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Roma News June 2021

Funeral for Jiřina Šiklová to be held tomorrow in Prague

On 2nd June, Romea.cz/en reported that the funeral of Jiřina Šiklová would be held the following day, 3 June, at the Church of the Blessed Savior (Nejsvětějšího Salvátora) in Prague. Ms Šiklová's son, Jan Šikl, informed the Czech News Agency of the event.  

It was noted that people would be able to pay their last respects beginning at 10 AM. Ms Šiklová was a Charter 77 signatory, a promoter of gender studies, and a sociologist who passed away on Saturday, 22 May 2021. 

It was further reported trhat Ms Šiklová was 85 years old at the time of her death. The ceremony wwas said to be for family members and friends and will be addressed by the priest Tomáš Halík.

It was was further noted that in 1965, Ms Šiklová had been a co-founder of the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, and when she had been able to return there after the 1989 Velvet Revolution she initiated the establishment of the Department of Social Work. Redaers were reminded that during the era of normalization she had helped with the export of banned literature from Czechoslovakia and with the import of literature authored in exile.

 

Local Communist Party cell in Czech Republic posts antigypsyist defamation to official website, party apologizes

The logo of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and the headline from an article published online by a local cell in 2021: "Government Approves Plan for the Integration of Cikáni" [Gypsies]

 

It was reported by romea.cz/en on 3rd june that until 2 June, the official website of the District Committee of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) in Frýdek-Místek, Czech Republic, which is linked to the national party's main website, had featured a racist post entitled "Government Approves Gypsy Integration Plan" (Vláda schválila plán integrace Cikánů) that was brought to the attention of news server Romea.cz by one of our readers. It was noted that the piece, published on 24 May without listing an author or referencing any sources of information, had reported on the approval of the Roma Strategy 2021-2030 and commented on it in an openly racist way.

It was further reported that the anonymous article featured the following defamatory allegations: "Cikáni - the slackers and parasites of the Czech nation", "Those who do honest work all their lives and pay taxes will have to allow a cíkán or cikánka who has never worked to cut in line ahead of them at the unemployment office?", or "Cikánské children (not all of them) sometimes ended up in 'special' classes because of their poor upbringing, their aggression, their lower intellect, being less able to grasp material and learn. That was not the fault of the majority society, but the historical 'nature' of cikánské children and especially the absolutely insufficient care and upbringing of them by their cikánský parents when they were of preschool age." 

 

Czech lower house passes bill to compensate the illegally sterilized, most but not all of whom were Romani women

It was reported byRomea.cz/en on 4th June that those who had been illegally sterilized were one step closer to being compensated by the Czech state after the lower house today approved a bill authorizing a one-time payment of CZK 300 000 [EUR 12 000] to those who could document what had happened to them. It was noted that most of those who had complained of being sterilized against their will were Romani women. 

It was further reported thjat the Czech Senate would now receive the bill for assessment. It was said to cover a period of almost 46 years from the time the Act on the Health of the People hd been adopted in the previous millenium up until the adoption of new norms for medical procedures in this millenium. 

It was further noted that those who had been subjected to illegal sterilization without their informed consent between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012 would be eligible for compensation. It was also reported that according to the backgrounder explaining the bill, those eligible for compensation had not freely decided to undergo sterilization but were coerced into doing so under the threat of having their existing children taken away from them or their welfare benefits stopped. 

 

 

Czech extremists move from inciting anti-Romani hatred to railing against "COVID terror" ahead of fall elections

On 5th June, Romea.cz/en reported that Tomáš Vandas, the chair of the extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS), was supporting the "Free Bloc" (Volný blok) group, whose front-running candidate is  Czech MP Lubomír Volný, in this fall's elections to the Czech Chamber of Deputies and would not himself be running, apparently in order to boost the group's electoral chances. It was said that Volný had promised Vandas places on the group's candidate lists for DSSS members in exchange for his support. 

It was said that those who run on the "Free (Volný) Bloc" list would not have to reveal their membership in the DSSS or any other party and that extremist groups not yet seated in Parliament that were small were trying to band together in the runup to the elections. 

 

Czech town cancels commission for container housing as too costly - which local opposition politicians have argued all along

It was reported by Ronea.cz/en on 6th June that Modular housing units would not be installed at the Chanov housing estate in the Czech town of Most this year now that the town had cancelled its tender for the installation. The Most town hall it was said would now address how to arrange housing for the families living in substandard apartment units in the prefabricated apartment buildings on the estate.

It was further reported on Thursday, 27 May, that local councillors postponed the implementation of the modular housing project indefinitely after assessing the bids submitted for it by different companies. It was said that town leaders had considered modular housing a better solution than repairing the existing apartment blocks.

It was noted that in March the town had  issued a tender for construction of a modular housing building. The initial plan was for an 18-unit construction to be installed before the summer holidays.

 

Czech NGO ROMEA offering Romani students another scholarship opportunity

On 7th June, Romea.cz/en reported that between 1 June and 4 July 2021, Romani students in the Czech Republic would be able to apply for a scholarship from the ROMEA organization for the academic or school year 2021/2022. ROMEA said that it had been providing the scholarship since 2016 to high school and technical college students, and last year hadsexpanded it to include university students as well. 

It was noted that students attending secondary or higher education, whether as distance studies or in person, were eligible for the programme, including for any level of Bachelor's, Master's or doctoral studies. It was further noted that in the 2021/2022 academic year ROMEA would support 90 Romani students with scholarships.

It was pointed out that those students who make it through the selection procedure would be entitled to a scholarship corresponding to where they are in their educational career. High school students it was said, will receive CZK 14 000 [EUR 550] per year, technical college students CZK 21 000 [EUR 830] per year and university students CZK 25 000 [EUR 980] annually.

 

Football hooligans and neo-Nazis blame all Roma for violent crime and march through Czech town, riot police deployed

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 8th June that about 150 football hooligans and neo-Nazis had marched on Saturday, 5 June through the Czech town of Hradec Králové in an anti-Romani procession convened because of several conflicts that had transpired there in which Romani residents had allegedly been involved. The police had already apprehended three suspected assailants in relation to those events, two of whom have been remanded into custody.

Despite that, the neo-Nazis were said to be threatening to continue their marches if the police did not become more active. It was noited that the football hooligans and neo-Nazis had assembled on Saturday afternoon at the train station in Hradec Králové, from where they had set out on their march through the town at about 16:30.

The demonstrators walked from the main train station through the pedestrian zone to the Adalbertinum cultural center, where the conflicts at issue had happened. It was noted that the extremists had been supervised the entire time by dozens of riot police.

