kleknutí na krk znamená smrt), which had premiered on social media the previous day and had gone viral on the Czech internet with English subtitles.

Romani community members rescue children from apartment fire on Czech housing estate

On 9th July, Romea.cz/en reported that on Saturday, 3 July at 13:00 a fire had broken out on the Janov housing estate on Luční Street in Litvínov, Czech Republic and that Milan Hanko, who had brought his family to visit relatives there, had noticed the smoke pouring out of the balcony of one of the units.

It was noted that Hanko had not hesitated to help the family in that unit. "As I was parking my car on the housing estate I saw smoke pouring out of one of the apartments. An older woman with a child in her arms shouted to me that it was on fire. I ran over to help them right away," the 24-year-old was reported as describing his spontaneous decision, which resulted in the rescue of a four-year-old boy from the burning unit. 

It was said that Hanko had told the terrified lady to let her child drop from the balcony so he could catch him and that was exactly what had happened.

It was noted that the little boy had been rescued from the hellish fire and together with other Romani community members on the scene a 15-year-old girl had been rescued next who had jumped from the first floor just a moment after the other child had been dropped.

 

Czech local archive publishes digitalized records online of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety

On 10th July, Romea.cz/en reporetd that news server Denik.cz was reporting that the State Regional Archive (SOA) in Třeboň, Czech Republic had released on its website its archival collection of digitalized documents about the WWII-era concentration camp called the Zigeunerlager (in Czech, Cikánský tábor) at Lety; the digital collection had been created in collaboration with the Institute of the Terezín Initiative in Prague as part of a project called the "Database of victims of the national socialist persecution of 'gypsies‘". "Several years ago we agreed with the Institute of the Terezín Initiative in Prague that we would like to make this collection publicly accessible as part of a project called the "Database of victims of the national socialist persecution of 'gypsies‘" supported by Bader Philanthropies," the director of SOA Třeboň, Václav Rameš, was reported as telling Denik.cz.     

"The Institute digitalized this collection and experts from our archive then adapted it for our conditions," the director was noted as saying, adding that the archival documents provided basic information about the creation and existence of all of the camps serving different purposes and of different levels of significance that appeared on the territory of Lety municipality, especially between 1940 and 1943, as well as up until 1945, when the Second World War had ended. "There are, for example, lists of the gendarmes ordered to serve at the camp and above all there is documentation about those imprisoned there," the director was reported as saying.

 

Terezín Initiative in the Czech Republic dismisses director of its Institute, she considers her dismissal incorrect, invalid and unfair

On 10th July, Romea.cz/en reported that on 30 June 2021 the administrative board of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) had dismissed the director of the Institute, Tereza Štěpková and that the ITI would now be led by the lawyer Martin Thiel, who has past experience with the compensation of victims of the Second World War.   

It was also noted that the Czech News Agency (ČTK) had been informed of the ITI's new management by the ITI's press service and that Štěpková had informed news server Romea.cz that she considered her dismissal to be incorrect, invalid and unfair.  

It was noted that what had led to her removal was a conflict that arose after the administrative board decided that the names of the Romani victims of racial persecution during the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia would no longer be read during the commemorative readings of the names of Holocaust victims on the occasion of Yom HaShoah, an Israeli state holiday that the ITI has been commemorating in the Czech Republic. It was reported that Štěpková had disagreed with the board's decision and continued to include the names of Holocaust victims of Romani origin during this year's event, which happened to fall on 8 April, International Romani Day (the date of Yom HaShoah changes annually). 

"I consider my dismissal to be quite unfair, incorrect and invalid, the way the administrative board has behaved toward me is undignified," Štěpková was reported as telling news server Romea.cz. It was stated that according to the ITI press service, the former director was deserving of the organization's gratitude for ensuring the administrative and economic standards of the organization during her time in office.

 

Staffers of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative in the Czech Republic are outraged by the board's dismissal of director, fear Holocaust victims' database could be endangered

On 10th July, Romea.cz/en reported that staffers at the Institute of the Terezín Initiative in the Czech Republic disagreed with the recent dismissal of Tereza Štěpková as director and considered the decision to have been manipulated and tendentious, saying so in a collective statement on the issue that had been sent to news server Romea.cz. "The nonprofit organization of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative (the ITI) has spent the last 20 years creating its unique database about 175 000 Holocaust victims who came from all over the former Czechoslovakia," the staffers were reported as saying in their statement.

"In addition, the ITI organizes a nationwide event, the Public Reading of Holocaust Victims' Names on Yom HaShoah. That event has now apparently become the reason for the dismissal of director Tereza Štěpková," the staffers were alsao reported as saying in their statement, adding that the board had dismissed the director from one day to the next without giving her or them any reason for doing so.  

 

Assembly against discrimination and racism in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic attended mostly by Romani people

On 10th July, Romea.cz/en reported that in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic that day about 150 people, most of them Romani, had assembled at a gathering against discrimination and racism organized by those attempting to register a new political party, Roma Luma. News server ROMEA TV noted that it had broadcast the assembly live.

It was reported that at the opening of the assembly the Romani anthem had been sung by the musician and singer Bertík Girga and that the opening speeches had then focused above all on information about the new party so representatives could collect the signatures necessary to establishing it. 

It was the reported that Jan Červeňák had then read a list of the names of the victims of racially motivated attacks in the Czech Republic since the year 1990, while other speeches had discussed the recent death of Stanislav Tomáš in police custody.

The sister of the late Mr Tomáš, Simona, accompanied by David Mezei, was reported as taking the stage and had thanked everybody for their support. Ahead of the assembly a representative of Roma Luma, Marco Cavali, was reported as saying that the point of the gathering had been to raise the issue of human rights abuses in the Czech Republic. 

It was noted that the organizers had also wanted to introduce their programme and the statutes for the new party and that Cavali had previously announced that purpose in an interview for ROMEA TV.

 

Czech MP alleges during parliamentary debate on welfare bill that incest is part of Romani culture, open racism on the floor of the lower house

On 11th July, Romea.cz/en reported that the Czech Chamber of Deputies had passed a bill that would apparently make it possible for impoverished people drawing welfare to lose part of their housing benefit and subsistence contribution if they repeatedly failed to pay fines for selected misdemeanors of a serious nature. It was noted that the authorities would automatically deduct the unpaid fines from their benefits. 

The bill, submitted by the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), was said to have been approved after several hours of discussion that had turned anti-Romani and racist at several junctures.

MP Lubomír Volný was reported as giving a racist speech full of insults toward Romani men and women during the debate on the bill and that not only had he insulted Romani people, but also other minorities, attacking the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, for example. 

Together with his party colleague Marián Bojko, Volný was also said toi have attacked the ROMEA non-governmental organization with various untruths. "Romani parents systematically, intentionally steal from their own children and exploit them as an income source," he was reported as having alleged on the floor of the lower house.  

