Open Letter to demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

Open Letter to demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

President of the European Council,
Mr Charles Michel,
President Ursula von der Leyen,
President David Maria Sassoli
Ambassador Iztok Jarc,
Vice-President Věra Jourová,
Commissioner Didier Reynders,
Commissioner Helena Dalli,
President of the Committee on Civil Liberties,
Justice
and Home Affairs,
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar,
ARDI Co-Presidents and Vice-Presidents,

Open Letter

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations and individuals worldwide, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.
We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him applying excessive and unnecessary force to immobilise him against the hot pavement, even after he was handcuffed.
We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.
The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape were totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.
It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.
Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, have an obligation to perform their duties in accordance with universally agreed standards of human rights and civil and political rights, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved – and in this, the protection and preservation of life should have been their highest priority. Moreover, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective, particularly after the handcuffs have been already placed. If it is disproportionate, the use of force has to be qualified and investigated as a criminal offence. Therefore:

  • We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the case, and that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.
  • We are also calling attention to the need to safeguard the life and personal security of witnesses, their relatives and other persons close to them, from acts of intimidation or revenge and facilitate their access to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings, as needed. Moreover, acts of intimidation of witnesses should be punished either as separate criminal offences or as part of the offence of using illegal threats.
  • It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.
  • We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.
  • We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.
    We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally used police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous and life-threatening methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.
  • As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Background