Commentary: Czech PM fishing for votes in a racist/xenophobic pond

On 9th June, Romea.cz/en reported that the ANO movement, unlike the other main favorite parties running in the elections to the lower house this year, had not yet officially begun its campaign, but the speech given last Thursday by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) can be considered just such a launch by that private movement of his - and there had been nothing nice about it. It was also reported that Babiš had decided to shore up the movement's declining favourability by inciting hatred in a primitive way against immigrants, by railing xenophobically against foreign nationals, and by telling what are evidently lies about his political rivals. 

 

Slovak Ombudswoman and NGOs appeal to Government to compensate illegally sterilized people

On 9th June Romea.cz/en reported that while the Czech Chamber of Deputies passed a bill at the beginning of June to compensate those who have been sterilized without their free and informed consent, nothing of the sort was being planned yet in Slovakia. It was noted that attorney Vanda Durbáková, who has long dedicated herself to this subject through her work for the Center for Civil and Human Rights, in a press release on 8 June had stated: "I believe that the current developments in the Czech Republic will inspire the responsible institutions in Slovakia to begin taking action on this question, finally,"

"The Justice Ministry should, as soon as possible, come forward with a bill to compensate women who have been harmed in this way," the attorney was reported as saying. It was noted that Slovak ombudswoman Mária Patakyová had also repeatedly pointed out the need to compensate the victims of illegal sterilizations in Slovakia. 

It was further reported that Slovak NGOs had also issued an appeal to the relevant authorities in association with the legislative success of the Czech compensation bill. The press release was said to note that, "Thanks to [that bill] many Romani women in the Czech Republic could be financially compensated who were harmed by this practice in the past".

 

Romani child actor from The Painted Bird rejects Czech TV role of "bad g*psy child"

On 10th June, Romea.cz/en reported that film director Václav Marhoul, speaking in an interview for ROMEA TV, had said that the role recently offered in the Ordinace v růžové zahradě ("The Surgery in the Rose Garden") television series to Petr Kotlár, the Romani child actor who portrayed the main character in his most recent film, "The Painted Bird", was that of a "Bad g*psy child who bullies poor little white boys." It had been a big dream of the child actor to perform in the popular series with his favorite actor and friend, Radim Fiala.    

It was further reported that it had been thanks to Fiala that the screenwriters had actually written a role for the young actor in one of the episodes. "It ended up being a catastrophe, because Pete was offered to play the role, if I exaggerate a bit, of a 'stinking g*psy' who bullies poor little white boys," Marhoul told the print magazine Romano voďi and reiterated in the ROMEA TV interview.

It was noted that Marhoul had learned of the offer from Petr's grandmother, Věra, and had decided to speak with him about it. "Don't get mad, but I simply forbid you to do this. A serious film is one thing, but television, and a series like that one, is another. Hundreds of thousands of people watch Ordinace and many of them beileve the actors performing in the series are like their characters even in real life," the director described his conversation with the young actor. 

"The producers want to accommodate the audience bias, people who simply see things in black and white terms, that's what it's like. Here are the 'g*psies', they are evil, and then here are the whites, they are good, and they may even have some depth of character developed, but the 'g*psy' roles, if I may say so, are always negative ones. Fortunately, Pete listened to me. He didn't have to listen to me, I'm not his Dad. He heard me, though, and he didn't take the role," Marhoul said.
   

Jaroslav Miko: Vaccination doesn't just protect you, it protects us all

On 12th June Romea.cz/en reported jaroslav Miko as sayoing the following: “I have always been in favor of the vaccination against COVID-19 being absolutely voluntary, and I stand by that opinion, but I reject labeling those who have gotten vaccinated or are planning to as "weaklings" who submit to others in a subordinate position and have no respect for their own freedom. Our world has faced and in some places is still facing a pandemic of the kind that hasn't been here in a century. 

Millions have lost their lives, others now have health problems, and the global economy has significantly weakened. To say nothing of what has happened to our children's educational process. 

In such a situation, getting vaccinated, as long there are no objective health barriers preventing one from doing so, is not an act of "weakness". Vaccination is not just about protecting your own personal health, it is about contributing to protecting the health of all of us, as a whole, and that is why it is incomprehensible to me that, for example, Dr Lukáš Pollert has now publicly compared the vaccinations underway to the days of totalitarianism, and said he perceives rejecting vaccination to be an act of civic courage. “

 

Romani activist Štefan Tišer has passed away in the Czech Republic

On 13th June Romea.cz/en reported that on Saturday, 12 June 2021 at about 15:00 the Romani activist Štefan Tišer had passed away. His partner, Dana Giňová, had confirmed to news server Romea.cz that heart failure had been the cause of death.

The following was further noted, regarding the life of Štefan Tišer:

"Mr Tišer was born in 1950 in Stráž u Tachova, Czechoslovakia, and spent his childhood in Slovakia with his grandparents in the Romani settlement in the municipality of Betlanovec. He graduated from the high school in the town of Liptovský Hrádok, near his grandparents' home, with a focus in economics.  

After completing his military service he remained in Plzeň (West Bohemia) where he worked in factories run by the Škoda enterprise:  At his own request he was transferred from a job in the accounting office to working on the factory floor and made his living that way. At the beginning of the 1980s he worked as a miner in the Karviná area (Moravia), and after returning to the Plzeň area he managed what was called in those days an "enterprise of associated production", focused on construction and excavation work.

Mr Tišer continued to do business in the construction field after the events of 1989. Since the 1970s he had been involved in the political and social life of the Romani community in Plzeň.  

He contributed to the organization of concerts or Romani football tournaments during which Romani people striving for the social emancipation of the Romani minority in Czechoslovakia would meet to negotiate. After 1989 he became involved in activities supporting Civic Forum and in the Romani political movement. 

Mr Tišer was a member of the Roma Civic Initiative (ROI) and in 1991 co-founded the Movement of Engagé Roma, participating in the activity of the Roma National Congress. In 2011 he established the Equal Opportunities Party in the Czech Republic, which ran candidates together with the Green Party for the elections to the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the European Parliament in 2014. 

After none of the party's candidates were elected in either election, Mr Tišer resigned his leadership role and membership in the party. He then continued to live in Plzeň and was a member of commissions and working groups addressing issues related to the situation of Romani people in the Czech Republic at the level of the Czech Government and the Regional Authority.”

 

Czech authorities could levy hefty fines against authors of discriminatory classified ads saying Roma need not apply

 

On 14th June, Romea.cz/en reported that news server TN.cz was reporting that a reader had recently brought a couple of discriminatory classified advertisements to their attention. Both were openly discriminatory against Romani people.

It was further noted trhat the author of one of the ads was defending its wording. "Easy job, possible even for women. I am not a company, I need a gardener. The train stops at my house. Gypsies need not apply. I pay per hour according to the work done. I only hire those who want to work and I appreciate it," a Mr Jiří from South Moravia writes in one ad offering CZK 130 [EUR 5] per hour for this work. 