"Incest is an integral part of Romani culture," was yet another racist remark reported to have been made by Volný from the podium in the Chamber of Deputies, while in another part of his speech he was reported as having called for the building of new concentration camps for Romani people.  

 

Dozens of Roma protest in front of restaurant in Czech town after food server allegedly assaults a Romani woman, police are investigating

On 12th July, Romea.cz/en reported that several dozen Romani people had assembled the previous afternoon in front of the Spanish restaurant in Hrnčířská Street, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic in order to protest an incident that had allegedly taken place on the evening of 10 July, when some Romani people who had gathered for a demonstration on Mírové náměstí in that same town had then visited the restaurant and a food server on duty was alleged to have assaulted one of the Romani women in the group. Other customers of the Spanish restaurant, along with the waiter, were also said to have allegedly attacked the Romani woman's boyfriend when he had come to her defense. 

Police were said to have begun investigating the entire incident and video footage of the street fighting part of what happened had been posted to social media, along with the accusation that a food server assaulted one of the Romani women in the group.

 

Czech social media response to tornado includes antigypsyist rushes to judgment about Romani workers

On 13th July Romea.cz/en reported that Czech-language users of the Facebook social network had begun sharing a photograph from the Moravian municipality of Pánov that claimed to identify Romani community members who had allegedly cheated an older couple who had been afflicted by the recent destructive tornado in the region. The post was also said to allege that the Romani community members then robbed a residential hotel in the area.

It was said that none of those allegations were true and the person who had uploaded the photograph to the Internet along with the untrue description of its content hasdapologized for publishing it. "Good evening, I would like to officially apologize to the Holub stav firm for the post I made here about their taking a deposit from people in Pánov and leaving without doing any work. Today I've learned that the firm was pre-ordered, as was the deposit, but that the owners of the property themselves sent the workers away without allowing them to finish the work. It seems the information I received was quite distorted. They also never robbed a residential hotel. Once again, I deeply apologize," the Facebook user who started the rumour posted on 7 July was reported as saying.

 

Czech attorney for the family of Stanislav Tomáš has requested a second autopsy - Romea.cz refutes disinformation being spread by Facebook LIVE broadcasters

On 13th July, Romea.cz/en reporetd that a great deal of disinformation about the case of the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, had been circulating on the Internet and was being spread with the help of different people who were broadcasting live to their followers through Facebook. It was noted that as a result, some Romani people may now be under the false impression that not enough attention is being paid to the case and that the family of the late Mr Tomáš is not receiving appropriate assistance.

The article also stated that this case had shocked the entire Romani community, and it was not surprising, therefore, that it had become a subject for the Facebook LIVE broadcasters from that community. It was then argued that if these commentators had just stuck to broadcasting their opinions, there would have been no need to write this article, but some of them had attempted to contact Ms Tomášová, had offered themselves to her as assistants despite being total amateurs, had given her all kinds of absurd advice, and had also began broadcasting disinformation about the situation.

 

Some volunteer civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council protest new law on subjecting welfare benefits to collections

On 14th July Romea.cz/en reported that some of the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs disagreed with the recent bill proposed by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) making it possible to subject welfare benefits designed for the poorest of the poor, specifically the housing benefit and subsistence contribution, to collections proceedings in order to cover certain kinds of debts owed by such welfare recipients to local authorities. "Reducing or withholding these benefits will deprive many families of their housing and their basic cost of living will not be covered if those living in material distress see their already low incomes further reduced," the members were reported as saying in a statement sent to news server Romea.cz which was published in full translation as follows:

Civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs on the amendment to aid in material distress

Civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs fundamentally disagree with the bill submitted by Czech MPs Jan Bauer, Petr Fiala, Zbyněk Stanjura, Jana Černochová and other MPs through which welfare recipients' housing benefits and subsistence contributions will be reduced until all of the fines levied against them for a selected list of misdemeanors defined in the amendment to the law on welfare have been paid. 

By expressing our disagreement we do not intend to downplay the importance of the preventive or repressive function of such sanctions for such offenses. However, in this current state of affairs, when those who are most impoverished have not had their situations adequately or sufficiently addressed, this chosen solution for collecting debt will absolutely destroy many of these welfare recipients, above all when the Labor Offices are being encouraged to withdraw housing benefits from such people.     

Reducing or withholding these benefits will deprive many families of their housing, and if those living in material distress see their already low incomes further reduced, their basic costs of living will not be covered.

The civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs are aware that as a result of rhetorical attacks on welfare recipients, there has been a shift in the public perception of the aims and importance of welfare, a transformation that is underway right now. Of course, under the rule of law, legislation cannot be comprehended just as way to convey the broadest possible range of changes in opinion, which has now slid down the slippery slope to a level that gives the impression of legitimacy to tougher practices against those receiving social benefits.

In association with these intentional, tendentious attempts by some MPs it is necessary to recall that this bill will essentially make it more difficult, for example, for such people to have a chance of staying in their rental housing - which is possible what some of those proposing this amendment are after, as some of them also contributed to the existing state of affairs by previously adopting an amendment to the law that made it possible to establish so-called "housing benefit-free zones" on municipal territory.  

Abusing the law on aid to those in material distress in order to achieve a superficial kind of "justice" cannot become a justification for politicians to shore up their own positions by making decisions that interfere with the most impoverished and most vulnerable groups in the population in such a basic, destructive way.

For that reason, we are proposing legislators undertake the effective, systemic solutions that are included in the Czech Government Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participatoin of Romani people for 2021-2027, which was adopted by the Czech Government, led by the Czech Prime Minister, at its session on 10 May 2021, solutions that will lead to the actual improvement of welfare policy in this state so the degree of poverty will not keep escalating; the amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress does not fulfill this criterion. “

Jan Husák
Alena Drbohlavová Gronzíková
Iveta Thesauerová
Tomáš Ščuka
Alica Sigmund Heráková
Zdeněk Guži
Josef Stojka
Čeněk Růžička (past member)
Gwendolyn Albert

 

 Traditional commemorative ceremony dedicated to the Romani victims of Nazism will be held on Sunday, 1 August at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic

Romea.cz/en reported that on Sunday, 1 August, the traditional commemorative ceremony honoring the Romani victims of Nazism would be held at the site of the unmarked burial ground for the victims of the WWII-era concentration camp at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic. "Esteemed friends, the members of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust would like to invite you to our traditional commemorative ceremony dedicated to the Romani victims of Nazism. For a second year, thanks to the former administration of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, we are able to organize this ceremony, with the support of the Czech Ministry of Culture, in a more dignified setting at the burial site for the members of our families who were prisoners of the concentration camp near near the village of Lety u Písku," the invitation that had been sent to news server Romea.cz by the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, Čeněk Růžička was reported as saying.

