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July 22, 2019
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Czech Constitutional Court: Human rights defender has to count on "frustrated" people sending her death threats

21.6.2019 10:49
Klára Kalibová (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)
Klára Kalibová (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)

Working in a nonprofit organization aiding victims of criminal activity and defending human rights is worthy of respect but also requires "civic bravery". The Czech Constitutional Court sent that message in its ruling rejecting a complaint filed by Klára Kalibová of the In IUSTITIA organization, which aids hate crime victims, saying that staffers at such organizations must count on becoming the targets "of interest among persons of limited vision, the frustrated and the immature".

Kalibová was the injured party in a criminal proceedings against Miroslav Cirnfus because of his Facebook posts expressing his opinions about her. The first-instance verdict of the District Court for Prague 6 fined Cirnfus CZK 30 000 [EUR 1 200] for his behavior.

The court concluded that Cirnfus had threatened Kalibová with bodily harm. One of the posts made the hyperbolic, vulgar mention of the option of "poisoning" the organization with Novichok.

In another post featuring an image of a head with knives stabbed into it, Cirnfus wrote that he hoped "Miss Nonprofit" would suffer "a touch of migraine" for at least 10 years. The appeals venue, the Municipal Court in Prague, then overturned the first-instance verdict and sent the case to the Prague 10 Municipal Department Authority as a misdemeanor for them to handle.

The appellate court did not find the behavior of Cirnfus to have risen to that of a felony. According to Kalibová's complaint to the Constitutional Court, the overturning of the first-instance verdict indicated that the state has abandoned the principle of protecting citizens' privacy and safety.

The decision by the Municipal Court in Prague is said to have significantly weakened the injured party's faith in the democratic rule of law in the Czech Republic. The Constitutional Court called her complaint unjustified.

The Constitutional Court said that while it seemed to them that in some respects the conclusions of the first-instance court captured the behavior of the defendant more exactly, that in and of itself was not a reason to overturn the ruling of the appeals court. The Constitutional Court reminded the plaintiff that there is no subjective right of any injured party to be guaranteed that a specific alleged perpetrator will be criminally prosecuted.

At the same time, the Constitutional Court's resolution, which was authored by rapporteur David Uhlíř, states that Kalibová's activity in the nonprofit involved with "aiding the victims of criminal activity and actively defending human rights" is "certainly worthy of respect". The resolution states:  "[Such activity] also requires civic bravery, as on the Internet and in the public space [such persons] must doubtless also count on becoming the target of interest of persons of limited vision, the frustrated and the immature, those dissatisfied with the world around them - which is, judging by the vulgar outbursts on social media, also the case of the accused in this matter."

According to reporting about the first-instance verdict by the HateFree website, a project of the Office of the Czech Government, the wave of hateful posts against In IUSTITIA followed the organization publishing a report dedicated exactly to hatred on social media. Women  working for the organization were targeted in particular.

"My male colleagues are hardly ever targeted by attacks of this kind against their sexuality or their appearance, compared to the women in leading positions," Kalibová told the HateFree website. Cirnfus testified to the courts that he had never directly contacted Kalibová and that the controversial posts were intended for his friends and the people with whom he communicates on Facebook.

He also claimed that his use of vulgar speech is normal because he is from the working class. After his successful appeal he made a publicly available Facebook post calling Kalibová a "despicable person, a louse in the nation's pelt, a parasitic pest."

"The Constitutional Court does not share the complainant's opinion that she has no legal instruments facilitating her effective defense against the perpetrator's willful behavior or that the state has abandoned the defense of her dignity, honor and good name. The court merely decided that the behavior of the defendant did not rise to the level of a felony," the ruling states. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Hate, human rights, In IUSTITIA, Neziskový sektor



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