Amateur video footage was posted to Facebook on Saturday, 19 June featuring troubling images of the arrest of a man by three police officers in front of a group of bystanders who were visibly worried for the man’s safety, as he was kept immobilized by the application of continuous pressure to his neck and nape area for several minutes.
According to the spokesperson for the emergency rescue services in the Ústecký Region, Prokop Voleník, a scuffle had been reported between two people who were under the influence of narcotics at the time. “When the police patrol arrived at the scene, one of the men fled while the other was subdued by the officers and handcuffed,” police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová told the tabloid news server Blesk.cz. Police declared that the officers called an ambulance because the arrested man was under the influence of drugs.Police spokesperson Daniel Vítek stated that “According to the preliminary autopsy report, there was reason to suspect the man had been under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart.” According to police, Stanislav Tomáš collapsed and subsequently died in the ambulance called to the scene.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who also chairs the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, declared that “The court autopsy has clearly demonstrated that he did not die due to the intervention by police. This is sad, but a normal, respectable person would have a hard time getting into such a situation.” He backed the police officers in Teplice and thanked them for their intervention against Stanislav Tomáš. “If somebody destroys a car, is aggressive, and even bites a police officer, he cannot expect to be handled with kid gloves,” the PM commented.
Prior to the statement made by the Prime Minister, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček also backed the police officers. “The intervening police officers have my full support. Anybody under the influence of addictive substances who breaks the law has to count on the police intervening. It is mainly thanks to the work of policemen and policewomen that we are among the top 10 safest countries in the world,” Hamáček commented in response to a police tweet insisting the Teplice incident is not an example of a “Czech George Floyd”.
Looking at the amateur footage, we can observe at second 0.6 the three police officers trying to immobilise a man who was already prone on the ground and who was resisting the way he was being handled, under the close scrutiny of a bystander. In about 10 seconds, two police officers manage to immobilise the man by sitting on him and using a lot of physical pressure: one police officer was positioned at the man’s head, pushing his left knee first onto his head against the pavement, and his right leg laterally and partially on his back, while bringing his hands together behind his back to place them in handcuffs with the help of the third officer, who also kneeled on the man’s back horizontally. The second officer, at first, just sat on the man’s leg, placing his whole-body weight onto his leg and then briefly changed into a kneeling position, using his left knee to press against both of the man’s knees while keeping his ankles still. In less than 1 minute, the third officer managed to place the handcuffs around the man’s wrists, but the two police officers continued to kneel on him, applying strong bodily pressure, despite the fact that he was already handcuffed. The police officer kneeling on the man’s legs then used his police phone (probably calling the ambulance) while continuing to press with both knees on the man’s legs; simultaneously the first police officer continued to apply pressure to the upper part of the man’s body and his right shoulder using his left arm, as well as on his coccyx using his right arm, while pushing his left knee onto his nape and neck, with his right knee probably pressed into the man’s back as well. At this point, people from the adjacent buildings started to scream and signal to the police officers, visibly concerned at the whole scene as it unravelled. Three minutes into this constantly-applied pressure, the second officer stood up while the first officer continued to apply the same pressure to the upper part of the man’s body, including his windpipe. Two passers-by came very close to the scene, one kneeling and trying to get a closer look at the man’s face and to talk to him, it seems. Around 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, the third police officer approached and again kneeled on the man’s right leg from the side, while applying pressure with his hands on his left leg. Five minutes into the intervention, the immobilised man stopped screaming or fighting visibly in the footage. After another 30 seconds, the first police officer finally removed himself from the man’s upper body, kneeling next to him instead and seemingly checking his breathing. The footage ended before we could understand if the man was still breathing and alive before the ambulance arrived.
Czech attorney Miroslav Krutina stated on the CNN Prima News channel’s 360° program that “Kneeling is quite a dangerous instrument”, adding that “if it were to be demonstrated that the kneeling was directly on the nape of the neck or on the neck itself, then it would not be proportionate.” He affirmed that he has consulted the Police Academy that trains officers in such methods. “Kneeling that would aim for the neck decidedly does not belong among the range of safe procedures. The reason is that it’s difficult to control the force of the pressure exerted,” he said, adding that in tense moments the technique can cause serious injury or strangulation.
According to Ondřej Moravčík, spokesperson for the Police Presidium, officers must pay attention to the principles of legality and proportionality when intervening. “The officer must assess the situation and decide which means of force will make it possible to achieve a purpose that is lawful and essential to overcome the resistance, or the escape of the person being intervened against,” Moravčík previously explained to news server Aktuálně.cz.
At the close of the video that was published on social media, it can be seen that the man stops making any movements or sound. “If the person is quiet, stops shouting, stops moving, then it would be time to start testing his vital signs,” news server Romea.cz reported that a police trainer said while watching the closing phase of the video of the police intervention, when Stanislav Tomáš has stopped moving and shouting.
Reporter Richard Samko, who watched the footage together with the police instructor, asked him whether the officers actually proceeded correctly if the video shows that the man had not been moving for about 30 seconds while the officer’s knee remained on his neck; the instructor said: “The patrol is beginning to examine what’s going on with him. He isn’t communicating anymore, but we can’t assess what happened there, what kinds of pressures were exerted.”
Unfortunately, the death of George Floyd, an African-American man subjected to a similar police approach in the USA, has not yet led to a ban of the police technique of using the knee on someone’s neck across all European countries, despite European wide outrage and follow-up European Parliament resolution. However, after the death of George Floyd, police officers in France stopped using the manoeuvre and have also stopped teaching it at their police academies. “During arrests it will be forbidden to apply pressure to the neck or nape of the neck,” the then-Interior Minister of France, Christophe Castaner, announced at the time.
Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, has announced in an interview for ROMEA TV that she will be investigating Saturday’s intervention by the police patrol in Teplice after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, died. “After watching the video of the intervention in Teplice and reading all of the available information, I’ve decided to use my competencies and the scope of activity made possible by the law on the Public Defender of Rights with respect to the Police of the Czech Republic to begin an investigation on my own initiative,” she told ROMEA TV. “This investigation will focus on the proportionality of the methods of force used during the intervention in Teplice,” Šimůnková said. According to her, the investigation will be launched in the next few days and the results will depend on how quickly the Czech Police provide her office with the relevant materials. “I don’t dare predict the timeframe, it could be weeks, it could be months. I am bound by my duty to maintain confidentiality until the case is closed and the entire matter has been investigated, but I will try to conduct this investigation as quickly as possible,” she said.
The Council of Europe (CoE) also published a statement on 23 June, “calling for an urgent, thorough, and independent investigation into the recent death of a Romani man in the Czech Republic after he had been apprehended by the police. Footage taken on 19 June from Teplice, Czech Republic, showing police intervention against a Romani man who later died in an ambulance is alarming and raises numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident,” the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General reads.