 

Czech Police reject request for a second autopsy of the late Stanislav Tomáš, whose funeral will take place on Saturday, 24 July

Romea.cz/en reported that the Czech Police had rejected a third request for a new autopsy filed by the attorney for Simona Tomášová, the sister of the late Stanislav Tomáš. The Romani community member was said to have died after an intervention against him by police on 19 June 2021 in Teplice, Czech Republic.  

It was noted that the first two requests had been sent by the attorney for the bereaved family to the General Inspection of the Security Forces (GIBS) and the third had been sent to the Czech Police. It was noted that in a common statement made as a press release by the Konexe association and Simona Tomášová, they have reported that "The rejection of a new autopsy means that the taking of any additional evidence that such a new autopsy might have discovered has been rejected. This has been rejected both by GIBS and the Police. The rejection of a new autopsy may undermine the effectiveness of the investigation into the intervention by the police officers against Stanislav Tomáš. That lack of effectiveness will be raised in another proceeding. Currently the family is waiting for GIBS to express its view of the crime report filed against the Police in this matter. If GIBS does not begin a criminal investigation of the disproportionate intervention by the officers, a complaint will be filed against GIBS by the family."   

 

Czech Senate committee recommends compensation for the illegally sterilized, final word will rest with the Senate as a whole

On 16th July, Romea.cz/en reported that people who had been illegally sterilized in the Czech Republic were one step closer to becoming entitled to compensation of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 725] in the near future now that the Committee on Social Policy in the Czech Senate had recommended the upper chamber approve a bill to legislate such compensation. It was added that the Senate as a whole would decide on the bill next week.

It was noted that the opportunity to apply for compensation would apply to people sterilized without their informed consent between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012, i.e., the time during which public health legislation did not include sufficient safeguards against such procedures being performed unlawfully. It was was noted that according to the justification for the bill, many women had not chosen to be sterilized of their own free will but had only acquiesced to the procedure after being persuaded to do so by third parties, including under the threat of their existing children being taken into state care or their welfare benefits being stopped. 

It was said that if the bill becomes law, those interested in applying would have three years in which to do so and the applications for compensation would be assessed by the Czech Health Ministry.

 

Czech Institute for Social Inclusion: If local authorities must seize benefits from the most impoverished to cover debts, poverty will intensify

On 16th July, Romea.cz/en reported that on Friday, 9 July, the Czech Chamber of Deputies had adopted a bill proposed by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) that would make it possible for local authorities to seize benefits from the poorest of the poor to cover certain debts owed by such people to the local authority. It was argied that, “apparently when lawmakers do not know how to address the complex problem of poverty and social exclusion, then they are prepared to say that not only do they not intend to solve it, but also that they want to perform some experiments on people, at least, if any of the other long-rejected paths to a solution don't work out. ODS is already an authentic and traditional pioneer at building these dead-end streets into Czech social policy. “

It was further argued that, “we all know you cannot make gold by releasing tobacco smoke into water, but the ODS is intending, with the aid of the power-hungry ANO movement, the obscure "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, various unaffiliated apostates in the lower house and the intolerant Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) to demonstrate to us all once again that weaning poor people off of the housing benefit leads to hunger, because the poor then have to use their food benefits to pay for their housing - which we are seeing thanks to the Constitutional Court having gone limp for a fourth year in a row on the issue of "housing benefit-free zones" - not to mention their demonstrating the "surprising" finding that cutting both of these benefits will create the dilemma for a family of whether to live in a garage somewhere or whether to commit crimes so they can afford to live in real housing. Because both Christian parties fear not being re-elected to the Chamber of Deputies this fall, both of the Christian parties (with the exception of Czech MP Jan Čižinský, who is no longer really a Christian Democrat) have befriended ODS and combined their forces in the movement called SPOLU (TOGETHER).”

"It is difficult to say why the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and TOP 09, for example, have voted for this anti-social law that will push thousands of the most impoverished households, including families with children, into absolute poverty," Institute for Social Inclusion (IPSI) director Martin Šimáček was reported as commenting.

 

 

Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry reports that 53 % of under-threes in infant facilities are Romani

On 17th July, Ronmea.cz/en reported thst at the beginning of the year the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry (MPSV) had performed an investigation into the current number of children growing up in infant facilities for children up to the age of three, basing their current data on a previous investigation performed by the Lumos organization. It was noted that according to the report, the overall number of children growing up in infant facilities for children up to the age of three continues to decline. 

It was also noted that the ethnicity of such children had also been investigated and 53 % of the children in such facilities were said to be of Romani ethnicity, to different extents. "In response to the decision by the European Committee for Social Rights, the children's ethnicity was also investigated," the Lumos/MPSV report was said to state. 

 

 

70+ Romani students attending Czech colleges applied to the ROMEA organization's scholarship program this year

On 18th July Romea.cz/en reported thst this year more than 70 Romani college students had applied to the ROMEA organization's scholarship programme, 20 more than did so last year, and along with the applications from high school and higher technical school students to the programme, the total number of applicants has exceeded 180. ROMEA can provide scholarships to just 50 high school students, 10 higher technical school students and 30 college or university students. 

It was noted that others who have applied would still also be able to take advantage of other support offered by the programme, such as mentoring or tutoring, and during the course of the year they would also be able to meet with other Romani students from all over the Czech Republic. "Because of the problems caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, we never anticipated so many applications and we are quite glad that more than 70 Romani college students applied," Štefan Balog, manager of the ROMEA organization's scholarship programme wsas reported as saying. 

 

Romani residents of infamous Czech housing estate are repairing dilapidated buildings themselves with the help of the town hall

On 19th July Romea.cz/en reported thsat more than a month ago the town hall of Most, Czech Republic had cancelled its tender to build modular or "container" housing on the Chanov housing estate. The reason had been the cost of the commission, for which the lowest bid came in at CZK 35.5 million [EUR 1.4 million] before VAT. 

It was noted thsat the complete reconstruction of the existing housing blocks had seemed too costly to the town and that Chanov's residents had therefore begun to address the situation by revitalizing apartment units through their own labor. 

