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Government approves new anti-extremist measures
26-02-2000 - Dita Asiedu

Radio Prague, July 29th - The government has passed new measures to counter extremist groups in the Czech Republic, in the wake of repeated pledges by the Premier Milos Zeman to ban neo-Nazi skinhead groups.

The new plans propose the disbanding of two extreme-right organisations registered with the Interior Ministry as civic associations. The two organisations have protested against the move, saying they are patriotic groups. The government wants the police, state prosecutors and the courts to come down harder on perpetrators of racist crimes, while the Education Ministry has been given the task of teaching children human rights and racial tolerance.



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Radio Prague, July 29th - A record number of Czech Roma have sought asylum in Great Britain this year, causing concern that visa requirements may be re-imposed for all Czech citizens.

Parallel to the recent flood of Slovak Roma to Finland, there have been record numbers of Czech Roma seeking asylum in Great Britain this year. London reports that their numbers reached a record-high in June. Thus, there is a serious threat of visa requirement re- imposition for Czech citizens travelling to Great Britain. I spoke to Giles Portman, Press Attaché at the British Embassy in Prague, and asked him to explain the situation:

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Has the Czech Foreign Ministry been in contact with the British embassy regarding their concerns over visa requirements?

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Last week, the Czech Foreign Ministry admitted that re-imposition of visa requirements for Czech citizens is of concern. According to the British embassy in Prague, there were 512 principal asylum claimants in all of 1998, and in 1999, the count is already at 588. Zbynek Havranek, press secretary for the embassy, added that these figures should actually be multiplied at least threefold, since one claimant represents an entire family.

Some Czech diplomats and politicians are reportedly concerned about the possible 'domino effect' which could arise if Britain introduces visa requirements. Last year, when Britain imposed visa requirements on Slovakia due to a large Roma exodus, several other European states followed suit, the latest being Norway just this past Tuesday. Following a mass Roma exodus two years ago, Canada re-introduced visa requirements for Czechs which remain in effect.



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Radio Prague, July 29th - The large number of Roma families heading to the UK indicates the high levels of racism which are perceived to exist in the Czech Republic. A new initiative to ban racist organizations, which was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, could bring hope that this atmosphere of intolerance may begin to be eradicated.
Czech extremists burn Havel portrait

The cabinet has approved the plans of the human rights commissioner, Petr Uhl, to speed up the dissolution of racist organizations. The onus now lies with the Ministry of the Interior and the Czech Secret Service to find evidence which justifies the disbanding of extremist groups. Although the measures are above all a statement of good-will, the cabinet also discussed individual organizations, particularly the Patriotic Front and the National Front of Castists. The government asked the minister of the interior, Vaclav Grulich, to find proof of the illegality of these two organizations by the end of September. Grulich has opposed the resolution, saying that it is not possible to find enough evidence against these groups. However, the human rights commissioner, who pressured the cabinet to accept the proposals, thinks the cases should be properly investigated. While he says that he does not naively believe that this resolution will completely solve problems of racism in this country, he considers the measures to be an important moral gesture.

This is a view shared by Tomas Krasowskas of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly. I spoke to him earlier and asked him, first of all, what effect the cabinet decision will have:

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Minister of the Interior Grulich has emphasized the difficulty of bringing these cases to court. Without clear criteria for the prosecution of these cases, how can these laws be implemented?

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Today we have also been hearing about the large number of Roma families who are leaving for Britain due to discrimination. Will this resolution help to pacify their fears?

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Radio Prague, July 16th - On Thursday, in connection with the British government's "Know-how" fund, Mr. Steven O'Connor, a representative of the British Embassy in Prague, visited a number of Roma information centres in the Czech town of Most.

According to Iveta Millerova, advisor to Roma's at Most's district office, Mr. O'Connor visited the centres to evaluate their work and effectiveness in order to see whether they are suitable candidates for grants of the Know-how fund. Dita Asiedu spoke to Mr. Tony Brennan, Second Secretary at the British Embassy, whose responsibilities include the Know-how fund and asked him first, to tell us a little about it:

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Radio Prague, July 15th - On Wednesday the government discussed a new report concerning the approach of state bodies in solving racially motivated crimes. The report contains worrying news that more and more young Czechs are becoming members of extremist groups.

The new government report deals with the approach of state bodies towards racially motivated crimes. The report states that racial attacks are most frequently carried out by members of the skinhead movement and are aimed primarily at members of the Roma community. Young people are apparently joining these extreme right wing organisations because they find themselves in a hopeless social situation, and fascist and neo-Nazi groups offer them the easiest possible solution.

Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich stated at a press conference on Wednesday that the members of the Roma community who have left the Czech Republic to seek political asylum are correct in their assertions that they have been persecuted, and in particular by the skinheads. Minister Grulich voiced his intentions for dealing with this situation, which will include discussing it with the newly appointed head of the security and intelligence services, the BIS, Jiri Ruzek:

"It will be necessary to monitor these groups, monitor their activities so that we could, if the need arises, intervene not only in the instant when a crime takes place, but also work against these organisations and against the propaganda that is produced supporting Nazism, fascism and other similar groups that are against the law. This will be a topic for discussion when I meet the new head of the BIS."

Last year one hundred and thirty three racially motivated crimes were committed in the Czech Republic, of which one hundred were solved and one hundred and eighty four arrests made.