Signatories
Non-Governmental organisations

  1. European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network, Brussels, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  2. European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  3. European Network against Racism, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  4. Eurodiaconia, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  5. Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  6. Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, Spain, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  7. Roma Active Albania, Albania, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  8. Phiren Amenca International Network, Brussels, Belgium, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  9. International Roma Women Network “Phenjalipe”, France, EU Policy Roma Coalition
  10. European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), France, EU Roma Policy Coalition
  11. Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels, Belgium
  12. ILGA-Europe, Brussels, Belgium
  13. AGE Platform Europe, Brussels¸ Belgium
  14. European Disability Forum, Brussels
  15. CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, Brussels, Belgium
  16. Social Platform, Brussels, Belgium
  17. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), Belgium
  18. European Network on Religion and Belief, Brussels, European Youth Forum, Belgium
  19. European Youth Forum, Belgium
  20. Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO) Belgium
  21. Fair Trials, Brussels, Belgium
  22. Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
  23. ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network, Brussels, Belgium
  • Albania
  1. Balkan Youth Activism, Albania
  2. Rromano Kham, Albania
  3. Center for Social Advocacy, Albania
  4. Institute of Romani Culture in Albania, Albania
  5. Roma Women Rights Center, Albania
  • Austria
  1. Romano Centro, Austria
  2. Roma Volkshochschule Burgenland, Austria
  3. ACT-P – Assisting Children Traumatised by Police, Austria
  4. Verein Roma-Service, Austria
  • Belgium
  1. Ahmed AHKIM/Roma and Travellers Mediation Center, Belgium
  • Bosnia and Hercegovina
  1. The Citizens’ Association for the Promotion of Roma Education “Otaharin”, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  2. Women Association “Romkinja” Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Udruzenje “Ženska vizija” Tuzla, Bosnia and Hercegovina
  • Bulgaria
  1. INTEGRO association, Bulgaria
  2. Integro Association Bulgaria, Bulgaria
  3. Amalipe Center, Bulgaria
  • Canada
  1. Czech and Slovak Roma Association in Canada, Canada
  • Czech Republic
  1. ROMEA association, Czech Republic