"It's divided up, the word [Gypsies] is not published there as a whole. The second reason is that it's there because I've had such a bad experience with them [Romani people] that I don't want them anymore," Mr Jiří told the TN.cz newsroom.

It was noted that Mr Jiří had gone on on to say that he could not imagine he would encounter any kind of problems after placing the ad. "Let everybody do what they want," he said.

"It's not meant in a bad way," he claimed to TN.cz. It wsas said that the other classified ad that had been brought to the attention of the news server had come from Liberec, where the author sought temporary workers for cutting glass wool.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Hradec Králové, Czech Republic, is on edge. Romani youth was assaulted and his jaw broken, but police dissuaded him from filing a crime report

On 14th June, Romea.cz/en reported that shortly after two well-publicized incidents in the Czech town of Hradec Králové in which Romani youths had been filmed assaulting a non-Romani man, several physical and verbal attacks had been committed there against Romani people as well, but the media had not yet reported about them. One of the Romani youths so attacked was reported to having sustained a broken jaw. It was noted that the the next day a neo-Nazi demonstration had been allowed to be held in the town to which riot units were deployed.

 

It was further reported that the situation between some non-Romani and Romani residents of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic, remained tense. ROMEA TV said that they had learned that after the two recent incidents of violence with which police had charged three Romani youths, several physical and verbal attacks had been committed against local Romani people.  

It was also noted that one of the Romani victims had suffered a serious facial injury, but his case had been classified as a misdemeanour. What's more local police were said to have denied him his right to file a crime report over the incident.

Romani community members condemn violence, Czech media are reporting inaccurately

It was also reported that in the ROMEA TV report, Romani residents of Hradec Králové condemned all violence, described the circumstances of the incidents for which the three Romani youths had been charged, and also described facing attacks and insults more now than ever before. It was said that according to the Romani residents, the local police are downplaying such cases when the victims are Romani.   

 

Czech art competition for works about the Holocaust of the Roma announces winners this week

On 15th June, Romea.cz/em]n reported that on Thursday, 17 June, the winners of the second annual Karel Holomek and Emilie Machálková Competition to Commemorate the Holocaust of the Roma would be announced at the Center for Contemporary Art - DOX in Prague (address: Poupětova 1). It was said that the contest was open to students and graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Prague, and the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno

It was further noted that the competition was run by the organization Živá paměť (Living Memory) and is part of the Lačho ďives! project supporting Romani survivors of the Second World War in the Czech Republic by covering the costs of their prescription medicines and medical equipment and striving for the dignified remembrance of the injustice perpetrated against them in the Czech lands. It was said that the project does not just involve commemorating the Holocaust of the Roma, but also warning of the tragic message of those past events in the present-day context and tries to encourage young people to reflect on these subjects. 

It was argued that exclusion from society; insensitivity and indifference to the suffering of those who are weaker, of the elderly, children or women; an absence of human solidarity and humanity; and the belittling of the suffering and deaths caused and the murder committed on the basis of racial prejudice are all burning human rights issues still today. It was notefd that last year the inaugural competition had been won in the art category by Benedikt Valenta and in the music category by Pavel Nesit, with second and third place going to Adam Fejfar and Martin Fischer. 

 

Ladislav Samek: It is hard to get rid of the label of "institutionalized child" in Czech society

On 16th June Romea.cz/en reported that when Ladislav Samek had been born, he had been sent straight from the delivery room to a neonatal institution in Sokolov and then into the care of foster parents with whom he spent the first nine years of his life. It was further noted that today Ladislav Samek is studying social work and leading an organization in Pardubice called "Children in Action" (Děti v akci) that endeavors to provide long-term support to children in institutional care with their athletic activities and other hobbies.

"I established the organization with my colleagues because we want to change things," Romea.cz/en reported that the 21-year-old told Romano vod'i magazine, adding that he considered it to be an advantage that the issue of children's homes and institutional care is something he could assess from both sides of the story, as somebody who grew up in such care and as somebody now on the outside. It was further reporetd that he had never met his biological parents and experienced six different institutional facilities, including a diagnostic institute and a treatment facility where he was placed after committing self-harm as a child.

It was further reported that for the first nine years of his life, Samek had not grown up in a loving environment and his time with his foster family had bot been easy. "I don't like remembering it and today I look back on that time as complicated, because the foster family did not function as it should have. We, the children whom they took care of for so many years, had no outlet for our feelings, there was nobody in whom we could confide," he was reported as saying. 

 

Slovak Govt Plenipotentiary for the Roma Community says biased media coverage of animal abuse could spark anti-Romani hatred

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 17th June that some Czech and Slovak media outlets had been gradually raising the subject of the alleged abuse of animals in Romani settlements in Slovakia. Andrea Bučková, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Roma Community, was reported as rejecting the idea that the problem of animal abuse, which happens across society, should be ascribed to one ethnic group.  

"I condemn all behaviour that leads to the abuse of animals. Those who commit such crimes must be held accountable for them," she was reported as writing in a statement, adding that cases of animal abuse deserve our attention. 

It was also noted at the same time, however, that she rejected the idea of this society-wide problem being ascribed to one ethnic group. It was noted that in her view, the problem existed in different social groups and strata, which had been confirmed to her by the Slovak ombudsperson for animal welfare, Zuzana Stanová, when they had recently met.  

 

Czech Republic plans billions for "nonprofits", but half will go to sports - targeted Romani projects will receive exponentially less money

On 19th June, Romea.cz/en reported that the Czech state was planning to provide nonprofit organizations CZK 8.49 billion [EUR 332 million] next year for their publicly beneficial projects. It was further reported that more than half of the nonprofit subsidies were meant to be used for sports, 17 % for social services, and 12 % for culture. 

Ot was noted that the remaining one-fifth of the nonprofit funding was meant to be used for activities for children, anti-drug policy, family policy, education, environmental protection, support for national minorities and the fight against corruption. It wa salso noted that the amount of money designated for nonprofits working directly with the Romani minority was CZK 27.4 million [EUR 1.07 million] and of the 18 main areas, Romani people were fifth from the bottom in terms of the volume of the financing to be made available, with combating corruption the very least-financed field. 

 

 

New Czech political movement uses the old campaign trick of alleging "inadaptables" abuse welfare, names the Romani community as an example

On 20th June, Romea.cz/en reported that the new Czech political movement called Přísaha (Oath), for all intents and purposes, was basically its founder Robert Šlachta, the former head of the anti-corruption unit in the Czech Police. It was also noted that in the runup to the autumn elections, he had been attempting to get the media to profile him for potential voters in a legible, transparent way.

