European Roma Rights Centre: Czech President's remarks were antigypsyist hate speech
Yesterday the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) sent an open letter addressed to Czech President Zeman and objecting to recent comments he made about Romani people when he was speaking last week in the Olomouc Region - Zeman alleged that exactly the Romani residents of the particular community he was visiting constitute their population of unemployed people, which the ERRC believes was a racist characterization. Zeman went on to allege that during the communist regime, Romani people "had to work" and were imprisoned if they refused to do so.
The ERRC believes Zeman's comments pose a danger to democratic values, in addition to being racist. The Office of the President has since rejected their characterization of his remarks.
Zeman was quoted by the media as saying the following exactly one week ago during a public appearance with other officials in the town of Kojetín: "I am decidedly no friend of communism, but during communism Romani people had to work. Most of them worked as ditch-diggers, and if they refused to work, they were designated as work-shy and went to prison."
"In addition, there was a kind of system there, that the Romani labor platoons were led by Romani men who had natural authority, so if somebody on their team didn't work, they slapped him around. It's a very humane method that worked most of the time," the President said.
The ERRC believes those allegations are an obvious manifestation of hatred and racism. "Your abusive rhetoric, designed to stoke fear and racist resentment, poses a direct threat to democratic values and the security of individuals and communities," the open letter states.
The letter also calls on Zeman to resign for having decided to use such rhetoric, but his spokesperson, Jiří Ovčáček, has rejected the ERRC's complaint. "The President's remarks are not in any way racist," the spokesperson told the Czech News Agency yesterday.
Zeman had also alleged during his public appearance that the current 5 % of local residents unemployed in Kojetín were its Romani residents in particular. He then went on to add that in his view, the solution would be to stop disbursing welfare to those who "refuse" job opportunities offered to them, unless they have a serious reason for doing so, such as a health condition preventing them from being able to perform the work.
The ERRC's letter notes that the number of Zeman's racist remarks against Romani people while he has been President has now set a new record. The organization recalled, for example, the President's previous allegation that 90 % of the "inadaptables" in the Czech Republic are of Romani origin.
The term "inadaptables", the organization noted, seems to have entered official use in the Czech Republic in 2015; Zeman's first term in office began in 2013. The ERRC believes this development is extremely dangerous because, in their view, it is an attempt to justify intolerance of Romani people.
- Czech President alleges Romani people "do not want to work" and that "slapping them" is the best way to deal with them
- Czech President verbally assails residential hotel evictees, supports city's move to abolish housing benefits entirely
- Czech President's staff criticize inclusion of "Freedom and Direct Democracy" party in extremism report
- Czech President pushing Czech PM into Government with right-wing extremists
- Amnesty International and European Roma Rights Centre: Situation for Romani children in Slovakia is not improving
- Czech AI, ERRC criticize authorities' procedures with Romani tenants
- ERRC suing Czech Republic over discrimination of Romani children
- ERRC against testing pupils as it could intensify Romani segregation
- ERRC and Amnesty International call on Czech Govt to eliminate violence against Romani people
- ERRC Highlights Romani Children’s Rights Issues before UN Treaty Bodies
- AI and ERRC call for protection of the Roma in Nový Bydžov from neo-Nazis
- ERRC criticizes Czech Republic for ongoing segregation of Roma pupils
- Czech bookstore fires clerk for racially insulting Romani colleague on social media
- Germany: Head of the state of Thuringia resigns within 24 hours after extremist party plays kingmaker role
- PHOTO ESSAY Yet another protest against fascist party in Slovakia, Roma turned out as well
- German shop selling beer with neo-Nazi symbolism
- Slovak fascist party second-strongest in polls, yet another protest forces its rally to relocate
- Slovakia: Opponents of fascist party prevent it from assembling, play Romani music
- Czech Police investigating Nazi symbols on 14 buildings in Ústí nad Orlicí
- Romani politician Cyril Koky: Stanislav Křeček as Czech ombudsman would be absurd and ridiculous
- Czech Human Rights Commissioner says President supports her remaining in that position
- Czech President to nominate former Deputy Public Defender of Rights candidate for next Public Defender of Rights
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner refuses to resign despite some Human Rights Council members calling for her to do so
- Czech Social Democratic Party has new candidate for President to nominate as ombudswoman after his first choice declines due to pressure over her past