  2. Life Together, Czech Republic

  3. Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic

  4. Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) , Czech Republic
  5. Mgr. Jan Husák, Member of the Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs, Czech Republic
  6. NGO RomanoNet, Czech Republic
  7. ROMEA association, Czech Republic
  8. Slovo 21, z.s., Czech Republic
  9. Hana Franková, Organization for Aid to Refugees, Czech Republic
  10. Activist Lab – MgA Tamara Moyzes, Czech Republic
  11. The Czech Helsinki Committee, The Czech Republic
  12. Organization for aid to refugees / Aneta Subrtova, Czech Republic
  13. CONEXE, Czech Republic
  • Croatia
  1. Antifašistički VJESNIK (Antifascist TRIBUNE), Croatia
  2. Roma recourse centre/ Jovan Petrović, Croatia
  3. Roma youth organisation of Croatia, Croatia
  4. Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
  • Cyprus
  1. KISA – Equality, Support, Antiracism, Cyprus
  • Denmark
  1. Fair Play/ Henriette Mentzel, Denmark
  • Finland
  1. Anti-Racist Forum, Finland
  • France
  1. La Voix des rroms, France
  2. Le CRAN Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France, France
  3. GATIEF – Martine Serlinger, FRANCE
  • Germany
  1. Hildegard Lagrenne Foundation Germany
  2. Amaro Drom e.V., Germany
  3. RomaRespekt, Germany
  4. Independent Commission on Antigypsyism, Germany
  5. Thomas Schmidt, Secretary General of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights ELDH, Germany
  6. Society for the Research of Antigypsyism, Germany
  7. RomaTrial, Germany
  8. Romane Romnja Initiative, Germany
  9. save space e.V., Germany
  10. Amaro Foro, Germany
  11. Dalit Solidarity in Germany, Deutschland
  • Greece
  1. Association of Roma Women of Dendropotamos, Greece
  2. Greek Forum of Migrants, Greece
  3. ANTIGONE- Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence, Greece
  • Hungary
  1. Romaversitas Foundation, Hungary
  2. Romedia Foundation, Hungary
  3. We Belong Here Association, Hungary
  4. Diverse Youth Network Hungary
  • India/Nepal
  1. Asia Dalit Rights Forum/Dipanshu Rathore, India
  2. Asia Dalit Rights Forum / Vinayaraj V.K., India
  3. Sabina Pathrose Good Shepherd Sisters India.
  4. GFoD/Johannes Butscher, Global
  5. Aloysius Irudayam, Asia Dalits Rights Forum (ADRF), India
  6. Asia Dalit Rights Forum, India/Nepal
  7. Dalit NGO Federation Nepal, Nepal
  • Ireland
  1. Martin Collins / Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre Ireland
  • Island
  1. Ragnheiður Freyja Kristínardóttir, Island
  • Italy
  1. Il Razzismo è una brutta storia, Italy
  2. Associazione Romni APS, Italy
  3. Associazione Rowni-Roma women network Italy, Italy
  4. Associazione rom e romnja Europa, Italy
  5. Romano drom Coop. Soc. Arl ONLUS, Milano, Italy
  6. Network Romani Italy, Italy
  7. Associazione rom in progress, Italy
  8. Àltera, Italia
  • Lithuania
  1. Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
  2. Public Institution Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
  • Kenya, Africa
  1. Global Voluntary Development Association, Kenya
  • Kosovo
  1. Advancing Together, Kosovo
  2. KOSINT, Kosovo
  • North Macedonia
  1. Regional Roma Educational Youth Association – RROMA, North Macedonia
  2. Lumijakhere Rroma, North Macedonia
  3. RROMA, North Macedonia
  4. Roma Democratic Development Association SONCE, North Macedonia
  5. Roma Women and Youth Association “LULUDI” North Macedonia
  6. Association of multiethnic society for human rights Stip, North Macedonia
  7. Association for Roma Women Development “Latcho Dive”, North Macedonia
  8. Roma Lawyers Association, North Macedonia
  9. 24VAKTI- SKOPJE, North Macedonia
  10. Coalition of Roma CSO’s “Khetane”, North Macedonia
  • Malta
  1. Migrant Women Association Malta, Malta
  • Mauritania, Africa
  1. Sahel foundation / Brahim Ramdhane, Mauritania
  • Republic of Moldova
  1. Roma Women Network “Moldsolidaritate”, Republic of Moldova
  2. Asociaţia Romilor din Republica Moldova „RUBIN”, Republica Moldova
  3. Societatea social-culturală „TRADIȚIA ROMILOR”, Moldova
  4. Asociaţia Obştească „SPERANŢA ROMILOR”, Moldova
  5. Centrul Naţional al Romilor, Moldova
  6. Comunitatea Romilor din mun. Bălţi „ŞATRO”, Moldova
