Czech Helsinki Committee: Police fail to investigate attack on human rights activist
The Czech Helsinki Committee is criticizing the approach taken by police toward the investigation of an attack on activist Ondřej Cakl by extremists. The incident occurred during a march by promoters of the now-banned Workers' Party through the town of Litvínov on 17 November 2008. The committee says the criminal justice authorities have completely failed to meet their obligations.
Yesterday a court in Most acquitted defendant Martin Loskot of all charges in the case. The judge said that while Loskot had been on the scene, it could not be proven that he had any contact with the victim. Cakl works for the Tolerance civic association, which monitors the neo-Nazi scene in the Czech Republic. At the time of the incident he was filming the march as it headed for the Janov housing estate. He testified to the court that someone pushed him to the ground, after which several people kicked him and threw stones at him.
Police have charged two men with the attack, Loskot and František Brávek, who will face trial next Thursday. The judge justified the acquittal of Loskot by saying Cakl had not identified him as the attacker. Based on the video footage and photographs provided, it was not possible to determine that it was Loskot who either beat or kicked Cakl.
The Czech Helsinki Committee mainly attributes this acquittal to poor police work. "The approach of the Czech Police cannot be considered as anything but a total fiasco completely undermining the role of the police in a democratic state governed by the rule of law. The obligations of the police during a criminal proceedings have also been undermined. The fact that none of the officers or police officials responsible has admitted their responsibility for this lapse and have not been forced to do so by their superiors must be considered completely unacceptable," the committee says.
"Despite the fact that on 17 November 2008 the neo-Nazis were making an open attempt at a pogrom on the Roma in particular who reside at the Janov housing estate, not one organizer or participant in that attempt has since been prosecuted thanks to the incompetent approach of the intervening police officers. This completely brutal and obvious physical attack on Ondřej Cakl took place during that demonstration, and a video recording of it has become a symbol in the media of neo-Nazi violence not only at Litvínov, but during related activities during 2009. Despite this fact, the criminal justice authorities have been unable to properly prepare and submit charges against those who were his probable assailants. The victim himself provided the police with the relevant materials to use as evidence and they were still unable to do their job," the committee says.
The committee' statement goes on to say that "the events at Litvínov-Janov symbolize and will continue to symbolize a recent escalation of neo-Nazi violence. It is unacceptable that the Czech Interior Ministry will continue to marginalize their investigation or maintain a politically correct silence concerning them."
The committee has called on the Czech Interior Ministry to initiate a follow-up investigation, to determine who is responsible for the originally incompetent investigation of the violence, and to take the appropriate measures against those responsible. In a response to the committee's statement, regional police spokesperson Jarmila Hrubešová said the matter had been investigated by the appropriate police presidium branch, which found no fundamental missteps had been committed. "The objections that no one has been found guilty in this matter are solely related to the fact that due to the extent of the event as a whole, the Czech Police did actually have the possibility of documenting the criminal behavior of each individual," she said.
Czech Interior Ministry spokesperson Hana Malá said that according to the information available to the ministry, the police proceeded correctly, as the filed charges also indicate. She added that the minister cannot intervene in investigations and that if the Czech Helsinki Committee suspects the police of either proceeding incorrectly or committing a crime, it should turn to the Internal Control Department of the Police Presidium or to the Police Inspection Authority.
The November 2008 march was attended by approximately 500 promoters of the extreme right who tried to march on the predominantly Roma Janov housing estate and clashed with police. The large-scale battle was brought to an end by police after two hours with 14 injuries. The police deployed 1 000 men to handle the event.
The Czech Helsinki Committee is a non-governmental nonprofit human rights organization. It monitors and regularly reports on the state of human rights in the Czech Republic.
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