Follow-up to Response to Information Request CZE27588.E of 31 July 1997 on the current treatment of Roma by state authorities and the general population and on the availability of state protection [CZE27603.E]

The information that follows was provided by electronic mail from a Prague-based researcher with the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). The ERRC is an autonomous international non-governmental organization and "its purpose is to advocate for the transnational, geographically diverse Romani community and be a legal resource for Romani rights" (ERRC nd). For more information on the ERRC, please see the attachment.

Situation of Roma in the Czech Republic -- Developments in the first half of 1997.

The Roma in the Czech Republic continue to be subjected to widespread racially-motivated violence, inflicted often, but by no means always, by organised racist groups. There is also an ongoing pattern of racist and inflammatory media coverage of the so-called 'Romani problem', and Roma continue to experience discrimination in housing, education, access to benefits, service in restaurants and pubs, and other areas of public life. A number of important criminal cases involving violence against Roma have been brought to trial this year, and have led to convictions for racist attackers, but the sentences remain excessively light.

It is to be feared that the recent devastating floods in Moravia and East Bohemia will lead to scape-goating of the large Romani populations in those areas, collective violence against alleged looters, and discriminatory treatment of Roma in allocation of aid. Domestic political will to deal with any of these problems and abuses is muted by the fact that populist anti-Roma discourse, used to some extent by all political parties, and increasingly within the ruling coalition itself, seems guaranteed to win public support. Meanwhile, criticism from outside is received with impatience and bafflement.

A couple of specific and representative examples in skeleton (more information available about any of them):

An accidentally-started fire in a high rise in Kosmonosy led to more than twenty families, all Romani, being made homeless. The local authorities originally tried to find new accommodation for the families, but when this attempt ran into financial difficulties, suddenly labelled them 'problem families', and none of them have so far been housed.

A fight between Roma and non-Roma in Domazlice, in which both sides resorted to racist insults, resulted in convictions only for the Roma. Among other things, the Roma were found guilty of defamation of nation, race and belief, while the non-Roma were not.

In a conflict between a skinhead and a Romani man in a station in East Bohemia, only the Rom has been charged (and his charges include defamation of race, nation and belief), despite the fact that he suffered a serious knife injury.

The laws against defamation, which are quoted by the Czech government as evidence of its seriousness in fighting racism, were brought into further disrepute when a judge in East Bohemia brought a not guilty verdict against a group of non-Roma who forced several Roma off a train, saying it was for whites only: his justification was that there could be no racism against Roma because Roma and ethnic Czechs both belong to the Indo-European race.

A group of eight skinheads were found guilty of brutal attacks on three young Romani girls in Karviná. However, their attacks were not seen to be racially motivated, despite the boys' allegiance to openly racist movements, and despite the fact that the skinheads uttered racist insults and threats before the attack; the reasoning was that the skinheads had kept their mouths shut during the attack, and it could therefore not be shown that they were acting for racist reasons.

Four skinheads were found guilty of violence against a group or individual, disorderly conduct, and coercion for the attack on Tibor Danihel in Písek in September 1993. The maximum sentence was 31 months (and even that included time carried over from previous suspended sentences); neither the sentences, nor the charges, reflect in any way the fact that the organised violence of the group resulted in Tibor Danihel's death by drowning, after he was forced into the river and prevented from getting out. The case, which has now gone through first- and second-instance courts twice, is now to be the subject of complaints to the constitutional court.

In May, a group of about twenty to thirty people attacked Roma and their houses in Klatovy, near the Austrian border. One man was hospitalised, and the crowd threatened to roast the Roma's children. The Romani families involved are relatives of Emil Bendík, the man killed during three days of racist violence in 1991; one of the attackers this May was the man found guilty of damage to health leading to death in the Bendík case. Despite the fact that the prosecutor accepts the Roma's version of the recent events, including the presence of 20 - 30 attackers, only one person has been charged and the police do not expect to charge anyone else.

The Mayor of Prague 4, and a Senator for the ruling ODS, published an article in July in the local paper complaining that the Prague district of Nusle pays the price for the communist policy of 'solving the Romani problem by assimilation', and expressing hopes that owners of buildings in the area will take inspiration from the fact that one owner has managed to "move his large problematic families not only outside Nusle but outside Prague." This kind of segregation policy had already been discussed at a private meeting of Kladno district ODS at the end of last year. Prague prosecutors do not consider Klausner's article to constitute incitement to racial hatred.

