Human rights lawyers from the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Forum for Human Rights (FORUM) have filed a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the Czech Republic for the death of Romani man Stanislav Tomáš in police custody in Teplice in 2021. The Czech Constitutional Court dismissed the organisations’ constitutional appeal in April 2023. The case before the Court is on behalf of the deceased Romani man’s surviving family member.
“I am very grateful to everyone who is helping me to have my brother’s death properly investigated. I believe that if we cannot find protection in the Czech justice system, we will find it before the European Court of Human Rights” said Mr Tomáš’s sister.
Stanislav Tomáš was forcefully restrained during his arrest on 19th June 2021 by police officers in Teplice and later died. The footage of his arrest was shared on social media and sparked protests across Europe. The video showed a police officer kneeling on Mr Tomáš’s neck in a manner reminiscent of the police killing of the Black American man George Floyd, in May 2020. While the autopsy results released by the police stated that the cause of Stanislav Tomáš’ death was unrelated to the actions of the police, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights’ report on 13th December 2021 found the police responsible for playing a significant role in the death of the Romani man. Her report stated that the police officers delayed calling an ambulance and neglected to monitor Stanislav’s health condition. In addition, she found that the Regional Police Directorate had left out crucial information reported by the first responders about Stanislav collapsing before the arrival of the paramedics in their internal investigation which could amount to a failure to conduct an effective investigation.
The organisations had previously filed a request with the Prosecutor General’s Office to initiate an ‘oversight’ procedure over the death and the subsequent investigation. On the 16th March 2022, the General Inspectorate of Police Services (GIBS) closed their investigation into the conduct of the police officers present at the arrest of Stanislav Tomáš. The Prosecutor General’s Office (Vrchní státní zastupitelství) also confirmed that the decision of the Ústí nad Labem Police Directorate not to open an investigation was lawful, as well as the supervision of the Ústí nad Labem State Prosecution Office.
“The outcome of the investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš was decided from the beginning” said ERRC President Đorđe Jovanović. “Prime Minister Babiš was congratulating the police officers for a job well done long before any investigation had been concluded. The investigators wilfully ignored the testimony of paramedics, and the victim’s guilt was all but decided before the facts were known. The family of Stanislav Tomáš deserves justice. Roma across the Czech Republic, and Roma across Europe, deserve to see justice done in the face of widespread and wanton police brutality.”
Moreover, as FORUM’s legal counsel and family’s lawyer Maroš Matiaško emphasised, “the case demonstrates the persistent problem of police violence against Roma and especially the absence of independent and efficient investigation. It appears that there is a structural problem that should be addressed by the Czech authorities”.
”We believe the whole case is coming to a successful end, the relatives of Stanislav Tomáš will receive justice, and in the future, this will mean strengthening the safety of Romani people in the Czech Republic and improving the work of the Czech Police in similar situations”, concluded Mirek Brož from KONEXE, an organisation providing ongoing support to relatives of Mr. Tomáš.
The ERRC, KONEXE and FORUM find the Czech authorities’ treatment of the death of Stanislav Tomáš, and the decision to close the investigation, to be an aberration of justice. The inability of Czech Courts to find justice for yet another Romani victim of police brutality has led to this case being brought to the European Court.
This press release is also available in Czech.
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