It was said that the town hall of Most was also aiding them in part by financing the construction materials and larger items necessary. "All of the labor on the housing estate is being done by the tenants on their own and they are sourcing some materials by fundraising among themselves. Windows, door frames and other items are being provided by the Most town hall, with whom we managed to reach a very good agreement, and they are actively supporting us. The entire initiative came directly from the residents of these apartment units, which is why we are all quite glad to have these indications that better times are on the horizon and we have decided, on behalf of our association, to support their work, at least in part," František Nistor of the Averroma association, which offers construction work services, was reported as telling the local news server mostecka-vlastovka.cz

 

Romani women and children in Slovakia assaulted physically and verbally by stranger at a lake

On 20th July, Romea.cz/en reported that the JOJ television channel in Slovakia had reported that an unidentified man was said to have assaulted a group of Romani women and their children both physically and verbally in the eastern village of Kalinov; the youngest child in the group is just four years old and has congenital cerebral palsy. It was noted that the four women and their 10 children had wanted to spend a pleasant afternoon by the lakeside but had been attacked out of the blue by a young man whom they had not known, first verbally and then physically. 

According to the report, the man was said to have been angered by litter on the lakeshore that had had nothing to do with the group. "Somebody had been barbecuing there the day before and there were broken alcohol bottles and cans left behind," one of the women was said to have described the incident to the TV channel. 

"He came up to us demanding that we clean it up. He shouted horrible vulgarities," the woman reportedly told a reporter for JOJ. 

"'G*psy filth'" was one of the insults, she had said. The women were said to have politely told the man the trash was not theirs. 

The man then physically attacked the entire group. "I don't know what kind of person he was," one of the women was reported as telling the JOJ reporter. 

"First he assaulted my sister, then my daughter, then the rest of us and our children," she described, saying the man used some kind of big stick. "He shoved me twice, and my daughter and I ended up in the fire pit."

"I was in a horrible state of shock. I didn't know what to do, I was shouting," the woman was reported as telling the reporter.

 

In the Czech Republic, mobile teams have begun vaccinating people against COVID-19 in socially excluded localities

On 20th July Romea.cz/en reporetd that the previous week Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (ANO) had announced that the vaccination of people living in excluded localities of the Moravian-Silesian Region and Ústecký Region would be aided by mobile teams. It was further reported that at the close of the week, the first such teams had traveled to the locality of Mojžíř in the Ústecký Region. 

It was noted that when the Czech News Agency had asked the minister how homeless people or the socially excluded had been provided with vaccination, he had said mobile teams arranged by the regional authorities would be offering vaccination to people in such situations. The minister was also reported as saying that he assumed people living in excluded localities would not be visiting the existing centers for vaccination on their own. 

"The immunization team should go to them and vaccinate them in the places they frequent," the minister was reported as saying. As of 20 July, health care workers were said to have delivered more than 9.6 million doses of vaccine against the novel coronavirus throughout the Czech Republic. 

 

Czech Republic finally sees opening of permanent exhibition at the Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Moravia

On 21st July, Romea.cz/en reported that documentation, period photography and the recollections of eyewitnesses about a WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people were presented in the exhibition at the Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Hodonín u Kunštátu in the Blansko district, which opened to the public on 15 July; Bohdana Kuzmová of the Museum of Romani Culture, which is in charge of the memorial, were said to have announced the opening through a press release. At that location, during the war, what was called a Zigeunerlager was in operation there. 

It was noted that in 1943, hundreds of Romani prisoners had been transported from Hodonín u Kunštátu to Auschwitz, the extermination camp run by the Nazis. The exhibition, entitled “Hodonín u Kunštátu Camp. Intersection of Tragedies 1940-1950. Central Europe” is installed in the memorial's two main spaces and was said to recall the history of the location and the stories of the people involved. 

It was further reported that the larger part of the exhibition was installed in the information centre at the memorial, which is a new building. That part of the exhibition was said to cover the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918, including the position of Romani and Sinti people in that state, as well as the measures targeting Romani people in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-1945). 

It was argued that the crucial part of the exhibition focuses on the Zigeunerlager (1942-1943) at Hodonín u Kunštátu which, according to Kuzmová, was a place of suffering and death from which hundreds of Romani children, men and women were then transported to Auschwitz, as also happened around the parallel Zigeunerlager at Lety u Písku in Bohemia. The exhibition was also said to include a room with audiovisual recordings of selected eyewitnesses recounting their memories of the camp that also provides information about the prisoners' transport to Auschwitz and their fate in that concentration camp.

 

Commentary: Bias-motivated violence targets identity and includes the bullying or distrust many in the Czech Republic consider normal

Commentary in Romea.cz/en on 21st July by Luboš Pavlovič, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

I have been working in the media and with the media since 1995. During the 1990s I co-founded the alternative magazine Živel (Element), which I led for six years as the editor-in-chief. 

I have also directed and written screenplays for cultural programs on public broadcaster Czech Television and I have written for magazines ranging from Reflex to RESPEKT. Three years ago I decided to try to use my media experience to help some of the NGOs here, because the subjects they were involved with seemed more and more urgent to me - and less and less represented in the mass media, which is becoming more and more like the tabloids.

I took up a position as the media coordinator at Greenpeace, on a two-year grant, where I worked on a successful campaign resulting in the Czech Government suing Poland at the EU Court of Justice over its expansion of the mine in Turów, which is stealing water in the Czech border area and complicating the lives of thousands of people. When the grant ended I decided to try publicizing subjects other than environmental ones, and I was attracted to an offer from the In IUSTITIA organization, which aids the victims of bias-motivated violence.  

I recalled how during the 1990s in Brno we at the Mersey music club had provided the Romani band Synergy (which later became Gulo Čar) with a rehearsal room. We perceived the guys and girls in that band to be brilliant musicians and super people - we looked forward to their concerts and did our best to get them as much media coverage as possible so we could show that we know how to do "Black pop music" in Bohemia and Moravia just as well as they do it in America or elsewhere in Europe. 

To this day I recall how we used to hear "unbelievable" stories from those band members about what they and their friends were experiencing on the streets, where they were assaulted, both physically and verbally, out of the clear blue sky, as well as what they were experiencing at bureaucracies, where they were being treated on the basis of biases about their ethnicity. I consider bias-motivated violence to be the most disgusting thing in the world, and let's admit it, many such biases are held by members of the majority society here.

Bias-motivated violence in the 21st century is committed in the Czech Republic (and not only here) on the basis of disability, ethnicity, gender identity, health status, homelessness, nationality, political opinions, religion or lack thereof, sexual orientation, skin color and subculture. Its odiousness consists of the fact that it targets the identity of the victim.    

Naturally, in and of itself this violates the basic principles of a democratic society and calls into question whether those being attacked are actually equal and free. Victims of physical or verbal bias-motivated violence are mostly at a disadvantage vis-a-vis those who assault them. 

The victims might have less money, they might have received a worse education, or they might simply have worse access to information. They do not know how to use the legal system, or the public administration system, and sometimes they don't even have identification, or they prefer to conceal their ethnicity, their gender identity, or other aspects of their personality that could cast them in a minority position. 

This disadvantage is why these victims are less able to defend themselves from attack - and that violence does not just impact them negatively as individuals, but also impacts the entire group they are seen to represent. Society has experience with this kind of violence being conceived of as "hate crime", but the concept of "bias-motivated violence", which In IUSTITIA uses, seems much more precise to me. 

This is not just about the most brutal cases of such violence that eventually are covered by the mass media, but also about the abuse, the bullying, the distrust and the petty squabbles that some majority society members consider "normal" and something that minorities just have to cope with. I admit that as a heterosexual man who is white, I am unable to really imagine what it is like to be in the role of a bias-motivated violence victim, as I have never encountered such treatment myself. 

This does not mean, though, that I am unable to see the monstrosity of this behavior. I do not perceive bias-motivated violence to be an affair of the minorities, but as a disease among those of us in the majority in particular, one that we must treat as soom as possible before it has fatal results for all of society.   

For that reason, I am glad that the next months and years of my professional career will be connected with the In IUSTITIA organization, which is the only one in the Czech Republic to work with bias-motivated violence victims. Even if we are able to help just a few of the actual victims, I believe the outcome will be a better life not just for them, but also for me, for my children, and basically for the entire Czech Republic.

 

Romani-inhabited housing estate Luník IX in Slovakia sees start of local vaccinations against COVID-19

On 21st July Romea.cz/en reported that residents of the Luník IX housing estate in Košice, Slovakia, had been able to get vaccinated locally against the COVID-19 disease at the beginning of this week when the mobile vaccination service of the Košice Regional Authority, which was attempting to support immunity against COVID-19 among marginalized groups, had made the vaccines available directly at the local authority. It was noted thsat vaccinations would be offered on a weekly basis at Luník IX. 

It was noted that the first to get the vaccine at Luník IX was the mayor of the municipal department, Romani community member Marcel Šaň. Who told news server cas.sk, "I wanted to set an example for the others, that's why I was the first to get the vaccine" .

 

Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe calls on the Czech Senate to approve compensation for illegal sterilizations, final vote tomorrow

On 21st July Romea.cz/en reported that the following day, Thursday, 22 July, the final vote would take place in the Czech Senate on the bill to compensate those who had been illegally sterilized, and that the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe had called on the upper house to adopt it. "I call on the members of the Senate to adopt this legislation and to take advantage of the appropriate opportunity it affords for the victims to receive a certain degree of justice and move forward," Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe Dunja Mijatović was reported as saying in a letter sent to the upper house

It was noted that Mijatović had previously contacted the lower house in this same matter in September 2020. "This bill affords the elected representatives of the Czech Republic an important opportunity to resolve an historical injustice committed against these women, especially those of Romani origin, who became the victims of coerced and forced sterilization," her letter to the Chamber of Deputies was said to have stated last year.

 

Justice for Stanislav. Family of the late Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic publishes obituary, funeral will be Saturday

On 22nd July Romea.cz/en reported that the family of Stanislav Tomáš, who had passed away on 19 June for reasons that have yet to be explained after an intervention against him by police officers, had published his obituary the previous day confirming that his funeral would take place on Saturday, 24 July 2021 at 10 AM in the Church of Saint John the Baptist (kostel sv. Jana Křtitele) on Zámecké náměstí in Teplice, Czech Republic. "The funeral is open to the public and will include a Catholic mass. The family invites you to attend and honor the memory of the deceased," his sister Simona Tomášová was reported as saying.

It was npted that the obituary included the following Biblical passage, attributed to Jesus Christ (Matthew 9:9-13): “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.”

It was also noted that the slogan "Justice for Stanislav" was at the bottom of the obituary and that funds for the funeral had been donated in part by individuals who had contributed through the account of the Czech Helsinki Committee; individuals and non-profit organizations abroad had also contributed.

 

Czech Senate approves compensation for the victims of illegal sterilizations

On 22nd July, Romea.cz/en reported that the Czech Senate that day had, by a large majority, approved a bill to compensate all those who have been sterilized unlawfully - of the 68 senators present, 55 voted in favor and none voted against. It was noted that once signed into law, the opportunity to apply for compensation would be open to all who were sterilized without their informed consent between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012, which was when legislation did not feature sufficient safeguards against illegal procedures.

It was further reported that according to the explanatory memorandum, many women had not given their consent to the operation freely, but had been coerced into doing so, including through threats that their other children would be taken into state care or that their welfare benefits would be stopped unless they could prove they would not have any more children. "I would very much like to thank the entire Parliament of the Czech Republic, its female and male members deserve credit for finally today approving compensation for women who have been illegally sterilized," Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková was reported as saying in response to the vote.

 

Slovakia: Drunken, knife-wielding man threatens to kill Romani children for being in a park and is now in custody

On 23rd July, Romea.cz/en reported that a 64-year-old man wielding a knife had threatened a group of juveniles in a park in Senica, Slovakia on Tuesday - according to police who had responded from the regional seat in Trnava, the assailant had been bothered by the youngsters having fun. It was said that the the man had decided to pull a knife on the group and threaten them with death while commenting on their Romani origin.

It was noted that the assailant was currently in custody and faced up to three years in prison if convicted for his actions. It was said that according to the police from Trnava, he was said to have adopted a "fighting stance" and then challenged the oldest member of the small group to a fight.

It was also noted that police had been called to the scene, where they had immediately arrested the man and given him a breath alcohol test that had found his saturation was 1.5 parts per thousand. It was noted that the man had been placed in a holding cell for preliminary detention and then charged.

It was further reported that because the man already had a criminal record of violence, the detective in charge filed a motion for him to be remanded into custody while awaiting trial. It was said that if successfully prosecuted on the current charges, the man faces up to three years in prison for the offense of committing violence against a group of people.

 

 

Union of Vlax Roma in the Czech Republic files crime report in Stanislav Tomáš's death, calls for special commission in the lower house to investigate

On 24th July Romea.cz/en reported that tthe Union of Vlax Roma (Unie olašských Romů) in the Czech Republic had filed a crime report in the matter of the death of Stanislav Tomáš, who died after an intervention against him by police on 19 June 2021, It was said that Union chair Josef Stojka had informed news server Romea.cz and that the family of Mr Tomáš had also previously filed a crime report over the death through their attorney.   

"We have decided to take this step because we believe it should lead to our receiving answers to the question that has arisen as to whether Mr Stanislav Tomáš had to die, or rather, whether the intervention against him by police that preceded his death was disproportionate or even illegal," Stojka was reported as saying. "Our association has had no choice but to file a criminal report with the Regional Prosecutor in Ústí nad Labem and to demand that we be urgently informed about measures and steps taken in this matter, which is absolutely in accordance with the relevant regulations of the Criminal Code," Stojka was reported as saying, who also believed the official reflections on the incident so far have been merely political and tendentious. 

