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March 19, 2019
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Czech lower house committee does not recommend stripping MP of immunity over denying the Holocaust of the Roma

8.3.2019 10:04
Miloslav Rozner (PHOTO:  Pirate Party, Wikimedia Commons)
Miloslav Rozner (PHOTO: Pirate Party, Wikimedia Commons)

A committee in the Czech lower house has decided not to recommend stripping MP Miloslav Rozner ("Freedom and Direct Democracy" - SPD) of his immunity from prosecution so he can be charged for remarks he made about the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. On 6 March the Immunity and Mandate Committee of the lower house did not recommend Rozner's immunity from prosecution be lifted.

The vice-chair of the committee, MP Taťána Malá (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) informed journalists of the decision after the vote. The lower house should now vote to decide the issue as part of its ongoing session.

The chair of the Immunity and Mandate committee, Stanislav Grospič (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia - KSČM) said prior to the session convening that the vote in the lower house would likely be next Wednesday. Police officers want to prosecute Rozner on suspicion of denying, doubting, approving of and justifying genocide.

According to MP Marek Výborný (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL), the decision not to lift Rozner's immunity was made by the vast majority of Committee members. Grospič, who said he voted against lifting Rozner's immunity, also confirmed that to the press.

According to the chair, the argument prevailed that similar remarks by other MPs in the past had never resulted in the launching of criminal proceedings. The Committee, according to its chair, is not a body deciding guilt and punishment.

"That is the role of the criminal justice authorities," he told journalists after the session. The evidence, according to the Committee, had not been justified by the police in relation to Rozner's performance in office.

"That is basically the matter we assess here," the chair added. He said he believed the Committee had voted consistently.

The chair also said he did not believe Rozner had been declared innocent by the Committee. "If he is not re-elected, he will still face criminal prosecution," he noted.

Klára Kalibová, director of the In IUSTITIA organization, who is a lawyer, told news server Romea.cz that "The decision not to strip MP Rozner of immunity is, in our opinion, one that goes beyond their mandate, which is meant to be assessing whether the conditions have been met for surrendering him to the authorities, i.e., whether he actually did make those remarks outside the Chamber of Deputies or not. If the evidence shows that he did, then he should be surrendered to the authorities."

"It is, therefore, apparent that the MPs are usurping the powers that the courts are authorized to execute, which it is absolutely inappropriate for them to do," Kalibová said. According to the public broadcasting television channel ČT24, Czech MP Radek Rozvoral (SPD) has asserted that Rozner has done nothing wrong and was just expressing his dissatisfaction during a closed meeting about where the state wants to spend its money [i.e., on a memorial at Lety], and Rozvoral also asserted that the remarks had nothing to do with denying genocide.

Czech MP Lukáš Bartoň (Pirates - Piráti) and Czech MP Miroslava Němcová (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) are of the opposite opinion. Bartoň voted in favor of stripping Rozner's immunity.

"I am a bit bothered by those words about a 'non-existent camp'. For that reason, I did not support the Immunity Committee's opinion that he should not be surrendered," the Pirate said.

The Committee also adopted a resolution on the matter, proposed by Czech MP Helena Válková (for ANO), stating that it does not consider Rozner's remark to have been "appropriate". Not all the Committee members agreed with that resolution, however, according to the chair.

"Some believed, and I am one of them, that it is not appropriate for us to intervene like that in this matter. We are meant to purely decide about what the criminal justice authorities have asked of us, which means whether to surrender him or not," the chair said.

"The resolution goes above and beyond that request and would be more appropriate if we were conducting a disciplinary proceeding," the chair pointed out. Dissenting Committee member Němcová said that while she respects the majority decision of the Committee, she does not believe the term "inappropriate" is enough to describe Rozner's behavior.

"I think his remark was worthy of condemnation, it was wrong, and it should never have been made in public, to say nothing of being made by a public official," Němcová said. As for the In IUSTITIA director, she commented that "It is apparent that the Immunity and Mandate Committee of the Chamber of Deputies did not at all take into account the interests of the generation of Sinti, Roma, Jews and Czech political prisoners who survived the Holocaust when they declined to hear testimony from a representative of the survivors of Lety u Písku, not even from the injured party in this case, J.H." 

According to the chair of the TOP 09 party, Jiří Pospíšil, the Committee should have recommended Rozner be surrendered to police and the Chamber of Deputies should vote to surrender him next week. "People who deny or make light of the Holocaust must bear responsibility for their words, even if they are MPs," Pospíšil said.

The Committee met behind closed doors, as it has in all other such cases. The State Prosecutor from the Municipal State Prosecutor's Office in Prague was the only non-member invited to make a statement.

The prosecutor had been unable to attend the previous session on 5 February, which was then cancelled by the Committee. As for the remarks at issue, Rozner used the phrase "non-existent pseudo-concentration camp" when criticizing the decision of a previous Government to buy out the industrial pig farm located at the site of the former concentration camp at Lety in order to build a more dignified memorial there.

Several individuals filed criminal reports against him immediately once the news of his remarks broke. According to the SPD, there are doubts about the objectivity of the investigation of the case, and MPS from that movement have declared they oppose stripping Rozner of his immunity.

SB, ČT, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Holocaust, Lety u Písku, poslanec, Poslanecká sněmovna



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