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Czech Gov't Roma Council calls on Interior Minister, Police President to thoroughly investigate death of Romani man in Žatec

2.11.2016 7:20
The 1 November 2016 session of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs. (PHOTO:  Romea.cz)
The 1 November 2016 session of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

The Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs has demanded that Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) and Police President Tomáš Tuhý thoroughly investigate the October incident at a pizzeria in Žatec during which a young Romani man died. "After extensive discussion, the Council adopted a resolution asking the Interior Minister and Police President to thoroughly investigate the case of the death of the man in Žatec," reads a press release issued by the Council after yesterday's meeting.

The Žatec scandal was not originally included on the agenda. Civil society members of the Council proposed adding the item.

The ministerial members of the Council unanimously agreed to add it. "Everybody is aware of the gravity of the situation, the members present agreed to include it without any need for explanation," František Bikár, a civil society member, told news server Romea.cz.

During the meeting the video footage that was published yesterday by news server Romea.cz was shown to the Council. The footage proves that during the intervention by the local police the young Romani man was punched at least once, most probably in the head, by a customer in the pizzeria.

The civil society members of the Council also criticized the work of police during last week's memorial event in Žatec. They believe police underestimated the situation at the scene. 

Statement by civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs

Given the developments in this situation and the divergent information published by the media about the case of the death of M.D. in Žatec on 18 October 2016 we are asking the Police of the Czech Republic to thoroughly investigate the events that preceded the arrival of the Municipal Police patrol at Pizzeria Panamera, as well as the way the Municipal Police proceeded at the scene. We also object to the following events that transpired on 27 October 2016 during the properly announced memorial assembly in Žatec:

1) We consider the statement made by the mayor to the gathering to have been inappropriate. As a representative of the entity that established the Municipal Police force, she sent the clear message that she was assuming the outcome of the investigation and is not impartial. 

2) The Police of the Czech Republic were unable to handle the security situation at the site of the assembly and underestimated it. Protection for those participating in the gathering was insufficient, as directly at the remembrance site there were right-wing extremists waiting for the mourners and the police allowed the opportunity for mutual provocations and the escalation of tensions in the town to develop by allowing them to assemble there.

We are aware that it is necessary to await the results of the investigation and we impatiently await them, as does a large proportion of the Romani national minority who are anxious already about this case, which is just one of many in which the approach taken by local or state police is questionable. More than one such case involving unclear circumstances around a death, like this death of the young Romani man in Žatec, has happened in recent years, and the case of M.D. could mark a watershed moment.

As members of this advisory body to the Government of the Czech Republic we are not sure whether it is not already too late to attempt to avoid civil unrest. Despite the fact that the majority-society media have shown little interest in this incident, the case is being followed by tens of thousands of Romani people.

This declaration is signed by the following members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs:

Jan Balog, Vice-Chair
Bc. Martina Horváthová, member
Bc. Lýdia Poláčková, member
Mgr. Lucie Fuková, member
PhDr. Renáta Köttnerová, member
Čeněk Růžička, member
František Bikár, member
Mgr. Jan Kudry, Ph.D., member
Bc. Michal Mižigár, member
Ing. Karel Holomek, member
Ing. Emil Horvát, member

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Ministertsvo vnitra, Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny, Smrt Roma v Žatci, sociální situace



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