  7. Asociaţia Obştească a Romilor din Municipiul Chişinău „AME ROMA”, Moldova
  8. Mişcarea Socială a Romilor din Moldova, Moldova
  9. Asociaţia Obştească „JUVLIA ROMANI”, Moldova
  10. Asociaţia etno-sociocultural-educativă „BAHTALO ROM”, Moldova
  11. Asociaţia știinţifico-culturală „ELITA ROMANI”, Moldova
  12. Organizația Obștească „ROM CĂTUNARE”, Moldova
  13. Comunitatea Romilor din or. Fălești „ROM-SAM”, Moldova
  14. Organizația Obștească „ROMII CIOCĂNARI”, Moldova
  15. Asociaţia Obştească „Romano ILO”, Moldova
  16. Asociaţia Obştească „Comunitatea Romilor din Găgăuzia”, Moldova
  17. Organizația Obștească a Romilor din or. Otaci „BAHTALO DROM”, Moldova
  18. Fundația Internaţională de Binefacere a Romilor pentru Dezvoltarea Culturii şi Renaşterii Naţiunii „BARONUL MIRCEA CERARI”, Moldova
  19. Asociaţia Obştească „OPRE O CEACIMOS”, Moldova
  20. Asociaţia Obştească „ROMII în PROGRES”, Moldova
  21. Asociaţia Obştească „DROM ANGLE”, Moldova
  22. Asociaţia Obştească „AMARI EUROPA”, Moldova
  23. Asociaţia Obştească „POROJAN” Moldova
  24. Asociaţia Obştească „PETALO ROMANO”, Moldova
  25. Asociația Obștească „UNIUNEA INTERNAȚIONALĂ a ROMILOR”, Moldova
  • Netherlands
  1. Roma Utrecht Foundation, Netherlands
  2. Roma Advocacy Network, Netherlands
  3. India ki Rasta Foundation, Netherlands
  4. Salonica Utrecht Foundation, Netherlands
  5. Romane Sheja, Netherlands
  6. Roma Capelle, Netherlands
  7. Roma Overijssel Foundation, Netherlands
  8. Roma Media Group, Netherlands
  9. Nederlandse Roma Vereniging Lelystad, Netherlands
  10. Roma Committee against Statelessness, Netherlands
  11. Roma Foundation I am the Way, Netherlands
  12. Koshish Foundation Netherlands (Art & Culture) The Netherlands
  13. Romane Shave, Netherlands
  14. RADIO PATRIN NEWS NETWORK, Netherlands-Ukraine-Moldova-Turkey-Portugal
  • Norway
  1. Inter African Committee Norway, Norway
  • Poland
  1. Jaw Dikh! Art Foundation, Poland
  2. Cosmodernity Consultants, Poland
  3. PADLINK, Poland
  4. JAW DIKH! Art Foundation, Poland
  5. Ad Lucem Foundation, Poland
  • Romania
  1. Nevo Parudimos, Romania
  2. CADO-Advocacy and Human Rights Center, Romania
  3. REDI Brussels, Romania
  4. Partidul Phralipe al Romilor Judetul Botosani, Romania
  5. Asociatia Partida Romilor Pro-Europa filiala Botosani, Romania
  6. RUHAMA Foundation, Romania
  7. Association Rroma Center “Amare Rromentza”, Romania
  • Senegal, Africa
  1. TrustAfrica, Sénégal
  • Serbia
  1. Roma Forum Serbia, Serbia
  2. Roma initiative for sustainable development, Serbia
  3. Roma sport association Freedom, Serbia
  4. Women Space, Serbia
  • Slovakia
  1. Roma advocacy and research centre, Slovakia
  2. Human Rights League Slovakia, Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  1. European Romani Union, Slovenia
  • Spain
  1. Fundación Secretariado Gitano, Spain
  2. Federació d’ Associacions Gitanes de Catalunya (FAGIC), Spain
  3. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos, Spain
  4. Asociación Nacional Presencia Gitana, Spain
  5. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos, Spain
  6. Institute of Cultural Affairs, Spain
  • Turkey
  1. Zero Discrimination Association, Turkey
  2. Eurasian Rroma Academic Network, Slovenia – The Netherlands – Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  1. Gipsy Strength, United Kingdom
  2. Gypsy Council, United Kingdom
  3. Minority Rights Group International, United Kingdom
  4. Roma live, United Kingdom
  5. KaskoSan Roma Charity / Gyula Vamosi, United Kingdom
  6. Traveller Pride, United Kingdom
  7. Care for young people’s future, England, United Kingdom
  8. European Network on Statelessness, United Kingdom
  9. Apna Haq, United Kingdom
  10. Inequalities Research Network/G Mir, United Kingdom
  11. Alan Murray, All Faiths and None, United Kingdom
  12. Romano Lav, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
  13. Ashli Mullen (Romano Lav/University of Glasgow), Scotland, United Kingdom
  • United States/Africa/India
  1. Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (GFoD), Global organization New York/Dakar/Delhi
  2. Phoenix Forbes United States of America
  • No country mentioned
  1. Gipsy top team

