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Czech prosecutor agrees with police that threat to burn down ROMEA is not a crime

12.6.2017 7:19
"Burn down all of Romea..." wrote a Facebook user under the name of Ondřej Vlček at the end of November 2016 on the Facebook page of ROMEA. The Czech Police do not believe the threat rises to the level of a felony. (Collage:

A threat to burn down an NGO is apparently not a crime in the Czech Republic. Police and one District State Prosecutor's Office don't see one such incident that way, at least.

The ROMEA organization filed a police report after receiving such a threat last year from somebody who posted the comment "Burn down all of Romea" ("Vypálit celou Romeu") to the organization's Facebook page. The police conclusion that this was not a crime has now been confirmed by the Prague 1 District State Prosecutor.

That office said the threat to burn down the organization is just and example of the use of a popular turn of phrase. "The Police identified and interrogated suspect Ondřej Vlček, who distanced himself from the comment 'Burn down all of Romea', posted to the Facebook page of ROMEA," reads a letter from State Prosecutor Zdeňka Galková of the Prague 1 District State Prosecutor's Office.

"While the police assessed the 'defense' provided by suspect Ondřej Vlček as unreliable, they were unable to further clarify the motivation that led to the incriminating comment, nor what its aim was. For that reason, the police were only able to assess the remark per se," Galková wrote.

"They correctly arrived at the conclusion that such a remark is absolutely indefinite, unspecific in terms of its addressee," the letter concludes. According to Galková, it is inconclusive whether the writer of the remark was expressly threatening anybody, and she called the comment a case of "a kind of popular 'turn of phrase' used on the Internet".

Lawyer Klára Kalibová, director of the In IUSTITIA organization, disagrees with the state prosecutor's findings:  "Ignoring hatred on social networks is a grave problem of our present times. If a state prosecutor abandons the exercise of bringing perpetrators to justice and leaves the victims of cyber-bullying to fend for themselves with respect to such online hatred, it is possible to consider that a serious error."

"Facebook is not a special area where criminal law sanctions cannot be applied," Kalibová said. "On the contrary, it is a location that increases the impact of such attacks."

"Insults and threats are frequently multiplied by other participants in these conversations because they remain open indefinitely on the network," the lawyer said. "Unlike verbal insults made in person in a restaurant facility, for example, offensive remarks made through social networks are more painful because the victims are constantly subjected to them."

"It is not possible to accept that a local state prosecutor would absolutely adjust the Criminal Code through such an analysis," the lawyer said. "In my opinion it would be appropriate for the Supreme State Prosecutor to methodologically intervene here."

The director of the ROMEA organization has expressed uneasiness over the findings of the police and state prosecutor in this matter. "The recent behavior of the police and state prosecutor increases the mistrust that some Romani people have about such institutions," said Zdeněk Ryšavý.

"According to the reactions we are encountering, Romani people's belief in the justice system in the Czech Republic is at such a low point as to be frozen," Ryšavý said, recalling police responses to the death of a Romani man at a pizzeria in Žatec, the shots fired at Ida Kelarová's summer camp for children, the threats made against singer Radek Banga and his brother Patrik, or the most recent case of police failing to communicate about the scandal of the shooting death in Chomutov. In this case, the ROMEA organization warned police that the employees of the ROMEA organization had been threatened with arson.

A user of Ondřej Vlček's Facebook profile wrote "Burn all of Romea down" on the Facebook page of the ROMEA organization late last year. His comment appeared beneath an article about hateful reactions to a protest by Radek Banga expressing his disagreement with the neo-Nazi Ortel band performing at the "Czech Nightingale" popular music awards.

After police assessed the matter in January 2017 as not constituting the commission of a crime, ROMEA turned to the Prague 1 District State Prosecutor with a request that the police procedure be reviewed. The prosecutor has now agreed with the conclusions drawn by the police investigation.

At the beginning of 2017 ROMEA filed 10 more reports of crimes in response to some of the openly racist, threatening commentaries in which the members of various minorities, including Romani people, are being attacked through the Facebook social network. How and whether the police will react at all to those reports of suspected crimes will be reported on in future.

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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