It was also reported that Šlachta said that his movement was a bit more on the conservative side, falling into what he terms the "fair centre" of the political map. Romea.cz/en noted that they didn't yet know where exactly his movement actually belonged, but apparently it's a bit more to the right than he would have us believe.

It was further reported that as part of his press campaign, Šlachta had been expressing his views on the issue of welfare benefits and the welfare state in general. And in those statements, he had declared that his movement cared about making sure welfare benefits do not flow to those who are "undeserving".

It was pointed out that his most specific remark on that issue was made during an interview on Monday, 14 June, for the iDNES.cz news server. "I mean the socially inadaptable," he said in the interview, adding that this is specifically to do with the area of northern Bohemia. 

"Our social system is based on affidavits, and in my view there should be thorough monitoring of those drawing the benefits, especially by people who should not be drawing them. Naturally it costs this state a great deal of money," he alleged.

It was reported trhat the interviewer had then asked whether he meant the Romani community. "Socially inadaptables don't just have to be Romani. They can also be those who live at the expense of others, if I can put it like that. Naturally, the Romani community," the politician was reported as explaining.

It was argued that to put it mildly, these statements were unfortunate, as you can see, for more than one reason. First, it was argued from these statements it follows that the Romani community (at least in northern Bohemia) is considered by this politician to be "socially inadaptable". 

 

Romani man dies after Czech Police kneel on his neck, they say drugs caused his death. Romani activists see parallels to George Floyd

 

Stills from the video that was shared through social media on Sunday, 20 June 2021. A young Romani man has died after an intervention by police. (PHOTO: Facebook, collage: Romea.cz)

 

On 21st June, Romea.cz.en reported that video footage from Teplice, Czech Republic was being massively shared through social media showing a police intervention against a young Romani man who had later died in the ambulance called to the scene. It was noted that Romani community members were comparing his death to the death of George Floyd, the Black man who was murdered by police in the USA last year.

It was said that one of the intervening police officers kneeled for several minutes on the Romani man's neck and that the young man later died in the ambulance called to the scene by police.

It was further reported that police were saying that their intervention had not been the cause of death, but that the drugs the Romani man is said to have used were the cause of death. It was also noted that Michal Miko, director of the Romanonet organization, hasdposted online that what the video shows is "The height of brutality." 

 

Romani community turns site of young man's death in Czech town into a place of reverence

On 21st June Romea.cz/en reported that at the location where a young Romani man passed away in Teplice, Czech Republic on Saturday, a place of remembrance was being created by activists Jozef Miker and Štefan Pongo together with the Czechoslovak Romani Union. It was noted that news server Romea.cz had reported that the man had died on 19 June after an intervention during which an officer had knelt on the man's neck, as was captured on video filmed from the window of a nearby building. 

"Štefan Pongo and I have met up here to set up this place of remembrance for the victim," Miker was reported as telling news server Romea.cz at the scene. "They're saying he was on drugs, but other people are claiming that's not true."

"He was reportedly taking Tramal for enormous spinal pain," Miko told Romea.cz. "Each of us can probably imagine what might happen if somebody were to kneel on the neck of a person who had a spinal ailment," Miko said, calling on the Romani residents of Teplice to pay their respects at the scene of the tragedy. 

 

 

Czech Police: According to court-ordered autopsy, death of young Romani man unconnected to police intervention

On 21st June Romea.cz/en reported that according to a new statement from the Czech Police, the death of a young Romani man in Teplice on Saturday was not connected to the police intervention against him. It was noted that police had issued this statement on the basis of the preliminary results of the court-ordered autopsy.

"The court-ordered autopsy of the deceased has ruled out a connection with the intervention that preceded the arrest of the suspect. According to the preliminary autopsy report, the man was suspected of having ingested a foreign substance such as amphetamines, and during the autopsy, pathological changes in the coronary arteries of the heart were found," police spokesman Daniel Vítek was reported as saying.

 

Civil society members of the Czech Govt Roma Council ask Interior Minister to prioritize the thorough investigation of the death of a Romani man after a police intervention

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 21st June that the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs were asking Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček to prioritize the case of a Romani man who died in Teplice. It was noted that on Saturday the man had died after police intervened against him.  

It was further reported that on the basis of the initial findings of a court-ordered autopsy, police had ruled out the idea that the man's death is related to the intervention, but the civil society members were asking that the matter be thoroughly investigated. News server Romea.cz published their statement in full translation:

Statement by the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs on the police intervention and death in Teplice

We, the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, are demanding a thorough investigation of the death of the Romani man in Teplice on Saturday, 19 June 2021. 

We seek this on the basis of the video footage of the police intervention, filmed with a mobile phone, and because the person who was involved died in the ambulance after the intervention. The immediate statement by police that he died as a consequence of a drug overdose and not the police intervention means we need more information, above all the final results of the autopsy ordered by the court. 

The obvious similarity between this case and the death of the African-American George Floyd after a police intervention in the USA in June 2020 using very similar techniques raises a subject of basic interest to all of society about whether police are using force proportionately during their interventions. We condemn all violence, including police brutality. 

We are calling on Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček to pay special attention to this case and we will be initiating a meeting with Police President Jan Švejdar.  

For the bereaved relatives of the deceased and for the public it is important, for both moral and psychological reasons, to clarify the circumstances of this death, especially when grounds exist to question its cause, as can be seen from the fact that an autopsy was ordered. In this matter, we consider the statement by the police spokesperson who definitively initially ruled out the association of this death with the police intervention prior to the autopsy results being known to have been unacceptable. The police and their representatives should be aware that in a case where the cause of death has yet to be determined by an autopsy, it should never be possible to inform the public that it has already been ruled out that the death resulted from the police intervention. By proceeding in this way, the police have increased our fears that the autopsy that was ordered may not have been impartially conducted. For that reason the Council will be asking questions of the relevant authorities as to whether the use of force was, in this case, proportionate to the aims for which it was used, as well as about all other circumstances of the case, especially the length of time of the intervention, its physical consequences for the victim, the state of health of the victim, and whether the officers complied with their legal obligation to protect the victim's health and life. 

Civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs: 

Bc. Zdeněk Guži
Mgr. Jan Husák
Alena Drbohlavová Gronzíková
Mgr. Alica Sigmund Heráková
Bc. Tomáš Ščuka
Josef Stojka
Bc. Gwendolyn Albert
Ing. Vladimír Čermák
Iveta Theuserová, DiS.

 

 

Czech Police release new video footage of what preceded police intervention against Romani man who died thereafter

On 21st June Romea.cz/en reported that the Czech Police had published new video footage from what happened on Saturday in Teplice to their Twiter account. It was noted that the video showed what had happened prior to the police arriving at the scene and intervening, after which the man against whom they intervened had died in an ambulance called to the scene. 

