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Amnesty International calls on the Czech authorities to immediately, impartially and thoroughly investigate the police intervention after which a Romani man died

24.6.2021 7:51
Photo and collage by Romea.cz.
Photo and collage by Romea.cz.

According to the available video footage of an arrest published by news server Romea.cz, three police officers used force against a Romani man in Teplice on 19 June 2021 during that arrest. The video footage shows the man lying on the ground while police restrain him.

One of the officers knelt on the man's neck throughout the intervention, which according to the footage lasted at least five minutes. The officer continues to kneel on the man's neck even after he is handcuffed and no longer resisting. 

Amnesty International (AI) is of the opinion that the technique of applying pressure to the neck used by the police during this arrest was disproportionate, reckless, unnecessary and therefore illegal. AI is calling on the Czech authorities to ban the use of such techniques as a means of intervention because they fatally restrict breathing.

AI considers the police intervention captured in this video footage to be brutal and unlawful - applying pressure to the neck restricts breathing and poses significant danger to human life and is all the more serious when used for several minutes at a time. AI reminds the Czech authorities that according to international law and human rights norms, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the force used by police must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. 

Those principles are legally binding on the Czech Republic. In domestic legislation, Act No. 273/2008 Coll. on the Police of the Czech Republic regulates the obligations of active-duty police officers.

That law does not allow police to interfere with the rights of others beyond what is necessary to achieve the aim they are pursuing, which must be legitimate. The use of force is permitted only if it is necessary and proportionate. 

Czech law requires the police to ensure that they do not cause harm - "[The police] shall try to prevent disproportionate risks caused by their behavior." On the basis of the video footage of the police intervention against the man in Teplice, AI doubts whether the requirements of necessity and proportionality were met in this case.

In particular, the level of the person's resistance captured in the video did not justify the use of such an extremely dangerous technique, much less after he had already refrained from resisting for so long. AI is also disturbed by the statement of the Interior Minister on 21 June 2021, when he posted to social media that the officers who intervened against the man in Teplice have his "full support". 

The Interior Minister went on to say that persons "who break the law under the influence of addictive substances must count on police intervening against them." This can only be understood to mean that law enforcement authorities are being allowed unnecessary latitude and the possibility of the excessive use of force when manipulating any person who is under the influence of drugs, and that provides the police with a dangerous sense of impunity that goes far beyond any of these binding legal frameworks. 

According to the police statement published on 21 June 2021, the preliminary autopsy calls drug use a possible cause of the death of the man in Teplice. The police statement touches on the autopsy findings according to which there were pathological changes to the man's cardiovascular system. 

In this regard AI recommends that when investigating the causes of death it is not necessary to prove that the sole cause of death was the use of a means or technique of force. It is enough to understand the use of force as a contributing factor without which the death would not have happened.   

In this case, a technique restricting breathing, one that causes serious pain, was applied for several minutes. It appears that there exists a high probability that such excessive use of force could have contributed to deteriorating any preexisting problem resulting from illness or the use of drugs and that the resulting death could therefore be attributed in part to the officers' action.

AI reminds the Interior Minister, the police, and other law enforcement authorities that the Czech Republic, according to its international human rights obligations, must immediately, independently, thoroughly and effectively investigate the death of the Romani man in Teplice. According to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the authorities are also obliged to undertake all reasonable steps to reveal the existence of any racist motivations when investigating incidents of violence and to determine whether ethnic hatred or prejudice could have played a role. 

ryz, press release of Amnesty International, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Amnesty International, death after police intervention, Smrt Roma v Teplicích, vyšetřování



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