Fresh dismissal of racist attack case condemned by minority groups and NGOs

The issue of race relations and attacks on the Roma minority by Neo Nazi skinheads is a tense and emotional one in the Czech Republic. The decision by a court in Eastern Moravia on Thursday to dismiss a case against three youths charged with an arson attack on a Roma household, could further weaken faith in the ability of the Czech authorities to crack down on racially motivated crime. Nick Carey has this report.

There have been numerous high profile cases of racially motivated attacks against the Roma minority in recent years. But when such cases reach court, the ruling from judges has often been that there was no proof an attack was racially motivated, and so a lower sentence for assault is handed out. Or, as in this latest case, the case is dismissed for lack of evidence. In 1998, an arson attack was carried out on the flat of a Roma family in the East Moravian town of Krnov. In the attack, a mother of four and her partner were severely burned, and were lucky to escape with their lives.

Three teenage boys were arrested in connection with the attack, and were charged with racially motivated assault. The case was dismissed last year for lack of evidence, which the state prosecutor appealed. The district court in Krnov decided to dismiss the case again on Thursday, again citing a lack of evidence. According to Claude Cahn of the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest, this verdict was probably inevitable, given the handling of the case: Despite efforts by the Czech authorities in recent years to approach the subject of race relations, organisations that represent the Roma minority in the Czech Republic see this case as a travesty of justice which, says Claude Cahn, presents a damning image of the Czech legal system: The Czech Republic has been criticised by human rights organisations for the way it treats its Roma minority, and the European Commission, in its annual progress report on Czech EU accession preparations, has criticised the way successive Czech governments have handled the issue of racial relations, and the way cases like the arson attack in Krnov are handled. Claude Cahn again: