Czech Police say threats to burn down ROMEA organization were not criminal
The criminal report that the ROMEA organization filed at the end of November 2016 after a Facebook user threatened to burn down the organization's office has been shelved with the justification that it did not rise to the level of a felony. "The investigation undertaken did not ascertain facts from which it could reasonably be presumed that a felony had been perpetrated to justify the beginning of prosecution under Section 158 paragraph 3 Criminal Code," reads the notification the organization received this week.
When news server Romea.cz asked the police how this qualified assessment was conducted and what the basis was for the police to conclude that the threat to burn down the office did not rise to the level of a felony, Prague Police press spokesperson Tomáš Hulan said: "Given the fact that, of the parties to the incident which is the subject of this official police decision, the party who reported the incident still has the right to ask the relevant state prosecutor to review the procedure undertaken by the police department, it is not yet possible for us to comment on the specifics of this decision." ROMEA had warned police at the beginning of the December of the fact that employees of the ROMEA organization had been threatened with violence.
Somebody with access to the Facebook profile called Ondra Vlček posted beneath an article on the ROMEA Facebook page that focused on the hateful reactions to the Romani singer Radek Banga after he demonstratively expressed his disagreement with an appearance by the Ortel band at the Czech Nightingale music awards - the Facebook user's message was: "Burn down all of Romea". Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, told news server Romea.cz that "The approach of the police to this serious threat of violence against the employees of the ROMEA organization has quite surprised me. It is happening in a context in which Romani people who have made similar threats in response to the scandal of a death in their community last October have already been charged, tried, convicted and sentenced, which means I cannot help but feel that the police do not approach all cases the same way and that a double standard is being used here."
"The idea that, according to police, there is nothing criminal about threatening to set somebody on fire is very disturbing. We are doing our best not to think about it during our normal mode of operations, but naturally, it's not a pleasant feeling," one employee of the ROMEA organization said.
"The threat to set the ROMEA organization on fire as a whole is decidedly capable of prompting fear among the employees of the organization for their health and lives, as well as for their property and the other valuable items held by the organization," lawyer Klára Kalibová of the In IUSTITIA human rights organization commented on the conclusions of the police's qualified assessment. "If police deny the gravity of attacks made through online social networking sites, that does not promote general legal awareness and means the police are establishing a state of legal uncertainty, basically ignoring a serious attack that has targeted journalists in general, people working in a Romani organization, and Romani people. This is contributing to creating a feeling of impunity which is burgeoning among the current population of those disseminating hate online."
Kalibová further believes that the efforts of individual, specific police officers who do investigate hate attacks thoroughly, according to the law, are negated by the uncertainty that otherwise predominates regarding the investigation of hate crimes. "In other words, I am convinced that when it comes to hate crime cases, what is absolutely predominant is the 'feeling' or 'impression' of the investigating officers as to whether a specific matter should be prosecuted or not. When it comes to Romani people, the feelings they tend to have are more of a negative nature. However, that is not the same as law enforcement, which is supposed to be predictable" she told news server Romea.cz.
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