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ERGO Network and other Roma, pro-Roma and antiracist CSOs call for the independent investigation of the death of Stanislav Tomáš

29.6.2021 5:02
Gabriela Hrabaňová, director of the European Roma Grassroots Organization Network, in 2017. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)
Gabriela Hrabaňová, director of the European Roma Grassroots Organization Network, in 2017. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

The European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network and other Roma, pro-Roma and antiracist civil society organizations are calling for an independent, thorough investigation of the death of the Romani man Stanislav Tomáš of Teplice, Czech Republic, who died shortly after police intervened against him. News server Romea.cz is publishing their statement in full here: 

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.

We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him to immobilise him.

We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.

The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape are totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.

It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.

Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, are there to serve and protect, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved. In this particular case, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate.

We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the situation, so that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.

We are also calling attention to the need to protect the privacy and safety of eyewitnesses, including shielding them against potential threats from non-state actors and police, if they are willing to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings.

It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.

We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.

We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.

We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally-recommended police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.

As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Signatories

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Brussels

European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels

European Network against Racism, Brussels

Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels

ILGA-Europe, Brussels

AGE Platform Europe, Brussels

Romanonet network, Czech Republic

ROMEA association, Czech Republic

Life Together, Czech Republic

Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic
 

ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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death after police intervention, ERGO Network, Prohlášení, Smrt Roma v Teplicích



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