Senator accused of defamation retains political immunity|
The Czech Senate’s immunity committee decided on Tuesday not to hand
independent Senator Liana Janáčková over for prosecution. Mrs
Janáčková stands accused of defamation, after saying that the
country’s Roma population should, among other things, be ‘blown up’.
The decision has provoked outcry amongst Romany rights groups, who say that
the move gives a green light to public displays of racism.
Mrs Janáčková made the headlines last summer when a secret recording of
her making offensive remarks about the country’s Roma minority was
leaked. Addressing constituents in Marianské Hory, northern Moravia, Mrs
Janáčková said that she thought local Roma should be rounded up and kept
behind an electric fence, and blown up with dynamite.
Mrs Janáčková has since apologized for the remarks, but the Czech
police want to investigate her on charges of defamation. On Tuesday, the
Senate’s immunity committee chose not to hand her over. The move has
dismayed Romany rights activists. Kumar Vishwanatan is a community worker
in Mrs Janáčková’s constituency:
“On a general level, I think it is wrong for politicians and public
figures to conjure up such frightening images as electric fences and
dynamite and so on. I think this is unacceptable. We are still living in
the shadow of the Romany Holocaust. And secondly, there is a section of the
general public who will now see this as a green light to talk this way
about the Roma. So I think this should be condemned.”
The Senate’s immunity committee decided by seven votes to two that Mrs
Janáčková should not be stripped of her immunity – in a move which has
received criticism from many different quarters. Here’s political analyst
“I think it casts the Czech Senate’s immunity committee in a bad
light. I think it is a political decision. The true situation is that she
expressed herself in a way which a court should decide whether to punish or
not. And I think no politician should be immune from facing trial for
comments they have made about people of different ethnic backgrounds.”
But do you think what she did really constitutes a punishable offence?
Because she has apologised for these comments which she called ‘silly’
and ‘unfortunate’? So isn’t this just her opponents trying to gain
some political mileage out of her embarrassment?
“As I already said, this has nothing to do with her apology. This is
something that should be decided by a court. It was not a political act
that she committed, so it should not be a question of a politician’s
right to immunity. It was simply an expression of common public racism, and
it is up to a court to decide whether she committed a recognized crime or
not. If she was really being honest in her apology, she would be ready to
accept the decision of a court on the matter, which she is not. She is
hiding behind her political immunity.”
The committee’s recommendation is not final – the Czech Senate still
has to vote on whether Mrs Janáčková should be stripped of her immunity
or not. Given the controversy that this recommendation has sparked, it
could be a tough decision for senators.