Finally, Písek, famous for the death of Tibor Danihel, has continued to be the site of racist attacks and of police abuse of Roma. A few examples below:

The four following cases were documented by the 'Czech Government Council for Nationality's Ad Hoc Working Group for Romani Nationality Affairs. It published its findings after the presentation of its report by the Council of Nationalities on 28-29 April. It requested the President of the Council for Nationalities, Minister Bratinka, to approach the Minister of the Interior with the request that its inspectorate investigate the cases.

Autumn 1993, Písek.

AB, returning home after 10 o'clock in the evening, was picked up without reason by the police, who drove her into the woods. There the police left her with the words, "What does it feel like to shoot a darkie?" Similar practices, as is well known, were used by the police before November 1989 and are, in the opinion of the working group, unexceptional even today. A member of the working group, Václav Trojan, came across a description of a similar case in Chanov nr. Most in 1992.

April 20, 1996. Písek.

CD was going home at about 7 o'clock in the evening and, near to his house, a police car stopped by him. Four police officers jumped out and, without apparent cause, forced him to lean his forehead against the wall of the house. He was then forced to lie on the floor in the back of the car and was taken to the police station. At that time, 8 skinheads were being held there. After about an hour, and when he asked why he was not being allowed to go home, the police beat him. He was only released at about midnight.

23 April 1996, Písek

EF was viciously beaten up by the police in a park near the Na Zvikovû pub. At about 19.00 a group of Roma were hanging about in the park when a patrol of five police arrived. They had been called to restore order in the pub. The Roma present had nothing to do with the events in the pub, but despite this the police jumped out of their vehicle saying, "So you're still not giving us any peace!" [This was taken as a reference to a conflict between Roma from Písek and a group of skinheads in a Písek rock club a few days before, 19. 4. 1996.] The police began without apparent reason to beat GH, brother of EF, and then they put him in handcuffs. To the verbal protestations of the Roma the police reacted with insults: "Shut your gobs!" EF was conscious that he was under suspended sentence, and that he must therefore do and say nothing. When, however, after the others present protested there was a risk that the mother of EF and GH would also be attacked, EF began to ask for the reasons of the interference and for the identification numbers of the police. Instead the police dragged EF to the park, where they made him lie face down on the lawn and beat him viciously with truncheons (including his head). Then, with the words, "Get up you lazy whore!" they forced him to stand, put him in handcuffs, hit him again across the shoulders with truncheons, and he was then taken to the police station. The doctor's certificate which he asked for was taken from him (he himself found a doctor the next day and received a medical certificate of his condition, being declared incapable of work for several days). He was subsequently accused of, and later charged with, the crime of attacking a public official, because he allegedly caused a sprained finger on the hand of one of the policemen.

7 Jan 1997, Písek

10-year-old IJ went out in the afternoon to skate with his friends on the river. When he had not returned by 17.30, as agreed, his father KL went to look for him. Romani parents are constantly afraid for their children, who are often the subject of attacks. The father discovered from other children that the police had picked up his son at about 17.00 and taken him to the police station. The police were investigating thefts from nearby stalls and brought in the boy without summoning his parents, and asked for information from him. They drew up a transcribed statement with him, which they did not give to his parents to look over. They physically attacked the boy, and released him after 20:00. They later explained their procedure to the father by saying that the police law allows them to hold even under-age people until 22.00.

Article twelve of the current police law sets out the giving of evidence ('vysvûtlení') during investigation of crimes or misdemeanours, or investigation of searched-for or missing persons or things, does not set out the age of the individual from whom the police have a right to request explanation, nor does it say anything about the time of day or night when it is possible to make a statement. The request that an individual come to a police station immediately can be given by a policeman only if he is investigating a serious crime, which robbery of stalls is not.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Budapest. 31 July 1997. E-mail sent to the DIRB.

_____. nd. "About the ERRC." [Internet] [Accessed 1 Aug. 1997]


European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Budapest. nd. "About the ERRC." [Internet] [Accessed 1 Aug. 1997]

In a 29 July 1997 telephone interview, a representative of the Czech Embassy in Ottawa stated that Czech identity documents, including identity cards and passports, do not show the ethnicity of the bearer.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Embassy of the Czech Republic, Ottawa. 29 July 1997. Telephone interview with attaché.