Stanislav Tomáš, who died in police custody, laid to rest in Teplice, Czech Republic. Civil society and his family call for his death to be properly investigated
In Teplice, Czech Republic, in the Church of Saint John the Baptist on Zámecké náměstí, the funeral was held this morning for Mr Stanislav Tomáš, who passed away on 19 June 2021 in police custody in Teplice. The funeral was open to the public and included a Catholic service.
About 60 people attended the ceremony in the church and then accompanied the coffin to its interment. The funeral home also brought many wreaths to the church that were sent from different groups abroad.
Miroslav Brož of the Konexe association, who is in contact with the surviving family, informed the Czech News Agency of the international support. Simona Tomášová, the sister of the deceased, also attended the funeral.
The coffin was open for viewing at the beginning of the service. Mr Tomáš died on 19 June after being arrested in Teplice by officers who used force to handcuff him as he was lying prone on the ground.
VIDEO FOOTAGE OF THE FUNERAL
Bystander video of the arrest was shared to social media and then published by news server Romea.cz, after which the police procedure was broadly criticized by domestic and international activists and organizations, sparking protests all over Europe. The video footage shows an officer kneeling on Mr Tomáš's neck in a manner reminiscent of the way in which the African-American George Floyd was murdered in May 2020 in the US.
Nonprofit organizations involved with human rights and Romani-related issues in the Czech Republic have arranged a lawyer for the surviving family with the support of the European Roma Rights Centre. The intervening police officers were applauded for their efforts by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) and Czech Police President Jan Švejdar, which Brož said the surviving family of Mr Tomáš considers scandalous.
"[Those officials] are anticipating what the findings [of any investigation into the incident] would be, which in our view should not happen in a country being run under the rule of law," said Brož. The General Inspection of the Security Forces (GIBS) previously announced that with the evidence available to them at the time they did not see the behavior of the police as amounting to a felony and would not, therefore, open a criminal proceedings in the matter.
A thorough investigation of the incident has been called for by the Council of Europe and by the Czech branch of Amnesty International, the human rights organization, which called the arrest brutal and illegal. According to the Council of Europe, the footage of the arrest is disturbing and raises many questions.
Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková has decided to review the arrest as well. The remarks by the Interior Minister and Prime Minister were immediately criticized by the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, according to whom such remarks undermine trust in the impartiality of any eventual investigation of the arrest.
The head of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, called the arrest of Mr Tomáš in Teplice brutal, inhumane and repugnant. The Central Council, which brings together ethnic Romani people in Germany, said they see similiarities between this case and that of the African-American George Floyd, which also involved an officer kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for several minutes while Mr Floyd was prone on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
The lawyer for the Tomáš family filed a crime report against the intervening officers in Teplice on 28 June, and the Union of Vlax Roma in the Czech Republic has also filed a crime report against the police in the matter. As news server Romea.cz reported, the Union has also called for the establishment of a special commission in the Chamber of Deputies to investigate the arrest.
Mr Tomáš's family has officially asked, more than once, through their legal representative for a second autopsy, but that request has been refused. Mr Tomáš was not laid to rest until several weeks after he died because of the time that it took to learn that a second autopsy would not be permitted by authorities.
"The family decided to not ask [for another autopsy] a fourth time, but to bury him, because the situation of his lying for a month in a freezer box was unbearable," Brož said. According to Brož, the Tomáš family wants the death to be properly investigated.
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