Activists/individuals

Albania

  1. Ines Stasa, Albania
  2. Gerta Xega, Albania
  3. Benjamin Fasching-Gray, Austria
  4. Nicole Garbin, Austria
  • Belgium
  1. Martin Demirovski, Belgium
  2. Ela Guler, Belgium
  3. Simona Barbu, Belgium
  4. Mediha Hadžajlić, Bosna and Hercegovina
  • Bulgaria
  1. Bagryan Maksimov, Bulgaria
  • Canada
  1. Michael Cina, Canada
  2. Marek Rybar, CANADA
  3. Karicka Ondrej, Canada
  • Czech Republic
  1. Andrea Balážová, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
  2. Jan Horváth, Czech Republic
  3. Julius Moro, Czech Republic
  4. Andrej Sivak, Czech Republic
  5. Juliana vodrazkova, RomPraha, z.s., Czech Republic
  6. Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Republic / USA
  7. Alexandr Dzurko, Czech Republic
  8. Lucie Orackova Czech Republic /Netherland
  9. Sára Kavurová, Czech Republic
  10. Milan holan, Czech Republic
  11. Martin Dzurko, Czech Republic
  12. Michaela izerová, Czech Republic
  13. Sára Tanková, Praha, Czech Republic
  14. Adéla Deňová, Liberec, Czech Republic
  15. Kevin lak, Czech Republic
  16. Simona slepcikova, Czech Republic
  17. Ivana Gaziova, Czech Republic
  18. Simona Černá, Czech Republic
  19. Simona Slepcikova, Czech Republic
  20. Lackova Souhlasim, Czech Republic
  21. Martin Kompush, Czech Republic
  22. Alzbeta Harvanova, Czech Republic, town Teplice
  23. Julius Hudi, Czech Republic
  24. Robert Hmilánský, Czech Republic
  25. Vladislav Bandy, Czech Republic
  26. D, Praha, Czech Republic
  27. Z, Praha 3, Czech Republic
  28. Ondrej Karicka, Czech Republic
  29. Zuzana Pavelková, Czech Republic
  30. Aneta Midlochová, Czech Republic
  31. Katerina, Czech Republic
  • Croatia
  1. Josipa Lulić, Croatia
  2. Milan Mitrović Croatia/Slavonski Brod
  3. Ines Salimović, Hrvatska, Croatia
  4. Nikolina Đurđević, Croatia
  5. Petra Matic, Croatia
  • Denmark
  1. Emil Novák-Tót, Denmark
  • Finland
  1. Marko Stenroos, Finland
  2. Vivian Isberg, Finland
  • France
  1. Reneta LIDKOVA, France
  2. Danièle MARY, France
  3. Ingo Ritz, France
  • Germany
  1. Suzana, Germany
  2. Beatrix Tessmer, Germany
  3. Alina Maggiore, Germany
  4. Taisiya Schumacher, Germany
  5. Kelly Laubinger, Germany
  6. Esther Bendel, Germany
  7. Dr. Hilde Hoffmann, Germany
  8. Anna Friedrich, Germany
  9. Toralf Stark, Germany
  10. Lisa-Marie Heimeshoff, Germany
  • Hungary
  1. Georgina Laboda, Hungary
  2. Szilvia FRANK, Hungary
  • India
  1. Paul Jesuraja, India
  2. Nayantara Raja, India
  3. Conor Dervan, Ireland
  4. Irene Siragusa, Ireland
  5. Valentina De Amicis, Ireland
  6. Gentina Jusufi, Kosovo
  • Lithuania
  1. Svetlana Novopolskaja, Lithuania
  • Mali
  1. Rhaichatou, Mali
  2. Rhaïchatou walet Altanata, Mali
  • Mauritania, Africa
  1. Aboubekrine El Jera, Mauritania
  • North Macedonia
  1. Fatma Bajram Azemovska, North Macedonia
  2. Nesime Salioska, North Macedonia
  3. Mustafa Jakupov, North Macedonia
  4. Daniela Janevska, North Macedonia