The footage was reported as showing the Romani man lying on the ground, then getting up and running at another man in shorts. Then it was said that the man in the shorts dodges him, and the Romani man then ran up to a white car and pounds on it with his fists more than once, at which point the video ends.

 

Romani Lives Matter. Czech town sees candles and flowers placed at the site of the tragic death of a Romani man after police intervention involving kneeling on his neck

It was reported on 21st June that Teplice, Czech Republic, now had an improvised remembrance site where "Romani Lives Matter" ("Na romských životech záleží") had been inscribed on one of the ribbons around a floral offering placed there. A Romani man had passed away at that spot on Saturday, 19 June after police had intervened against him, kneeling on his neck as part of their arrest tactics. 

 

Czech Interior Minister backs police intervention against Romani man in Teplice during which officers knelt on detainee's neck

On 22nd June, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček was backing the police officers who intervened on Saturday in Teplice against a Romani man who the police said subsequently had collapsed in the ambulance that had been called to the scene and had died. "The intervening police officers have my full support. Anybody under the influence of addictive substances who breaks the law has to count on the police intervening. It is mainly thanks to the work of policemen and policewomen that we are among the top 10 safest countries in the world," Hamáček commented in response to a police tweet insisting the Teplice incident is not an example of a "Czech George Floyd".  

It was also noted that some Romani community members and their allies saw the police intervention differently and were calling the Romani man who died in Teplice the "Romani George Floyd". It was also reported that the Interior Minister's statement had absolutely ignored the call from the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs that he prioritize the case. 

 

Czech town sees hundreds gather to light candles and lay flowers at the scene of Romani man's tragic death after police intervention

On 23rd June Romea.cz/en reported that at the location in Teplice, Czech Republic where 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš had died the previous Saturday after police intervened against him, hundreds of people, most of them Romani, had gathered the previous day, some even traveling from abroad to pay their respects. It was further reported that the mourners had been lighting candles and laying flowers at the improvised remembrance site. 

It was noted that according to police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová, officers had been monitoring the spontaneous assembly and that amateur video footage of the police intervention on Saturday had been circulating on social media. 

It was also noted that from that footage it was apparent that Mr Tomáš had been physically resisting and shouting and that the officers had used force against him, including the tactic of kneeling on his neck. It was said that as news server Romea.cz had previously reported, the intervening officer had knelt on the arrested Romani man's neck for several minutes. 

It was reported that Romani people at the remembrance site had been using social media to call on other Roma to come pay their respects. It was said that a bigger remembrance event would be held in Teplice on Saturday, 26 June  beginning at 14:00, according to Romani activist Jozef Miker from the Konexe organization, and he also planned to convene a demonstration there the following week. 

"We want to hold a demonstration in front of the police station next week," Miker was reported as saying. It ws noted that in his view the police intervention had been disproportionate. 

"It doesn't matter what [Mr Tomáš] did, naturally I don't hold with drugs and such, but if a human life is at stake, the person should be treated with care," Miker was also reported as saying and on the same day, the Autonomní akce [Autonomous Action] organization would be holding a demonstration against police brutality in Prague on Prokopovo náměstí at 18:00 in response to the incident. 

 

Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights will investigate controversial police intervention after which Romani community member Stanislav Tomáš died

On 23rd June, Romea.cz/en reporetd that Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, had announced in an interview for ROMEA TV that she would be investigating Saturday's intervention by a police patrol in Teplice after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, died. "After watching the video of the intervention in Teplice and reading all of the available information, I've decided to use my competencies and the scope of activity made possible by the law on the Public Defender of Rights with respect to the Police of the Czech Republic to begin an investigation on my own initiative," she was reported as telling ROMEA TV.

"This investigation will focus on the proportionality of the methods of force used during the intervention in Teplice," Šimůnková said. According to her, the investigation will be launched in the next few days and the results will depend on how quickly the Czech Police provide her office with the relevant materials. 

"I don't dare predict the timeframe, it could be weeks, it could be months. I am bound by my duty to maintain confidentiality until the case is closed and the entire matter has been investigated, but I will try to conduct this investigation as quickly as possible".

 

Council of Europe seeks independent, thorough investigation of the death of Romani community member Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice, Czech Republic

On 23rd June Romea.cz/en reported that the Council of Europe (CoE) was calling for an independent, thorough investigation of the recent death of a Romani man in Teplice, Czech Republic because, according to them, video footage of the intervention by police officers on Saturday was alarming and raised many questions. News server Romea.cz steed that it had received a copy of the CoE statement

"The Council of Europe is calling for an urgent, thorough, and independent investigation into the recent death of a Romani man in the Czech Republic after he had been apprehended by the police. Footage taken on 19 June from Teplice, Czech Republic, showing police intervention against a Romani man who later died in an ambulance is alarming and raises numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident," the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General reads.

It was noted that the incident, after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš had died, happened on Saturday, 19 June, and amateur video of the intervention had been posted to social media from which it is apparent that he had been physically resisting and shouting, and the intervening officers had used force to restrain him, including kneeling on his neck. As news server Romea.cz reported previously, the intervening officer had knelt on the neck of the detained Romani man for several minutes. 

It was noted that according to the police, Mr Tomáš had then collapsed and died in the ambulance called to the scene. The video footage shows that he had stopped moving while still prone on the sidewalk. 

 

Civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council sharply distance themselves from Interior Minister and PM's remarks about case in which Romani man died after police intervention

On 23rd June Romea.cz/en reported that the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs had sharply distanced themseles from the recent statements by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, who are also members of the advisory body. The PM chairs the Council.   

It was noted that according to the volunteer civil society members, the Interior Minister and PM were undermining faith in the impartiality of the investigation of Saturday's incident. News server Romea.cz also said that it was publishing the statement by the volunteer civil society members in full translation here.  

Statement by the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs

The civil society members of the Council consider the recent remarks by the Prime Minister and chair of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, Andrej Babiš, and Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček to be quite unfortunate. It is not our aim to discuss what their motivations might be. It is not, however, acceptable for the loss of a human life to be accompanied by undignified behavior, which at a minimum has been shown in their approaches to this issue where, without taking into account the final outcome of the investigation, these particular members of the Council have attributed no seriousness to the calls of the other members of the Council and from the public asking for a consistent, credible investigation of the cause of death in the case of Mr Tomáš.  

We sharply distance ourselves from the remarks of Mr Andrej Babiš and Mr Jan Hamáček praising the work of the police in Teplice, remarks made at a time when no findings of the ongoing investigation into the tragic events in Teplice have been published.   

