Activists meet at Lety to keep pressure on government to remove
controversial pig farm|
Activists from the Czech Republic and abroad met at Lety, South Bohemia, on
Saturday, the site of a labour and later concentration camp where Roma were
interned and died during WWII. They were aiming to keep pressure on the
government to finally remove a pig farm at the site which has been an
insult to the victims who suffered or died there and their descendants, for
Past Czech governments and human rights ministers have frequently pledged
to remove the pig farm at Lety and failed. Now, many are hoping that a deal
can be reached at last to compensate the firm in question, AGPI, for the
land and property so it can be closed. The Social Democrat-led government
agreed to resolve the matter its road map to 2020, valuation of the
property was commissioned, and talks are currently underway.
At the same time, the government has only a very limited shelf life
remaining – some four months before the next lower house elections,
leaving many worried the clock will run out before an agreement can be
Benjamin Abtan, the head of EGAM (the European Grassroots Antiracist
Movement) which organised Saturday’s event, said now is the time to keep
the pressure on.
“We will be watching to make sure that the ones who form the next
government take action. It has taken EGAM a lot of time to raise awareness,
to convince political leaders, to mobilise Czech society. But now we feel
the movement has gained steam and that there is huge pressure.
“The pressure comes because there is an important principle at stake:
respect for the victims. It is important for Europe and especially the
Czech Republic to address this shared history and for the Roma community
today to at last have their dignity respected and for discrimination and
social exclusion of Roma to end.”
The meeting in Lety on Saturday was attended by around 300 people from 15
countries; Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan also attended. He told the
Czech News Agency that a memorial and nothing else, certainly not a pig
farm, should stand at the site. The justice minister, as member of the ANO
party, is one who could conceivably play a role in the next government
which has been slated to win the autumn election to the lower house.
More than 1,300 Roma men, women and children were held at the camp at
Lety: an estimated 327 of them died at the site, largely due to disease;
more than 500 were sent on and died at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
A small memorial site was opened in Lety in 2010.