Czech court finds author of death threats against human rights defenders committed a politically-motivated hate crime
The In IUSTITIA organization, the only one of its kind in the Czech Republic to offer services meeting the specific needs of hate crime victims, has secured a first-instance verdict against a man who has been making verbal threats against its employees. Since August of last year the perpetrator has been repeatedly verbally threatening the organization's staff with assault and death and has now been convicted and sentenced by the District Court for Prague 6; the verdict has yet to take effect.
The decision is absolutely exceptional, as it marks the first time a Czech court has convicted a perpetrator of committing a hate crime because the assault was directed against a human rights defender for performing such work. The perpetrator was fined CZK 30 000 [EUR 1 200].
The defendant, the injured party and the prosecutor are all considering whether to appeal. The incidents began after In IUSTITIA published an analytical report in August 2017 about hate crimes committed through online social networks.
As a consequence of publishing that analysis the organization was targeted with threats through online social networks by dozens of perpetrators. The director of the organization filed criminal reports against the most serious such verbal attacks.
One of those perpetrators was brought before the court yesterday. The remarks the defendant made about the director of In IUSTITIA and the nonprofit organization itself were, for example:
- The cleanest thing to do would be to shoot it up there, I guess I'll watch that delicious video with Mr Breivik in it.
- It's that stinky cunt Kalibová.
- Hopefully war will break out so we can disfigure these swine with impunity.
- It's not clear to me why somebody hasn't run her over with a car yet.
- I will publish his name and photo here and ultimately I'll shoot him dead, run him over with a car and throw him into a septic tank.
- I hope I succeed in identifying that informing swine and publishing her name and photo here and then humiliating her in some especially cruel, perfidious way.
During yesterday's hearing the perpetrator was convicted of felony violence against a group and its individual members, a crime committed by anybody who threatens death or violence against another because of the victim's race, nationality, ethnic affiliation, faith or political convictions. It was the protected ground of political convictions that played the main role in this decision.
The court found that In IUSTITIA and its director had been attacked because of the perperator's prejudice against human rights defenders, specifically, against the democratic legal order they represent. In that sense, this is the very first case of its kind.
"The perpetrators' attacks were actually very intensive. He did not stop them after he had been found guilty of a misdemeanor, on the contrary, he escalated them. I consider the court's decision to correspond to the fact that the perpetrator attacked me and my colleagues because of our profession, the fact that we actively aid hate crime victims and defend human rights in the Czech Republic," said Klára Kalibová, director of In IUSTITIA.
In IUSTITIA is not the only organization in the Czech Republic that has been attacked for performing its profession. "I perceive a difference among the attacks committed against the leaders of nonprofit sector groups from the standpoint of gender," Kalibová said.
"My male colleagues are not attacked with respect to their sexuality or their appearance as a woman in a leading position," the human rights defender said. She included details of the impact of the perpetrator's criminal activity in her concluding statement to the court: "... in impact statements people customarily emphasize how the crime has impacted their private lives. I became the target of this crime because of my profession, one that is correct, honest, and honorable, one that I chose after graduating from the law faculty as difficult, but just as meaningful as the profession of judge or prosecutor. I am convinced that, just like those two professions, my profession is also a public service to those who are vulnerable, who are weak, and who are being threatened by people like the defendant. We all deserve protection."
Attorney Petra Vytejčková, representing Kalibová, said in her concluding remarks: "... in a civilized society, disagreement with the opinions of others is legitimate and necessary. However, such disagreement must be expressed through rhetoric that is neither aggressive, nor offensive, nor threatening. The behavior of the perpetrator met the definition of a felony and sparked justified concern for the health and life of my client. I welcome the court's decision."
In IUSTITIA is the only advisory center for victims of bias crimes in the Czech Republic. In addition to providing direct legal and social aid to people who have been assaulted either physically or verbally, offline or online, the organization is dedicated to analytical work, education and research.
The organization is a registered provider of legal information and social services. Kalibová holds the Alice G. Masaryk Award for Human Rights Defenders and is, among other things, a member of the advisory board of the International Network for Hate Studies.
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