Major Mike Stannett is the national leader of the Salvation Army, or Armáda spásy, in the Czech Republic. He and his wife Ruth first came to the country in 1991 and, apart from a brief stint in Moscow, have been here ever since. Right now the Salvation Army is particularly busy, working to help the homeless through a freezing snap, and at its headquarters in Prague 13 Mike Stannett discussed just how the organisation has been coping with the situation. But I first asked him what had led him and his wife to move here in the early ‘90s.
The Supreme Administrative Court has postponed indefinitely a ruling on
the abolition of the extreme-right Workers’ Party. Judge Vojtěch
Šimíček said on Thursday that the case was adjourned and a verdict might
be passed in February. The announcement came after four days of hearings in
the course of which party leader Tomáš Vandas openly admitted the
party’s connections to the right-wing National Democratic Party of
Germany. The case for the dissolution of the Workers’ Party, was filed by
the Czech Interior Ministry which claims that the party’s activities and
statutes are in violation of Czech law.
The government’s prosecuting attorney Tomáš Sokol showed the court snapshots of extremist gatherings where members of the Workers’ Party are seen doing the Nazi salute or are seen in the company of leading German neo-Nazis. He said the party had become increasingly violent and that its main aim was to spread racist and xenophobic views in the Czech Republic. Party leader Tomáš Vandas described the court hearings as a political process.
On the third day of hearings against the extreme-right Workers’ Party, chairman Tomáš Vandas told the Supreme Administrative Court he sees nothing wrong with the party’s connections to the right-wing National Democratic Party of Germany. The government, which is currently filing for the dissolution of the Workers’ Party, made the case on Wednesday that the party’s ties to their German counterparts and other, much more radical German extremist associations is evidence of their obstruction of democratic values. Mr Vandas maintains that his party does not espouse neo-Nazism or other fascist ideologies; on Tuesday however he also refused to distance himself from comments made by a speaker at a party event referring to Zionist conspiracy and praising the government of Adolf Hitler. Should the court rule in the government’s favour, the Wokers’ Party would be the first political organisation in the Czech Republic to be banned for the obstruction of democracy.
Meanwhile, the organised crime department of the Czech Police is carrying out another series of raids against right-wing extremists in various parts of the country. According to the website tyden.cz, a number of people have been arrested in Prague and Brno. The police have declined to comment until the operation is complete. In the last extensive operation, in October of last year, a nationwide series of house searches resulted in the arrest of 24 individuals, 18 of whom were subsequently charged with subversion of human rights.
Romany children in the Czech Republic still face unequal access to education, says Amnesty International in a report which has just been released. Two years after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that placing Romany children in “special schools” was unlawful discrimination, Amnesty International went back to Ostrava where the court case was originally filed to see what had changed. While the Czech government has taken certain anti-discriminatory measures, the practice remains more or less the same, says Fotis Filippou, one of the authors
On the agenda of the Supreme Administrative Court on Monday is a much-discussed case that has been long in the making: a governmental proposal to dissolve the far-right Workers’ Party. Different governments have asserted that the party is a political wing of the neo-Nazi movement, however a previous attempt to ban the party outright in early 2009 was dismissed for lack of evidence. This time around the Ministry of the Interior is sparing no punches.
On Thursday, the High Court in Prague awarded compensation to two women, one of them a Romany sterilized without her knowledge in 2003, the other a non-Romany whose fallopian tubes were removed without her consent in 2006. The ruling confirmed a previous verdict – the first of its kind – and raised the amount originally awarded. Gwendolyn Albert, a human rights activist and expert on the issue, discusses the verdict.
As of this year, Czech teachers and ministry officials should only use politically correct language. The Ministry of Education has sent out a language guide to all of the Czech Republic’s schools and ministries, giving advice on how to avoid sexist language and how to speak correctly in terms of gender. I spoke to Pavla Paclíková, one of the authors of the guide, who says Czech is still full of politically incorrect language.
The former leader of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke is planning another visit to the Czech Republic. On his last visit in April of this year, Mr. Duke was arrested and deported just a few hours after his arrival. The police charged the white supremacist with propagating the suppression of human rights. He had been invited to hold a public speech in Prague by Filip Vávra, a member of the National Resistance group, who is also behind the latest invitation. Mr. Duke is set to arrive in the Czech Republic in late January. The precise date has not been made public. Mr. Vávra told journalists that the reason Mr. Duke wanted to return to the Czech Republic was to get a satisfactory explanation from the Czech state regarding his arrest and deportation, which he says was not based on evidence. Police have announced that once Mr. Duke arrives, they will be monitoring him closely.
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