  5. Urmeta Arifovska, North Macedonia
  • Republic of Moldova
  1. ACOPERI/Israel Collier, Republic of Moldova
  • Netherlands/Syria
  1. Joost van der Braag, Netherlands
  2. Marijke Manders, Netherlands
  3. Froukelien IJntema, The Netherlands
  4. Danial L., Netherlands/Syria
  • Portugal
  1. Bruno Fernandes Prudêncio, Portugal
  2. Larry Olomofe, Poland
  • Romania
  1. Alexandra Grigore, Romania
  2. Mereuta Laurentia Mariana, Romania
  3. Aida-Diana Farkas, Romania
  4. Delia Grigore, Romania
  5. Marian Mandache, Romania
  • Serbia
  1. Vera Kurtic, Serbia
  • Spain
  1. Jordi Perales Gimenez, Catalonia, Spain
  • Slovakia
  1. Radoslav Gonbar, Slovakia
  2. Barbora Meššová, Slovakia
  3. Kristián Horváth, Slovakia
  • Sweden
  1. Jitka Pallas, Sweden
  2. Former ARDI President Soraya Post, Sweden
  • Switzerland
  1. Elise M, Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  1. Geiza Kuruc, England, United Kingdom
  2. Marcela Cinova, United Kingdom
  3. Bianca williams London, United Kingdom
  4. Michael Daduc, United Kingdom
  5. Sona Polak, United Kingdom
  6. Michaela Tologova, England, United Kingdom
  7. Patricia Petik, England, United Kingdom
  8. Vilem Kona, United Kingdom
  9. Jiri krichle, United Kingdom
  10. Jessica konova, United Kingdom
  11. Daniel Kona, United Kingdom
  12. Samuel Kona, United Kingdom
  13. Katerina Konova, United Kingdom
  14. Dr Laura Cashman, United Kingdom
  15. Nadia Szoma, United Kingdom
  16. Maria Hmilanska, United Kingdom
  17. Emil Kompus, United Kingdom
  18. Zaneta Kurecajova, United Kingdom
  19. Gabco Roman, United Kingdom
  20. Jiri, Wales, United Kingdom
  21. Simona Slepcikova, England, United Kingdom
  22. Kristyna Nemcova, United Kingdom
  23. Simona Polakova, United Kingdom
  24. Roman Kompus, United Kingdom
  25. Kristyna Nemcova, United Kingdom
  26. Irena Cisarova, United Kingdom
  27. Simona Bihariova, Leeds, United Kingdom
  28. Daniela Hmilanska, England, United Kingdom
  29. Radek Eros, United Kingdom
  30. Veronika Balogova, United Kingdom
  31. Roman Mirga, United Kingdom
  32. Daniel Slepcik, England, United Kingdom
  33. Nela, United Kingdom
  34. Miroslav Hmilansky, Bournemouth, United Kingdom
  35. Vera, United Kingdom
  36. Nela Erosova, United Kingdom
  37. Vladimíra Surmajova, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  38. Miroslav Tulej, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  39. Josef Daduc, United Kingdom
  40. K McCormick, United Kingdom
  41. Jiří Bartko, United Kingdom
  42. Barbora Sebkova, United Kingdom
  43. Pihik Stanislav, Halifax, United Kingdom
  44. Daniela Kompusova, United Kingdom
  45. B. Yasemin Sidiqi, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  46. Sarah-Jane chamberlain-Kent, United Kingdom
  47. Dr Lucie Fremlova, United Kingdom
  • United States
  1. Rachael Dosen, United States
  2. Zulfikar Reese, United States
  • *No information about the country
  1. Ondra Gizman
  2. Nistor

