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September 17, 2019
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Complaint against racist election campaign in Czech town heads to the European Court of Human Rights

23.1.2019 10:52
Seated:  Peter Bažo, standing from left to right: Radek Šváb, František Nistor and Roman Šváb. On the right: Pavla Krejčí, attorney (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček and the personal archive of Pavla Krejčí, Collage: Romea.cz)
Seated: Peter Bažo, standing from left to right: Radek Šváb, František Nistor and Roman Šváb. On the right: Pavla Krejčí, attorney (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček and the personal archive of Pavla Krejčí, Collage: Romea.cz)

A complaint by four Romani residents of the Chanov housing estate about the hateful slogans used during last year's local elections in Most is now making its way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Pavla Krejčí, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, informed news server Romea.cz of the decision on 18 January.

Both the Czech Constitutional Court and the Regional Court have rejected the complaint, which sought to annul the results of the local elections, specifically by excluding all of the candidates who ran for the "Association of Most Residents for Most" (Sdružení Mostečané Mostu - SMM). This means domestic remedies have been exhausted and the case can be sent to Strasbourg.

Human rights violations

The complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, according to the attorney, will argue that the Czech state has broken its obligation to protect the rights formulated in the European Convention on Human Rights. These are, for example, the prohibition of torture (Article 3), the right to respect for one's family life and privacy (Article 8) and the right to an effective legal remedy (Article 13).

"What happened in Most in the run-up to the local elections is something I consider extremely serious. This is not just about displays of racism, but some of the elements involved can be considered typical of Nazi ideology. The case-law of the European Court for Human Rights unequivocally points to the fact that such behavior must be eliminated. States that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights must guarantee their citizens effective legal remedy for protecting the rights safeguarded by the Convention. The Constitutional Court recommended we file criminal reports in this matter, which naturally we did, but the police shelved all of our complaints. This indicates that it has been impossible to defend these rights in this case and that the legal code, especially the electoral laws, is absolutely deficient in this regard. Moreover, addressing the entire matter through a criminal complaint seems rather odd to me, given that what is protected by criminal law are absolutely different values than those protected by electoral law jurisprudence," Krejčí told news server Romea.cz.

From the attorney's perspective, the campaigns by the SMM and the "Open Town Hall - Most" (Otevřené radnice Most) groups violated basic principles of democracy and the rule of law, especially the principle of equality and the right to preservation of dignity. The election review includes, among other things, statements about the "forced fertilization" of the Roma, or statements about the possibility of making adjustments by "breeding" people at clinics.

During the campaign, references were made to "pests" or "riff-raff", and it was said that the problem with them did not just need to be addressed, but needed a "final solution". Commenting on the situation previously, the attorney said:  "I sincerely do not understand how anybody could not just articulate such things, but also smile while doing so, to say nothing of the fact that some of these things were printed on campaign fliers or used for campaign banners. This is actually no longer a situation of one candidate calling another candidate an idiot during the campaign and somebody asking the electoral court to intervene. I would like to think we probably can all sense the difference here?"

Poison and riff-raff

Four Romani residents of the Chanov housing estate in Most - Peter Bažo, František Nistor, Radek Šváb and Roman Šváb - specifically pointed out to the courts and police that the SMM's ten-point platform included a point called "We'll build a village for the riff-raff". The SMM also filled advertising spaces with  slogans such as  "Inadaptables don't just need to be addressed, they need the final solution" or "If you don't know how to behave, you can't live with us."

In the printed circular called the Krušnohor Bulletin (Zpravodaj), published by the Krušnohor Cooperative for Housing Construction, articles attacking Romani people were published at that same time. The "Open Town Hall - Most" party also disseminated campaign fliers using the slogan "Poison alone is not enough for these pests."

"I was personally struck by a conversation I overheard between two young boys who were looking at the SMM flier reading 'We'll build a village for the riff-raff'. One boy asked the other one: 'Who are the riff-raff?' The other answered: 'You don't know? That's us, the Gypsies,'" plaintiff Roman Šváb said in an interview for news server Romea.cz.

When asked why they were suing in court, another plaintiff, Peter Bažo, said:  "We said to ourselves that if we don't do this now, then nobody ever will! Our children would no longer have the courage to do something like this by the time they grew up, because they unfortunately would have learned to live with the fact that they are second-class citizens. We asked ourselves what good such political parties are if they don't have anything to offer their voters but evil and incitement to hatred and racism. They allege that we Roma are parasites, unnecessary, unsuccessful ... After watching [them] on the '168 Hours' [tv program], I had the feeling that we are returning to the 1930s, which my grandparents and parents told me about. They told me about atrocities to which this campaign by the Association of Most Residents for Most is rather similar. Unfortunately, during the interwar period Romani people and other national minorities were unable to defend themselves. Today we have independent courts in which we believe, so we will defend ourselves there."

The SMM came in third place in the elections, winning eight of the 45 local assembly seats. The "Open Town Hall - Most" party did not cross the five per cent threshold to be seated.

Krejčí believes the complaint to Strasbourg may succeed. "If I thought this complaint had no chance of being reviewed, I would not send it to the European Court of Human Rights. It's ready here and I'm just waiting for the plaintiffs to sign it. I assume it will be sent out next week," the attorney said on 18 January.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Komunální, Lidská práva, Most, Soud



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