The Czech Republic has been accused by a number of non-governmental human rights watchdogs and education groups of taking no steps to stop discrimination against Romany children in schools, in spite of a landmark European decision that discrimination was built into the country’s education system. They say promises to take action have gone unfulfilled and they are now threatening to bring the country to book again.
A summit of the Visegrad Group presidents in the West Bohemian town of Karlovy Vary ended on Saturday. The four presidents pledged to jointly support issues promoted by the Hungarian and Polish EU presidencies next year. Primary among those issues will be energy security, namely the integration of transit systems and decreasing dependence on a single source of energy. Czech President Václav Klaus said the summit met expectations and that the participants agreed on the continuing importance of the V4 group, which consists of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The summit was the first opportunity for Mr Klaus and Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič to meet with the newly elected presidents of Hungary and Poland, Pal Schmitt and Bronislaw Komorowski.
Speaking at the summit, Slovak President Gašparovič said that Roma issues were particularly thorny for his country and the Czech Republic, which are frequent targets of criticism over their Roma communities. Mr Gašparovič said that the individual countries were unable to resolve the problems on their own in the short term, and that they should be discussed further at the level of the European Union. Mr Klaus remarked that he understood why Mr Gašparovič would want to bring Roma issues to the European level, saying that the mass exodus of Roma to France would not have happened had it not been for the Schengen Agreement on open borders.
The national intelligence agency, BIS, says that efforts to curb right-wing extremism in the Czech Republic have borne fruit. The agency’s quarterly report on extremism, released this week, shows that the domestic neo-fascist movement is in disarray thanks to several years of heavy crackdowns by the police and the state. Christian Falvey has this report.
The intelligence agency BIS says that right-wing extremism in the Czech Republic is losing ground. The agency’s third quarter report on the issue says that the loss of political platforms, namely the outlawed Workers’ Party, and concern over repression has made the community passive, disoriented and reluctant even to hold concerts. The report specifies that neo-Nazi groups are confining their gatherings more to private meetings and travelling to Poland and Hungary for larger events that would draw more attention from the police and the media in the Czech Republic. The prohibition on the far-right Workers’ Party earlier this year has had a large impact on the community, according to BIS.
A top lawyer with a Czech organisation for helping refugees has contrasted the fast-track treatment given to a Cuban political prisoner and other asylum seekers in the Czech Republic. Eva Holá, a lawyer with the non-profit charity the Organisation for Aid to Refugees, said many refugees who had suffered imprisonment and torture from countries such as Syria, the Congo, and Iran had to wait for a year for their asylum applications to be processed. In one case one applicant from Iraq is still waiting after three years. Cuban political dissident Rolando Jiminez Posada was given immediate asylum and greeted by the Minister of Interior Radek John when he arrived with his family in Prague this week. OAR’s Holá said the long waits for an asylum decision continued in spite of applications falling by a third between 2007 and 2009.
A regional court in Písek on Thursday gave the author of a book calling for Roma, or gypsies, to be deported to India a 14 month jail sentence suspended for two years. Jiří Gaudin, the author of the book “The Final Solution to the Gypsy Problem” was found guilty of inciting hatred of a group of citizens and curtailing their rights and liberty. Gaudin was last year a member of the far right National Party.
Police have been monitoring a demonstration by right-wing extremists in Prague 1. A police spokeswoman said that around 100 members or sympathizers of Narodní odpor had gathered to protest “political trials”. The event has been scheduled to last until seven in the evening; the police have not registered any disturbances but made clear they are ready to step in if need be.
Four Czech neo-Nazis on Wednesday received prison terms of 22 and 20 years for attempted murder after a shocking petrol bomb attack on a Romany family’s home last year. The unusual length of the sentences has provoked some debate in the Czech Republic; the country’s president has expressed surprise that the punishment is so severe, while others have welcomed the verdict.
The Vítkov arson trial came to an end on Wednesday with the conviction of all four defendants, who received extra-ordinary sentences. The Regional Court of Ostrava on Wednesday morning sent three of the culprits to 22 years in prison for racially motivated attempted murder. The remaining perpetrator received 20 years because he did not assist in planning the attack. The four neo-Nazis were found guilty of throwing Molotov cocktails into a house they knew was inhabited by a Romany family on April 19, 2009, likely to mark the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. Of the nine people in the house, three were injured in the attack, including a two-year-old child, Natálka, who suffered burns to 80% of her body. The girl’s mother was present at the sentencing and said she had not expected such high punishments, and was glad the case was over. The perpetrators must also pay more than 17 million crowns in compensation for damages, 9.5 million of which will go to the injured child. Lawyers for each of the defendants said they would appeal.