Human rights commissioner attacked after defending black man in metro

Jan Jarab, photo: CTK

The government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab is still recovering today after being assaulted in the Prague metro by two skinheads. Mr Jarab was attacked after coming to the aid of a black man who was being beaten up by the two youths. He says he reported the incident to the police, but they didn't seem to be too interested in following it up. Earlier I spoke to Mr Jarab by telephone, and asked him to tell me exactly what happened.

Jan Jarab,  photo: CTK
"I was in the underground, on the escalator, and there were two young men sitting on the escalator sitting and smoking. And there was an African man who asked them to let him pass, and when they didn't, he stepped over one of them, without any contact, and continued. One of the young men screamed 'Did you see that nigger? He can't do that.' And he rushed up to him and kicked him very brutally from behind, and they both descended upon him. At that point, without thinking, I reacted and jumped at one of them and tried to hold him to prevent him from hitting the African again. So they descended on me and beat me."

And what was the reaction of the public, the other passengers around you?

"Well, they couldn't have really done anything during the incident itself, because it happened so quickly. But when the attackers then retreated into the metro carriage - although I was rather badly beaten - I screamed at the people 'Do something! Catch them! Don't let them get away!' There were dozens of people there, dozens of strong men, stronger than myself, and they all looked the other way, which I found quite disgusting."

What about the police in all of this, presumably you contacted the police as soon as possible after the incident?

"Yes, even that was very disappointing. I went back up the escalators, and there was a city policeman who told me he couldn't do anything about it because it was a criminal act and the city police were only for misdemeanours. So I asked him to call the national police, and he refused to do so, saying that they had left anyway so what's the point. And I was in no physical or psychological condition to argue with him - I was a little shaken after the incident, so I actually went to the local police station and reported it. And what really made me quite furious - I learned this a day later - was that they considered it not as a criminal offence but as a misdemeanour, claiming that there was nothing that would show that this was a racially-motivated attack. They even lied openly to the press, claiming that I had never said anything that indicated this was a racially-motivated attack."

The government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab. And a short while ago the prime minister Vladimir Spidla released a statement praising Mr Jarab's civic courage, and saying he was disturbed by Wednesday's attack.