We appreciate the work of the Police of the Czech Republic and we believe the investigation of this tragic event will not be influenced by the will of politicians who, through their remarks, undermine faith in the impartiality of the investigation, unfortunate remarks that show they have assessed the calls of the civil society members of the Council regarding this issue to be unjustified. At the same time, we consider it appropriate, given the tense situation, for Mr Babiš and Mr Hamáček to make sure they will be present for the Council meeting on 30 June 2021 and that they use that occasion to guarantee the investigation will be independent and its findings will lead to calming the situation and renewing trust.   

Zdeněk Guži
Jan Husák
Alena Drbohlavová Gronzíková
Alica Sigmund Heráková
Tomáš Ščuka
Josef Stojka
Štefan Oláh
Vladislav Čermák
Gwendolyn Albert

 

 

Czech Police President backs officers who intervened against Romani man who later died, expresses regret at the loss of life - the first such statement

On 23rd June Romea.cz/en reported that Police President Jan Švejdar had expressed regret over the death of Romani community member Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice while simultaneously expressing his full support for the officers who had intervened against him prior to his demise. It was also noted that after Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, Švejdar is now the third Czech official to stand up for the officers. 

It was said that Švejdar's statement constituted the very first time that regret for the life lost has been expressed by any member of the police. It was also said that the following day, at an extraordinary press conference, the police will publicize more information about the incident on Saturday and the intervention by the officers. 

"I have carefully studied the circumstances of the intervention by the officers in Teplice. First and foremost, I sincerely regret the death of the young person and I am expressing my condolences to the bereaved," the Police President said. 

"At the same time, I am expressing my full support for the intervening officers. I know you did the right thing and I stand by you!" he was reported as saying 

 

Amnesty International calls on the Czech authorities to immediately, impartially and thoroughly investigate the police intervention after which a Romani man died

Romea.cz/en reported on 24th June that according to the available video footage of an arrest published by news server Romea.cz, three police officers had used force against a Romani man in Teplice on 19 June 2021 during that arrest. It was said that the video footage shows the man lying on the ground while police restrain him.

It was further reported that one of the officers had knelt on the man's neck throughout the intervention, which according to the footage had lasted at least five minutes. It was said that the officer continues to kneel on the man's neck even after he is handcuffed and no longer resisting. 

It was noted that Amnesty International (AI) was of the opinion that the technique of applying pressure to the neck used by the police during this arrest had been disproportionate, reckless, unnecessary and therefore illegal. AI was said to be calling on the Czech authorities to ban the use of such techniques as a means of intervention because they fatally restrict breathing.

It was also noted that AI considered the police intervention captured in this video footage to be brutal and unlawful - applying pressure to the neck restricts breathing and poses significant danger to human life and is all the more serious when used for several minutes at a time. AI was also said to be reminding the Czech authorities that according to international law and human rights norms, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the force used by police must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. 

It was noted that those principles were legally binding on the Czech Republic. In domestic legislation, Act No. 273/2008 Coll. on the Police of the Czech Republic regulates the obligations of active-duty police officers.

It was argued that that law does not allow police to interfere with the rights of others beyond what is necessary to achieve the aim they are pursuing, which must be legitimate. The use of force is permitted only if it is necessary and proportionate. 

 

 

Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner calls for investigation of police intervention against Romani man who later died to be made a priority

 

On 24th June Romea.cz/en reported that Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková had called for an objective investigation into the circumstances of the death of a Romani man on Saturday in Teplice to be made a priority. It was noted that she he had issued her statement the previous day to the Czech News Agency.    

Stanislav Tomáš, a 46-year-old Romani community member, was reported to have had an engagement with police, after which they said he had died in the ambulance called to the scene. It was noted that the preliminary results of the autopsy were said by police to have ruled out any association between his death and their intervention, and the police said the cause of death was apparently a drug overdose. 

Ity was noted that the proportionality of the intervention was being investigated by the police Internal Affairs Department and will also be investigated by the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, Monika Šimůnková. IT was also noted that the Czech Goverment Human Rights Commissioner had now said the public needs to get objective, substantiated information about the causes, course and consequences of this unfortunate event, which is disturbing to both the Romani minority and the general public, as soon as possible.  

 

Jaroslav Miko on the death of a Romani man after a police intervention: It is legitimate to demand the entire incident be investigated

 

Romea/cz/en contained this commentray by Jaroslav Miko on 24th June:

During the recent incident in Teplice a young person died. Let's set aside, for the moment, the intervention by the police, or whether it was adequate given the situation and the state of health of the detainee, or whether different methods could have been used to arrest this suspect, or whether the intervention did or did not have a direct influence on his demise.

The people whose competencies and expertise allow them to assess those questions objectively should do so. Speaking for myself, I would just like to say that calling for the investigation of this entire incident is an absolutely legitimate demand. 

What is predominating on social media, however, once again, are cheap judgments that the person involved was "just a drug addict", or even that he was "a mere Rom", so what is there to be addressed? People generally like to make such cheap judgments about others. 

Most probably these people have the feeling that they themselves are superior when they make such judgments. We don't know why this person used drugs, what his childhood was like, what his intellect was like, what his living conditions were like. 

By saying this I am not defending the use of narcotics, I am just trying to say that people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are more in need of our help than our judgment. This person decidedly did not deserve to die and at a minimum, if anybody still has any basic empathy for the relatives of the deceased or respect for human life in general, then they should refrain from such cheap public judgments - and if they are high-level politicians, that applies even more.

The fact that the person involved was Romani should never have been and cannot be a reason to make light of his death. I know we do not live in an ideal world and it's not possible to prevent such unfair attitudes, but I feel the need to publicly state my views on this.

 

According to the Czech Inspector-General of the Security Forces, officers did not commit a crime when kneeling on neck of man who later died, more video footage has been posted online

Romea.cz/en reported on 24th June that the Czech Inspector-General of the Security Forces (Generální inspekce bezpečnostních sborů - GIBS) did not at that time see the behavior of the police officers who intervened against Romani community member Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice on Saturday as rising to the level of a crime. It was said that the officers had used force against the 46-year-old and handcuffed him while he was prone on the ground, immobilizing him by kneeling on his neck, among other things.  

It was further reporetd that Mr Tomáš had died after the police intervention and according to the preliminary results of an autopsy, police say he died of a drug overdose.   

It was noted that the arrest had been preceded by disorderly contact for which the police had been called to the scene. They had found Mr Tomáš already lying on the ground, and when police approached him, they said he had responded by biting and scratching them. 

It was noted that the officers had used force to restrain and handcuff Mr Tomáš while he was prone on the ground and the restraint involved kneeling on him.

