Commentary: Martin Konvička, the crime of preparing apartheid and the segregation of Romani children
It occurred to one journalist to ask a police spokesperson whether the Police of the Czech Republic are undertaking an investigation or a proceedings concerning incitement to hatred of religion in connection with the group called "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic". Its representative, Martin Konvička, was seconded on Tuesday, 17 November, by the President of the Republic, Miloš Zeman - alongside representatives of the ultra-right "Dawn" (Úsvit) and the Citizens' Rights Party (SPO) - at a demonstration at Albertov in Prague.
The journalist's interest prompted Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán to tweet the following that same day: "Whoever publicly incites hatred of religion will be punished by deprivation of liberty for up to two years."
Minister Pelikán against incitement to hatred
Minister Pelikán has just briefly cited the provisions applicable under Section 356 of the Penal Code. That describes the same punishment not just for incitement to hatred of a religion, but also of a nation, race, ethnic group, (social) class or even of another, i.e., any other, group of people.
This is stricter for criminal incitement to hatred committed, for example, through the Internet, or radio, or television, and also for the activity of a group that espouses discrimination, violence, or ethnic or religious hatred. Here the upper limit of the punishment is three years' deprivation of liberty.
"Ethnic group" made it into this list of protected categories in order to provide protection against hate attacks on Romani people. This is because in the mid-1990s the Hradec Králové District Court acquitted a juvenile defendant who had verbally and also somewhat physically forced several Romani children to disembark from a train while he made hateful, anti-Gypsyist remarks.
The court did not find the perpetrator guilty. The reasoning was that Romani people are not a nation and are of the same Indo-European race as Czechs.
The anti-Gypsyist judge used the fact that in the Czech Republic, just as elsewhere on the European continent (i.e., unlike in the USA) neither the law nor jurisprudence outlines what a nation is (ethnic? political?) or what a race is, and therefore did not provide protection against attacks on the members of such groups. The anti-Gypsyist state prosecutor did not appeal his absurd verdict of acquittal.
Czech legislators resolved this just a few years ago by regulating the protection of persons who belong to a nation or race, whether actually or only allegedly or seemingly. My father, who was raised with French political culture, always asserted that we recognize races for dogs but not for human beings.
Robert Pelikán then added to his tweet, telling news server iDNES.cz that he had meant "especially movements that merit this in their very names", i.e., evidently "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic". If the police do not respond, the movement will continue to disseminate hatred of Islam.
The supporters of the Bloc against Islam are calling for the absolute removal of Muslims from the Czech Republic and are taking a stand against receiving refugees. At several events this year focused against Islam, the adherents of neo-Nazi or other ultra-right organizations have made appearances.
It seems that the President of the Republic, Miloš Zeman, has now positioned himself at the head of this growing movement. According to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, the President legitimized precisely such dissemination of hatred by attending the event at Albertov.
Bohuslav Sobotka is a lawyer and has certainly also considered the fact that there is probably no difference between disseminating hatred and incitement to it. When the journalists asked Minister Pelikán whether he will lodge a criminal complaint against people from the "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" group for incitement to hatred, he reminded his interviewers of the principle of legality - the police and state prosecutor are obligated to prosecute all the crimes of which they learn.
He, Pelikán, can hardly add to the police officers' knowledge of this hate speech. After all, many police officers were personally present during it.
Preparing the crime of apartheid
Robert Pelikán, as a lawyer and a minister of a democratic state with the rule of law, is probably concerned that nobody cares that this legal prohibition contains the threat of punishment. Of course, it used to be even worse here.
During the old regime, until 1989, there did not exist any crime such as incitement of hatred toward a group of people. It was also not a crime to be active in a movement that aimed to suppress human rights and freedoms, and it was not a crime to establish one.
What was a crime was merely the promotion of such a movement (it was called fascism or any similar movement), because it was unthinkable that a citizen of a socialist state could commit something as disgusting as establishing a fascist movement or one like it, or perpetrate activity in one. It was similar with apartheid, which is today described by law as follows: "Whosoever applies apartheid or racial, ethnic , national, religious or class segregation or other similar discrimination to groups of people shall be punished by imprisonment of five to 12 years."
The Penal Code categorizes this crime as an especially serious felony. Its preparation, too, is similarly criminal.
That ban, after the emphatic insistence of the human rights bodies of the United Nations and the Council of Europe, did not emerge in the Czech Republic until the adoption of the new Penal Code, i.e., from 2010. Prior to that, from 1990, apartheid was only considered a crime during time of war.
I must now add to Minister Pelikán's remarks - Martin Konvička and the groups "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" and Bloc against Islam are apparently not just committing the offense of incitement to hatred, but also that of preparing for the especially serious crime of the preparation of apartheid and religious segregation. In conclusion, therefore, I must add: Yes, Muslims have replaced, to a significant degree, Romani people as the target of hatred here.
However, attacks against Roma in the criminal sense persist. Ethnic segregation falls under the crime of apartheid and in various forms (its preparation, attempt, or a completed offense) is being committed by educational workers, not just through special education, but by those who create or maintain segregated schools - or who, since today this is no longer possible due to strong international pressure, are at least creating segregated classes within schools.
(Intertitles added by the editors)
- Czech adviser to Education Minister: Segregation is unacceptable, unethical - and undefined in Czech law
- Forum 2000 opens with debate about segregation of Roma in the Czech schools
- Romani people in the Czech Republic complain to retailers of security guards stalking them when they shop
- Once persecuted, the Salesians have run programs unlike any others for Romani children for 30 years in third-largest Czech city
- Slovak court says school, not state, is responsible for segregating Romani children
- Milan Kotlár: Our Romani restaurant in Český Krumlov is closed, Czech state support will not rescue us
- Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights: I hope the law to compensate victims of forced sterilization will soon be adopted
- BBC reports Twitter makes it possible to target ads at members of hate groups or teens with eating disorders
- Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion publishes analysis of segregation in primary schools
- Czech court gives suspended sentences and fines to "Bloc against Islamicization" followers over death threats to random pedestrians
- Magdalena Karvayová on estimating the distribution of Roma in the schools: Data are important to desegregation
- Czech senior citizen threatens arson against Romani neighbors for playing loud music
- Czech court to try Islamophobes who attacked Muslim couple in a park last year
- Czech Public Defender of Rights recommends 10 measures to improve Romani integration into mainstream schools with non-Romani children