"Many [official] figures and organizations have expressed their views on this matter and it would be difficult to find a reaction among them that could be considered matter-of-fact and sober. On the contrary, it has been possible to follow many statements that have exploited racist, vulgar ideas in an absolutely cheap way, as well as the general repugnance for persons who abuse drugs," Stojka  was noted as saying, adding that the Union fundamentally rejected such an approach. 

 

Stanislav Tomáš, who died in police custody, laid to rest in Teplice, Czech Republic. Civil society and his family call for his death to be properly investigated

On 24th July, Romea.cz/en reported that in Teplice, Czech Republic, in the Church of Saint John the Baptist on Zámecké náměstí, the funeral had been held that morning for Mr Stanislav Tomáš, who had passed away on 19 June 2021 in police custody in Teplice. The funeral was said to be open to the public and included a Catholic service.

About 60 people were r4eported to have attended the ceremony in the church and then accompanied the coffin to its interment and the funeral home also brought many wreaths to the church that had been sent from different groups abroad.

Miroslav Brož of the Konexe association, who was in contact with the surviving family, was reported to have informed the Czech News Agency of the international support and Simona Tomášová, the sister of the deceased, had also attended the funeral.

It was further reported that the coffin had been open for viewing at the beginning of the service. It was noted that Mr Tomáš had died on 19 June after being arrested in Teplice by officers who had used force to handcuff him as he was lying prone on the ground.

 

Out-of-town youth assault Romani child and then other Roma in Sokolov - Czech Police defused the conflict and are investigating, local Roma not happy with their response

On 25th July, Romea.cz/en reported that in Sokolov, Czech Republic, a group of aggressive young out-of-town visitors had assaulted local Romani people on Friday 23 July and that Czech Police had responded immediately.

The aggressors were said not to be local residents, but had travelled from Prague to Sokolov to go boating; they were said to have first attacked a Romani child and then other Romani people. More than one Czech Police unit were reported to have responded to the incident.  

Ot was noted that police had brought dogs with them as part of their response and that the first news of the conflict had appeared on social media in the early evening, when several people had broadcast live from the local sports hall, where police had set up a cordon to separate the two sides. 

It was noted that one Romani man who had said he had been assaulted broadcast live on social media from the hospital that night and had described the assailants as having behaved problematically from the moment they arrived and they were said to have urinated in public and attacked any Romani people the moment they saw them.

It was further reported that in that video, the injured man showed several other people who had been injured or were being treated at the hospital and then described the intervention by police, which many Romani locals believed had not been adequate, alleging that protecting the aggressors was its main purpose. It was said that local Roma alleged the attackers had just been briefly interrogated and then released.

Then it was said that several minutes after their release, the out-of-towners  were said to have beaten up a 14-year-old Romani boy and police said that they had defused the conflict by having so many officers intervene.

 

Czech Police director of the Karlovy Vary Region: Internal Affairs Department investigating video of intervention by police in Sokolov

On 26th July Romea.cz/en reported that police in the Sokolov area were investigating the previous Friday's incident during which an aggressive group of out-of-town youth had clashed with local Romani residents; according to information obtained by news server Romea.cz, there had been football hooligans (for example, extreme followers of Slavia Prague) involved in the assaults on Romani people. It was also noted that in addition to the incident itself, the Internal Affairs Department was also investigating the behavior of officers who are alleged to have behaved inappropriately towards local Roma.

It was reported that eyewitnesses said that one officer had placed the barrel of his service pistol against a Romani woman's head, while other officers were said to have taunted the Romani people by calling them welfare recipients. It wss aid that Karlovy Vary Regional Police Chief Petr Macháček had informed news server Romea.cz of the Internal Affairs Department investigation. 

It was further noted that Macháček had said that if it should be proven that the officers' inappropriate behavior contravened legal norms, they would be punished.

 

Several dozen Romani people protest in Sokolov, Czech Republic over the attack by football hooligans on local Roma

On 26th July Romea.cz/en reported that several dozen Romani people had assembled the previous day in Sokolov, Czech Republic in the location where, the previous Friday, a group of football fans had assaulted several Romani people, including minors. It was noted that the gathering had been convened by Roma Luma, a newly-established political party. 

It was further reported that Romani people had given speeches criticizing racism in the Czech Republic and the previous Friday's intervention by police, which they alleged was undertaken solely to protect the attackers. It was noted that several of the speeches declared that the Czech Republic was also home to the Roma and called for Romani unity.

It was reported that ROMEA TV had broadcast the assembly live online. The protest was said to have been moderated by Pavel Krtek, who had opened the event by lifting up the activity of nonprofits whom he believed were aiding Romani men and women in different areas before giving the floor to Emil Voráč of Khamoro, which is just one such nonprofit.  

 

Brazil: Fatal altercation between police and Romani family launches campaign of mass murder against local Roma

On 26th July Romea.cz/en reported that according to Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia, a Romani journalist, lawyer and politician who is a Spanish citizen and vice-president of the International Romani Union, Brazil's military police had been murdering the Romani residents of Vitória da Conquista. It was said that on the afternoon of Tuesday, 13 July, there had been an altercation between two plainclothes police and a local Romani family in the Zé Goncalves quarter of the city. 

It was reported that the incident had ended with the deaths of the officers and two Romani men and police had then reportedly launched a fatal campaign of persecution against all of the Romani families in the city, which has roughly 340 000 inhabitants, as well as throughout the entire northeastern state of Bahia. 

It was noted that according to local media and the Romani residents' neighbors, at least six Romani people had been shot dead and another 15 wounded and the following day, a 14-year-old Romani boy had been shot dead by the police.

 

Polish football hooligans allegedly physically assault Romani man in Přerov, Czech Republic for objecting to their racist comments

On 26th July, Romea.cz/en reported that the previous evening in Přerov, Czech Republic a 45-year-old Romani man had been assaulted, and once again the attackers were alleged to have been football hooligans, this time apparently from Poland. It was said that the Romani man had been hospitalized for his injuries.  

It was noted that local Romani residents had filmed the assailants driving away from the scene of the attack and that police in Přerov were addressing the entire incident and had opened a criminal prosecution on suspicion of the crimes of battery and rioting.

"On Sunday before 20:00, according to the preliminarhy investigation, a 45-year-old man was walking along Kojetínská Street from the market to Husova Street. According to eyewitness testimonies, unidentified men of foreign nationality were driving by in vehicles who insulted him and shouted at him. When he objected to their behavior, several of them got out of their vehicles and ran after him. The man who had been targeted by their insults wanted to escape, but a number of the foreign nationals caught up with him and assaulted him by kicking and punching him all over his body. They then got back in their cars and drove toward Husova Street," police spokesperson Miluše Zajícová was reported as telling news server Romea.cz.  

 

The confirmation that Slavia Prague hooligans with violent pasts were among those attacking Roma in the Czech town of Sokolov? Selfies.