According to Minister Grulich, complaints have been made that the police tend to favour skinheads during investigations. I asked the co-ordinator of the Roma Section of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly in Brno, Roman Kristof, if he believes these claims are true:

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Minister Grulich further stated that the Ministry of Education will start an anti-racism education programme in schools as of the start of the next school year. Roman Kristof had this to say:

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Radio Prague, July 14th - Representatives of the Roma or gypsy community in the Most area of North Bohemia have warned of a possible mass exodus of Romanies from the region.

The representatives say local Roma can no longer tolerate almost daily attacks by skinheads. There are some 10,000 Romanies living in the Most region, which suffers from high unemployment and poor social conditions. The representatives say more than twenty families have already left the area, and that more will leave if conditions fail to improve.

The warning came as a four-member Roma family was granted asylum in France, after being turned away by the authorities in Great Britain. Roma in the Czech Republic say they are subject to regular violent attacks by neo-Nazi skinheads as well as sweeping racial discrimination by the Czech authorities. The authorities say the several thousand Czech Roma who have sought asylum abroad in recent years are mostly economic migrants.



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Radio Prague, July 12th - Five Roma from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Finland.

The five Roma, who are all women and children, flew to Helinski from Prague on Finnish Airlines, and their claim for asylum is being verified. Finnish authorities are now concerned that there may be an influx of Czech Roma into the country, following a wave of Slovak Roma applying for asylum over the past few weeks. Finland has now introduced visa requirements for Slovakia, but there are still no restrictions for holders of Czech passports.



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Radio Prague, July 11th - The lower house of Czech parliament has approved a bill allowing Czechs who emigrated during the Communist regime to apply for Czech citizenship.

The Communist Party and the majority of the deputies from the opposition Civic Democratic Party voted against the bill. The new law would apply to Czechs who fled the country between February 1948 when the Communists came to power, and March 1990. It would also make it easier for Slovak Roma who continued to live in the Czech Republic after the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992 to obtain Czech citizenship.

The bill was criticised by some members of the opposition. Civic Democratic deputy Jiri Payne that the measure would allow hundreds of thousands of Sudeten Germans who left Czechoslovakia after 1948 to return. Government deputies accused him of scaremongering.


Radio Prague, July 9th - A commission made up of regional representatives of the Roma Civic Association met on Thursday in the North Bohemian town of Most to monitor the situation that is apparently forcing many Roma families to leave the Czech Republic.

Association spokesman Ondrej Gina told reporters that it was a great human loss that since 1990 tens of thousands of Roma have left the country. He emphasised that the emigration of Roma is loss for both the Czech Republic and the Roma themselves, as they leave their homes behind.

The main reasons that Roma leave the Czech Republic are persecution and racial discrimination. The commission has decided to examine the situation in Most, as the community there has apparently faced problems with the majority Czech community.



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Radio Prague, July 8th - Slovakia´s new president Rudolf Schuster has called for his country to join forces with the Czech Republic to address problems facing the Roma or gypsy minority.

Mr Schuster presented the proposal to his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel at a meeting in Prague on Wednesday. Mr Schuster´s call came as Finland announced it was introducing visas for Slovak citizens in the wake of a large influx of Roma asylum seekers. Canada, Britain and Ireland reimposed visas for Slovaks last year after hundreds of Slovak Romanies began arriving to seek asylum. The Roma say they are subject to sweeping discrimination by the authorities in Slovakia as well as frequent violent attacks by skinheads.

The Slovak authorities say they are mostly economic migrants and that moves are being taken to improve conditions for the Roma community. There have been similar waves of emigration to the three countries by Romanies from the Czech Republic, which led Canada to reimpose visas for Czechs last year.



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Radio Prague, July 7th - Finland has introduced visa regulations for Slovak citizens in the wake of a Romany exodus to Helsinki.

After Canada and Great Britain, Helsinki had become a popular destination with Romanies seeking a better life elsewhere and they have been leaving by the dozen-a-day from Prague and Budapest.

According to the ctk newsagency over a thousand of them have now asked for political asylum in Finland. Although a few Czech and Hungarian nationals are reported to be among the asylum seekers the vast majority of these Roma families are from Slovakia. They claim that their living conditions have grown even worse under the present right-wing government and that they are discriminated against on a daily basis.

The Helsinki authorities allegedly question the truth of this claim and have expressed the view that this exodus is triggered by economic reasons rather than discrimination or persecution. The majority of the Romany applicants for asylum will thus most likely be turned back.



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Radio Prague, July 1st - Three skinheads involved in the drowning of a teenage Romany boy in 1993 have been given fresh prison sentences for racially-motivated murder, after their original sentences were quashed earlier this year.

The three youths, Jaroslav Churacek, Zdenek Habich a Martin Pomije, who were juveniles at the time of the killing, were sentenced on Wednesday to between six and a half and eight years in prison. The youths received similar sentences last year, but were set free by the High Court earlier this year on a technicality. Following a recent appeal to the Supreme Court, however, the case was returned to the High Court for retrial.

There is no appeal against Wednesday´s verdict, but the youths may file a complaint with the Constitutional Court. The verdict was the culmination of a six-year legal battle by the boy´s family and human rights groups to have the skinheads tried for murder.

Seventeen-year-old Tibor Danihel drowned in September 1993 after being forced into a river in the South Bohemian town of Pisek by a large crowd of skinheads armed with baseball bats.



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