 

Czech Police briefing: It is still unclear where Romani detainee collapsed, police have no other video footage other than what has already been published

Romea,cz.en reported on 24th June that even after thjat day's extraordinary press briefing by the Czech Police it was still unclear where exactly Romani community member Stanislav Tomáš had collapsed after the previous Saturday's intervention against him by police officers. It was noted that according to police, after their intervention Mr Tomáš had been placed on a stretcher, carried into an ambulance, and the emergency responders had begun resuscitating him.

It was noted that the director of the Ústecký Regional Police Directorate, Jaromír Kníže, had failed to specify where the man had collapsed, even after being repeatedly questioned by journalists. It was said that from the beginning the police had claimed that Mr Tomáš had not collapsed until he was inside the ambulance.  

Moreover, it was argued that compared to previous police claims that Mr Tomáš had died in the ambulance, police were now claiming that he had not died until he was in the hospital. It was reported that they had also concentrated on explaining the methods of restraint used during the arrest. 

It was noted that according to police, the methods used by the patrol during their intervention corresponded to the intensity of what they called the attack. They also said the autopsy did not find any signs of injury to organs or choking, but did find that the man had methamphetamine in his body.  

It was reported that the officers had reiterated their conclusion that the death of Mr Tomáš was unrelated to the intervention by police. Deputy Regional Police Director Zbyněk Dvořák was reported as saying that the grips and holds police used were categorized as among the milder methods available.    

 

ROMEA TV's "TRIN" program: The late Mr Tomáš's family has a lawyer, officials have not contributed to calming a tense situation

On 25th June, Romea.cz/en reported that ROMEA TV's "TRIN" program would review the case that had been moving the Czech media, online social networks, and the public in general since the previous Saturday afternoon; the Czech Police intervention against Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice will be the topic.  

It was noted that Mr Tomáš was no longer alive and that the Czech Police had at first claimed that he died in an ambulance called to the scene, but then said at the previous day's press conference that he had died in the hospital. 

It was noted that police had been rejecting the idea that the intervening officers' techniques could have had anything whatsoever to do with the death. Instead it was reported that they attributed it to the influence of drugs. 

It was also reported that the Czech Interior Minister, Police President, Prime Minister and others have expressed support for the intervening officers, while Mr Tomáš's family, many activists and organizations, including international ones and the Council of Europe, were calling for a re-investigation of the case.

 

ROMEA TV WILL BROADCAST LIVE 14:00 CET: Memorial gathering for Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice, Czech Republic

On 26th June, Romea.cz/en reported that at 14:00 CET that day a memorial gathering for Stanislav Tomáš would be held on Dubská Street in Teplice, Czech Republic. Mr Tomáš had passed away a week ago on 19 June after police intervened against him.  

Prior to 13:00 CET, it ws reported that police patrols had already been deployed to the streets surrounding the scene of the gathering.

"There will be a parson on the scene to lead a prayer for the tragically deceased Stanislav Tomáš. The aim of this event is to support the bereaved and to express our sorrow together. The event will be strictly nonviolent and peaceful. We are asking those attending to dress in a dignified way," the Konexe association, which is organizing the memorial gathering and is in close contact with the bereaved family, had posted to Facebook

 

Memorial gathering at the site of Stanislav Tomáš's encounter with Czech Police turns into protest march stopped by riot units at police station

On 26th June Romea.cz/en reported that on that day at 14.00 in Teplice, Czech Republic, a memorial gathering for Stanislav Tomáš, who had died a week earlier on 19 June after police intervened against him, had been attentded by hundreds of people and  had grown into a protest. It was noited that speeches had been made at the gathering demanding a proper investigation of the intervention preceding the death of Mr Tomáš.

Romea.cz/en then reported what happened as follows:

At about 15:45 the assembly officially ended, but the crowd then set off on a march through Teplice that was brought to a stop by police riot units. During the memorial gathering, speakers stated loudly that they view the intervention by police against Mr Tomáš has having been wrong.

Different speakers took turns at a megaphone, including a clergyman who led prayers for the deceased. The gathering then grew into a protest and organizers from the Konexe association were no longer in control of what those who had assembled decided to do.

The crowd set off on a march through the town. The destination of the marchers was the closest police station, where they were planning to light candles as well.

Riot units stopped them near the police station on Husitská Street. The slogans "Stop racism", "Police murderers", "We want to know the truth" and others were chanted.

At 16:08 the crowd turned around and headed back in the direction they had come from. A heavy rainfall began at about that same time.

The rain apparently prevented things from escalating. According to Czech Police spokesperson Daniel Vítek, the demonstrators obeyed a police instruction to disperse.”

 

Slovak Government apologizes to Romani community for brutal police raid in 2013

On 27th June, Romea.cz/en reported that the Government of Slovakia had apologized for a police raid on a Romani community in the east of the country in 2013 and for the subsequent prosecution of those residents who reported the raid for allegedly making false statements; it was noted that most of those prosecuted had since been acquitted. NGOs also warned that the police raid on Moldava nad Bodvou in June 2013 had been too intense. 

It was also reported that according to civil rights activists, several dozen special riot units had driven into the settlement and began conducting house searches using unnecessary force. It was noted that the Inspectorate of the Interior Ministry had found the officers had done nothing wrong and the Constitutional Court had also rejected a complaint about the raid. 

It was further reporetd that six Romani people who had alleged officers had beaten them during the raid had then been charged with making false statements and some were found guilty of that charge and sentenced, after which they had appealed. The turning point was said to have been a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights that found the Romani people's rights had been violated. 

It was noted that the prosecutor had subsequently withdrawn the charges against five of those who had been charged with making false statements and the court acquitted them in accordance with the law. The Slovak Justice Ministry was said to have commented on the Government's decision to apologize as follows: "The Government perceives this apology to be not just a humane gesture to the victims who have been harmed, but also as a commitment by the state to avoid such failures in the future and as a signal that law enforcement has a sincere interest in earning the trust of civil society."   

It was also noted that ministers had previously met to discuss a draft of the apology for the police raid but had not come to a decision right away. They had ultimately adopted a version that did not include a particular formulation about the justice system and the state having committed wrongdoing.

 

Czech President believes police on death of Stanislav Tomáš, has no reason to doubt the conclusions of the investigation into their actions

 

On 28th June Romea.cz/en reported that Czech President Miloš Zeman had said he had no reason to doubt the findings of the internal investigation into the intervention by police against Stanislav Tomáš in Teplice, who died thereafter, and that the Council of Europe, which had called for a thorough investigation of the incident, should concern itself with something else. It was further reported that he had made the comments during a particular program on the CNN Prima News channel (Partie Terezie Tománkové). 

It was noted that police were insisting the death of Mr Tomáš had been unrelated to their intervention. However, it was also noted that more and more questions wre being raised about the case. 