On 27th July Romea.cz./en reported that previous speculation that those who had assaulted Romani people in Sokolov, Czech Republic on 23 July had been hooligan fans of the Slavia Prague football team had been confirmed now that some of the attackers havd been identified by the Antifa.cz server on the basis of selfies they hd taken and posted online. It wa salso said that news server Romea.cz had also identified those same faces in various videos of the assault committed against local Roma there.

It was noted that Antifa.cz had used selfies the Slavia Prague hooligans had taken of themselves and then posted online while on the train to Sokolov. It was said that those photographs, according Antifa.cz, had been taken by, posted by, and show well-known figures from the Slavia Prague hooligan scene. 

 

Civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council: Investigate police response in Sokolov - it was inadequate and undermines trust in the police

 

It was noted by Romea.cz/en on 27th July that the volunteer civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs had called on the relevant police authorities to investigate the behaviour of the individual police officers following the attack perpetrated against Romani community members in Sokolov on Friday, 23 July. "The civil society members of the Council consider the intervention by police to have been obviously inadequate and confirmation of what a significant part of society, and not just Romani people, have been saying - that people are working for the police whose behavior toward Romani men and women significantly undermines their trust in the Czech Police," reads the statement, which news server Romea.cz is publishing here in full.  

Statement by the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs on the situation in Sokolov

On 27th July Romea.cz.en argued that the Council is not the body that should be investigating the lawfulness of police procedure or the interventions by individual officers, but they nevertheless felt obliged to express their view of the situation in Sokolov and to call on the relevant bodies of the Police of the Czech Republic to come to conclusions that would lead not just to a consistent, objective investigation of this situation, but that would lead to holding responsible and punishing the intervening officers should it be proven that they have committed wrongdoing.  

It was further noted that the civil society members of the Council had considered the intervention by police in Sokolov to have been obviously inadequate and confirmation of what a significant part of society, and not just Romani people, have been saying - that people working for the police whose behavior toward Romani men and women significantly undermines their trust in the Czech Police. It was argued that if the police role is not just to protect people's safety, but also to perform tasks entrusted to them by the regulations of the directly applicable legislation of the European Union or the international human rights treaties that are part of the Czech legal code, then a situation whereby the barrel of a service weapon had been allegedly placed against the head of an unarmed woman, or a situation in which Romani men and women who had just been harmed had then been prejudicially called "welfare recipients" by some of the intervening officers, intentionally humiliating their dignity, is behaviour that civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs considered to be in contravention of the laws that the police first and foremost should thoroughly uphold.

It was also noted that because some police officers had made such mistakes over and over again, the authority of the police became significantly reduced and the dignity and seriousness of their office was endangered. It was said that this reality manifests itself in the growing repugnance for the police and the demand among a significant part of Romani society to find a way to defend themselves on their own. It was argued that Romani do not need a militia, though - they need a functional police force! For that reason, civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs were calling on the Police of the Czech Republic to take steps to guarantee that officers who obviously violate their legally-established obligations will be duly punished and that conditions will be established so the Police of the Czech Republic can guarantee these mistakes would never be repeated.

It was also noted that he civil society members of the Council furthermore called on police representatives and those of the Interior Ministry to immediately create a dedicated channel for communications with representatives of the Council and its bodies, to explain their investigative procedures, and to take an active approach to such communications, the aim of which will be to reduce the escalation of problems with civil coexistence.

 

Press conference on the case of the death of Stanislav Tomáš in the Czech Republic

On Tuesday 28 July Romea.cz/en reported that the next day at 10 AM a press conference would be held about the case of Stanislav Tomáš, who died on 19 June in police custody; the organizers said many unanswered questions remained regarding the case, above all as to whether an independent, transparent investigation of the intervention against Mr Tomáš by police would ever happen. ROMEA TV will broadcast the press conference live online. 

"We would like to present, from information sources that are publicly accessible, some findings about cases during which people have died in police custody and the investigations that should have followed. We would also like to inform the public of how the Ústecký Regional Police Directorate is failing to communicate and is neglecting its obligation to respond to freedom of information requests about the death of Stanislav Tomáš," organizer Edita Stejskalová was reported as saying in an invitation sent to news server Romea.cz.    

 

Czech Police confirm football fans were behind Friday's attack on the Romani community of Sokolov

On 27th July Romea.cz/en reported that Karlovy Vary Regional Police had confirmed to the Czech News Agency today through their spokesperson, Jakub Kopřiva, that those involved in Friday's altercation between locals and a small group of aggressive out-of-town young men near the Sokolov train station had included several "ultras", fans of a team that plays at the highest level of the Czech football industry. It was noted that thirteen people had sustained injuries as a result of the incident, which is being investigated by police as rioting. 

"After our investigations we are able to confirm that some of the individuals from the boaters group are so-called ultras, fans of a team that plays at the highest level of the Czech football industry," the spokesperson was reported as saying. "Currently we are still questioning those directly involved in the altercation as well as eyewitnesses to the event."

 

 

Analysis: Welfare abuse in the Czech Republic is minimal, but in the runup to elections, politicians talk tough about it

On 28th July Romea.cz/en reported that the cost of welfare benefits in the Czech Republic amounted to almost one trillion crowns [EUR 40 billion] annually and was the most significant expenditure made from the state budget by far. It was noted that the feeling that this money makes its way to alleged "abusers", however, was not based in reality. 

It was noted that the vast majority of these benefits are pensions, which are considered welfare in the budget categorization and that the parental benefit, caregivers' contribution, and unemployment benefits are in this same category.

It was argued that it is difficult to find evidence of the "welfare abuse" that is so frequently emphasized by politicians. For example, the aid to those in material distress benefit, which is so closely watched politically, is intended for the most impoverished households, and in recent years its volume had just been about five billion crowns [EUR 195 million] annually.

 

Human rights activists: Czech police officers who intervened against Stanislav Tomáš should be suspended until investigations end, ban kneeling on the neck during interventions

On 28th July Romea.cz/en reported that speaking at a press conference in Prague today, human rights activists had called for police reform, including a ban on officers kneeling on detainees' necks during interventions, the mandatory compilation of statistics on those who either die or are injured in police custody, and more thorough training of police officers. It was noted that they were responding to the death of Stanislav Tomáš, who passed away in Teplice on 19 June shortly after an intervention against him by police. 

It was further reported that according to political scientist Edita Stejskalová, a former member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, the intervening officers should be suspended pending the outcome of investigations into the Teplice incident and that separate crime reports against the police were previously filed by the legal representative for the Tomáš family and by the Union of Vlax Roma.  

Stejskalová wass aid to have highlighted that the aim of the activists' call is not to "demonize" the police, but to press for their work to become more professional and reformed. She was reported as saying that publicly available sources of information reveal there have been at least 10 cases since 1990 of people dying after an intervention against them by police on Czech territory. 

 

 

Editor-in-Chief of Czech media outlet appeals direct sentencing for publishing antigypsyist content, the case will be heard in open court

On 29th July, Romea.cz/en reported that news server Denik.cz had reported that Radek Velička, editor-in-chief of the Vlastenecké noviny ("Patriotic News") extremist media outlet, was appealing the sentencing handed down against him by court order at the end of June from the District Court in Ostrava, Czech Republic on charges of having published a racist article after last year's tragic apartment fire in Bohumín (Karviná district). It was said that on 8 August 2020, 11 people including several children died during the blaze in a prefabricated apartment building there. 

Velička was said to have authored a piece stating that both the alleged perpetrator of the arson and the victims had been Romani and described the deceased as having been harmful "parasites". Later that same month, together with the first vice-chair of the Pirate Party, Czech MP Olga Richterová, the ROMEA organization were said to have filed a crime report against Velička and others who authored racist commentaries in relation to the tragedy. 

 

 

Czech mobile vaccination teams visit excluded localities in Ostrava-Přívoz, Regional Authority working with Romani NGOs on outreach

Romea.cz/en reported on 29th July that inhabitants of far-flung parts of the Moravian-Silesian Region would be offered vaccinations against COVID-19 by three mobile teams the following week, as would residents of excluded localities, and representatives of the Moravian-Silesian Regional Authority and the Ostrava Teaching Hospital had come to an agreement with representatives of Romani organizations on how to do outreach about the vaccinations to the Romani community in such locations. Miroslava Chlebounová of the Moravian-Silesian Regional Authority informed journalists of the news today. 

It was said that some mobile vaccination teams would hold a trial run starting that day. Hospital and Regional Authority representatives were noted to have held their meeting on the vaccinations with representatives of Romani organizations from the region earlier this morning. 

"It's necessary to design a strategy for this vaccination, to inform people and motivate them to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus by getting vaccinated," the Moravian-Silesian Regional Vice-Governor for Health Care, Martin Gebauer (ANO) was reported as saying. "We asked Vladimír Kočka, representative of the Assocation of Romani Entrepreneurs, and the director of the Life Together association, Kumar Vishwanathan, to aid us with this."

 

 

Council of Europe's INSCHOOL project promotes inclusion in schools throughout the Czech Republic

On 30th July a correspondent on Romea.cz/en argued that if anything had shaken up the education system in the Czech Republic in recent years, it had without a doubt been the introduction of inclusive education, but even though the overall philosophy of inclusive education was slowly developing and gaining acceptance among an ever-growing number of educators, school administrators, pupils and their guardians/parents here, inclusion per se had yet to be fully successfully implemented. It was further argued that however, it would certainly be a great error to believe that the inclusive education process was one that could be set up as something universal, i.e., that it could be introduced into the schools according to a unified scenario involving identical processes in each school. 

It was said that the inclusive education perspective certainly did not match the already-existing template for education that was being applied here. That educational vision, which was said to continue to be rooted in many people's minds, was said to be one whereby all pupils are "the same" and are therefore meant to be offered "the same" approach to education. 

 

Traditional commemorative ceremony dedicated to the Romani victims of Nazism will be held on Sunday, 1 August at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic

It was noted by Romea.cz/en that on Sunday, 1 August, the traditional commemorative ceremony honouring the Romani victims of Nazism would be held at the site of the unmarked burial ground for the victims of the WWII-era concentration camp at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic.

The invitation that had been sent to news server Romea.cz by the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, Čeněk Růžička erad as follows:"Esteemed friends, the members of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust would like to invite you to our traditional commemorative ceremony dedicated to the Romani victims of Nazism. For a second year, thanks to the former administration of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, we are able to organize this ceremony, with the support of the Czech Ministry of Culture, in a more dignified setting at the burial site for the members of our families who were prisoners of the concentration camp near near the village of Lety u Písku,"
  
"As we visit this symbolic place of the suffering of the Roma and Sinti, let's tell all the xenophobes, neo-Nazis and racists that hatred of any minority will not find support in our country," the invitation read. The programme of the event wass aid to be as follows:

PROGRAMME

12:00 - Czech national anthem, hymn of the Romani prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps
12:10 - Welcoming of participants
12:20 - Laying of floral offerings at the memorial
13:20 - Spiritual offering
13:50 - Cultural program
14:10 - Speeches
15:10 - Closing of the event - those attending will be able to visit the parish cemetery in nearby Mirovice where the children who died as camp prisoners were buried en masse. 
 

 

2 August marks 77 years since the tragic mass murder of 4 200 Romani people at Auschwitz

On 31st July Romea.cz/en reminded eraders that Monday, 2 August marked 77 years since the tragic night of 2 August 1944 and the early morning hours of 3 August 1944 when the Nazis had murdered the prisoners of what they called the "Gypsy Famliy Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was noted that according to the most recent historical research into these events, as many as 4 200 Romani people were murdered in the gas chambers of the concentration camp despite their active resistance.

It was noted that annually 2 August was therefore commemorated by Romani people all over Europe as Roma Holocaust Memorial Day and that in 2011, the Polish national legislature had declared 2 August the Remembrance Day of the Extermination of the Roma and Sinti.

It was also noted that in 2014 the European Parliament had declared 2 August to be the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. The Nazis were said to have attempted to annihilate the Romani prisoners in the "Gypsy Family Camp" at Auschwitz before 2 August, but had been initially prevented from doing so by their resistance.

It was argued that on the assumption that the uprising had happened on 16 May 1944, that day is usually called Romani Resistance Day, but the most recent study mentioned above said the resistance had happened even earlier, at the beginning of April that year. It was also noted that a study published by the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum states that Romani prisoners also actively defended themselves in August 1944.

Prague 8 municipality marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day by flying Romani flag

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 31st July that the Prague 8 municipal department was marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day by flying the Romani flag to remember the tragic night of 2 August 1944 and the early morning hours of 3 August 1944, when the Nazis had murdered more than 4 000 Romani and Sinti prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Local authorities issued a press release about the occasion yesterday. 

"On 2 August 1944 the final two transports of Romani people left Auschwitz-Birkenau. More than 900 men were sent to Buchenwald and 490 women to the concentration camp of Ravensbrück. Children, the elderly, and invalids, in all about 3 000 Romani people whom the Nazis did not believe it would be worthwhile to send elsewhere, were murdered in the gas chambers. The history of what had been called the Gypsy Camp, where Romani people from the Protectorate [of Bohemia and Moravia] were also imprisoned, came to and end," local authorities had cited the author Jiří Padevět in their press release. 

Compliled by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC, August 2021

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