Human rights commissioner condemns police after skinhead concert

Some 400 hundred skinheads from the Czech Republic and from abroad met in a pub in a village near Prague on Saturday, for a concert by neo-Nazi groups.

The policing of the event consisted largely of moving journalists out of the square in front of the pub, to prevent them from monitoring the concert. Otherwise officers did not intervene, saying no law had been broken. But the government's human rights commissioner, Jan Jarab, believes the police were clearly in the wrong, as he explained earlier to Olga Szantova.

"There was plenty of evidence that the skinheads were indeed breaking the law and what's most distressing is that the policemen were breaking the law, because in the end they literally pushed out the journalists, who were in a public space in defense of a private party, which would have been unacceptable and contrary to the law anyway, even if that private party had not been a neo-Nazi gathering. The use of policemen to prohibit individual citizens to use public places on behalf of a private agent would be a violation of the law.

"And the fact that they did it on behalf of a private party that was itself explicitly violating the law and spreading racism and anti-Semitism, which is a crime under Czech law, then I'm really at a loss to comment what guidance these policemen have, because this cannot be blamed on individual policemen in that small locality. It is clear that the police presidium was informed about this international skinhead gathering before it actually happened."

Radio Prague: Mr Gross, the interior minister says that police officers are reluctant to make decisions. Do you think that that is the main reason?

Jan Jarab: It may well be one of the reasons.

RP: The argument used by the police was that all this was happening behind closed doors, at a private party and they had no room for interfering.

JJ: It wasn't all happening at a private party. There were symbols of racial hatred being paraded in the streets, at the entrance to that private party. The police were aware that this would be a neo-Nazi gathering from other sources and therefore the offence of spreading racial hatred would be carried out there. They knew, also, that one of the bands that would be playing there is called "Judenmord", which means "Death to Jews", which simply should not be allowed to perform even at something that is designated as a private party. Simply, the offence of spreading racial hatred is committed when at least two people, other than the person who is committing it, are present.

RP: This argument about something happening behind closed doors is frequently quoted. Is it an argument, according to law?

JJ: Not in this context. In this context it is quoted entirely wrongly.

RP: A law broken behind closed doors is a law broken.

JJ: Yes, and indeed it is not a private party by definition, what happened there. I mean, an international gathering of neo-Nazis, beit on the territory of a private property, is not a private party."

RP: Some commentators say that the Czech Republic, due to the reluctance to step in, the police's reluctance to step in, is becoming a haven for neo-Nazis.

JJ: Unfortunately, it does seem so. It seems that they are coming here, the international ones, more frequently than to countries in Western Europe, because they can count with more benevolent treatment.

RP: So, what's going to happen now?

JJ: I think there'll be some pretty tough complaints, including complaints on my part, concerning the behavior and the strategy of the police during this last incident, because there have been cases in which they have let these things happen, but now they have also limited other people's rights to access public places because of this and that I think is intolerable.

I'll just add that among those who have voiced their disagreement and announced they want the case investigated is Interior Minister Stanislav Gross.

Author: Olga Szantová
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