It was said that for example, despite the fact that police had reported from the beginning that Mr Tomáš had not collapsed until he was already in the ambulance called to the scene, during a press conference on Thursday Jaromír Kníže, head of the Ústecký Regional Police Directorate, had said in response to a direct question that he was unable to say when it had been that Mr Tomáš had lost consciousness. It was noted that eyewitnesses who had filmed the intervention using their mobile phones had also been alleging that police had later forced them to delete the footage. 

It was reported that the police had called those allegations absurd and had also said they had no video footage of the intervention other than the bystander videos that had already been published by the media. "I have familiarized myself with the opinion of the police investigation and as a person who trusts the police I have no reason whatsoever to doubt the findings of that investigation," the Czech President was reported as saying to CNN Prima News. 

 

 

ERGO Network and other Roma, pro-Roma and antiracist CSOs call for the independent investigation of the death of Stanislav Tomáš

 

On 29th June Romea.cz/en reported that the European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network and other Roma, pro-Roma and antiracist civil society organizations were calling for an independent, thorough investigation of the death of the Romani man Stanislav Tomáš of Teplice, Czech Republic, who had died shortly after police intervened against him. News server Romea.cz reported that it was publishing their statement in full here: 

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.

We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him to immobilise him.

We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.

The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape are totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.

It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.

Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, are there to serve and protect, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved. In this particular case, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate.

We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the situation, so that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.

We are also calling attention to the need to protect the privacy and safety of eyewitnesses, including shielding them against potential threats from non-state actors and police, if they are willing to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings.

It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.

We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.

We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.

We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally-recommended police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.

As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Signatories

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Brussels

European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels

European Network against Racism, Brussels

Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels

ILGA-Europe, Brussels

AGE Platform Europe, Brussels

Romanonet network, Czech Republic

ROMEA association, Czech Republic

Life Together, Czech Republic

Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic

 

Czech capital to see demonstration for Stanislav Tomáš today expressing disagreement with police intervention and support for local community

On Wednesday 30 June Romea.cz/en reported that at 18:00 on Palacké náměstí in Prague, Czech Republic there would be a demonstration for Stanislav Tomáš, who had died on 19 June after an intervention by police in Teplice. The organisers of the event, which was called "Roma Lives Matter" and was being held by the Anarchist Federation were reported as saying;  "The Police of the Czech Republic, supported by the Interior Ministry, are refusing to take any responsibility for his death. The question is not whether Stanislav was sober, but whether it is acceptable to kneel on a person's neck for more than five minutes. We say that it is not. Discrimination against Romani people by the police is constant and we consider this scandal to be the tip of the iceberg".   

It was noted that at the gathering, demonstrators planned to express their support for the community in Teplice and their disagreement with the intervention by police and the subsequent reactions of public officials. The organisers were also reported as saying: "the authorities, without any independent investigation of this intervention, have not hesitated to adopt a stance that supports police brutality and limits attention to the victim's criminal record and drug use".

 

European capitals see unprecedented wave of solidarity with Czech Roma and protests over the death of Stanislav Tomáš

On 30th June Romea.cz/en reported that the case of Stanislav Tomáš, who had died on Saturday, 19 June after an intervention by police against him in Teplice, Czech Republic, had also sparked a response abroad. Protest gatherings have been held in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Romania and Spain. 

It was noted that as many as 400 people had assembled the previous day in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, in front of the Czech Embassy, with some of those protesting wearing t-shirts reading "Racism Kills". 

It was said that one of the protesters' demands was the independent investigation of this death. "One of our own [...] was brutally killed by police," Banu Ionut Alin of the Aresel NGO was reported as saying. 

"This is the evidence that brutality against Romani people exists. The reason we have taken to the streets today is that institutionalized racism is more and more present," Alin was also noted as saying.

"There is a growing trend of an extremist approach toward the Romani community. We are many, we are strong, and we will resist everything we have to resist in order to respond to institutional racism," Alin was reported as saying in Bucharest the previous day.

It was further reported that on Friday, 25 June a protest against racism had been held in Berlin, the capital of Germany, in front of the Czech Embassy by the Roma Trial organization. That event was said to have been supported by antiracist and Romani NGOs and was also attended by Benjamin Ignác of the Open Society Foundations, who defends the rights of Romani people and is a political analyst.

It was also noted that on Saturday 26 June a protest against discrimination and racism against Romani people had been held in Dublin, the capital of Ireland. and another such assemblyhad been held in Madrid, the capital of Spain. It was also reported that on Sunday 27 June the Association of Romani Students (HÖR - Hochschüler innenschaft Österreichischer Roma und Romnja) had organized an assembly in Vienna, the capital of Austria, together with other organizations.

It was said that those present had lit candles at the end of the event in front of the memorial to Marcus Omofuma, an asylum-seeker from Nigeria who died during his deportation from Austria as a consequence of police brutality and whose death has become a symbol of that country's antiracist movement.  It was reported thsat the European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network had also joined a protest in front of the European Parliament called "Against Police Brutality in Europe" that was organized by the office of Romeo Franz, a Romani MEP from Germany, with the participation of Petr Pollák, a Romani MEP from Slovakia. 

 

Family of the late Stanislav Tomáš files crime report against the Czech Police through their attorney

On 30th June, Romea.cz/en reported that the family of Stanislav Tomáš, who died on Saturday, 19 June after being arrested, had filed a criminal report against the Czech Police with legal aid from the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), and with the support of human rights defenders in the Czech Republic, the ERRC would take all possible legal steps available at both the domestic and the European level to get justice for the family. It was noted that Maroš Matiaško, the attorney who had been provided to the family by nonprofit organizations from the Czech Republic in collaboration with the ERRC, was also taking other legal steps in the case. 

It was noted that Matiaško had earned his Master's from the Law Faculty in Olomouc, Czech Republic and his LL.M. from the postgraduate human rights law program in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He had then earned his JUDr. degree in Prague, Czech Republic. 

Czech Govt Roma Council adopts resolution calling for investigation of the Teplice case and for the public to be informed

On 30th June Romea.cz/en reported that the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs had called on the Czech Police, the General Inspectorate of the Security Forces (Generální inspekci bezpečnostních sborů - GIBS), and the Public Defender of Rights to do everything within their powers to investigate the case of Teplice, concentrating on the intervention by police and the circumstances of the death of the Romani man against whom they intervened. It was further reporetd that the Council was also calling for the publication of information about the course of the investigation. 

It was noted that the resolution adopted on 30th June had been made available to the Czech News Agency (ČTK). The case of the Romani man who died after the intervention by police was said to have sparked a sharp reaction from Romani organizations abroad as well as protests both abroad and in the Czech Republic

Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC, June 2021

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