For more information on the joint letter and demands, please contact Isabela Mihalache, ERGO Senior Advocacy Officer at: i.mihalache@ergonetwork.org

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.

We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him to immobilise him.

We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.

The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape are totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.

It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.

Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, are there to serve and protect, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved. In this particular case, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate.

  • We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the situation, so that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.
  • We are also calling attention to the need to protect the privacy and safety of eyewitnesses, including shielding them against potential threats from non-state actors and police, if they are willing to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings.
  • It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.
  • We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.
  • We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.
  • We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally-recommended police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.

As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Background 

Amateur video footage was posted to Facebook on Saturday, 19 June featuring troubling images of the arrest of a man by three police officers in front of a group of bystanders who were visibly worried for the man’s safety, as he was kept immobilized by the application of continuous pressure to his neck and nape area for several minutes.

According to the spokesperson for the emergency rescue services in the Ústecký Region, Prokop Voleník, a scuffle had been reported between two people who were under the influence of narcotics at the time. “When the police patrol arrived at the scene, one of the men fled while the other was subdued by the officers and handcuffed,” police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová told the tabloid news server Blesk.cz. Police declared that the officers called an ambulance because the arrested man was under the influence of drugs.

Police spokesperson Daniel Vítek stated that “According to the preliminary autopsy report, there was reason to suspect the man had been under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart.” According to police, Stanislav Tomáš collapsed and subsequently died in the ambulance called to the scene.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who also chairs the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, declared that “The court autopsy has clearly demonstrated that he did not die due to the intervention by police. This is sad, but a normal, respectable person would have a hard time getting into such a situation.” He backed the police officers in Teplice and thanked them for their intervention against Stanislav Tomáš. “If somebody destroys a car, is aggressive, and even bites a police officer, he cannot expect to be handled with kid gloves,” the PM commented.

Prior to the statement made by the Prime Minister, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček also backed the police officers. “The intervening police officers have my full support. Anybody under the influence of addictive substances who breaks the law has to count on the police intervening. It is mainly thanks to the work of policemen and policewomen that we are among the top 10 safest countries in the world,” Hamáček commented in response to a police tweet insisting the Teplice incident is not an example of a “Czech George Floyd”.

Looking at the amateur footage, we can observe at second 0.6 the three police officers trying to immobilise a man who was already prone on the ground and who was resisting the way he was being handled, under the close scrutiny of a bystander. In about 10 seconds, two police officers manage to immobilise the man by sitting on him and using a lot of physical pressure: one police officer was positioned at the man’s head, pushing his left knee first onto his head against the pavement, and his right leg laterally and partially on his back, while bringing his hands together behind his back to place them in handcuffs with the help of the third officer, who also kneeled on the man’s back horizontally. The second officer, at first, just sat on the man’s leg, placing his whole-body weight onto his leg and then briefly changed into a kneeling position, using his left knee to press against both of the man’s knees while keeping his ankles still. In less than 1 minute, the third officer managed to place the handcuffs around the man’s wrists, but the two police officers continued to kneel on him, applying strong bodily pressure, despite the fact that he was already handcuffed. The police officer kneeling on the man’s legs then used his police phone (probably calling the ambulance) while continuing to press with both knees on the man’s legs; simultaneously the first police officer continued to apply pressure to the upper part of the man’s body and his right shoulder using his left arm, as well as on his coccyx using his right arm, while pushing his left knee onto his nape and neck, with his right knee probably pressed into the man’s back as well. At this point, people from the adjacent buildings started to scream and signal to the police officers, visibly concerned at the whole scene as it unravelled. Three minutes into this constantly-applied pressure, the second officer stood up while the first officer continued to apply the same pressure to the upper part of the man’s body, including his windpipe. Two passers-by came very close to the scene, one kneeling and trying to get a closer look at the man’s face and to talk to him, it seems. Around 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, the third police officer approached and again kneeled on the man’s right leg from the side, while applying pressure with his hands on his left leg. Five minutes into the intervention, the immobilised man stopped screaming or fighting visibly in the footage. After another 30 seconds, the first police officer finally removed himself from the man’s upper body, kneeling next to him instead and seemingly checking his breathing. The footage ended before we could understand if the man was still breathing and alive before the ambulance arrived.

Czech attorney Miroslav Krutina stated on the CNN Prima News channel’s 360° program that “Kneeling is quite a dangerous instrument”, adding that “if it were to be demonstrated that the kneeling was directly on the nape of the neck or on the neck itself, then it would not be proportionate.” He affirmed that he has consulted the Police Academy that trains officers in such methods. “Kneeling that would aim for the neck decidedly does not belong among the range of safe procedures. The reason is that it’s difficult to control the force of the pressure exerted,” he said, adding that in tense moments the technique can cause serious injury or strangulation.

According to Ondřej Moravčík, spokesperson for the Police Presidium, officers must pay attention to the principles of legality and proportionality when intervening. “The officer must assess the situation and decide which means of force will make it possible to achieve a purpose that is lawful and essential to overcome the resistance or the escape of the person being intervened against,” Moravčík previously explained to news server Aktuálně.cz.

At the close of the video that was published on social media, it can be seen that the man stops making any movements or sound. “If the person is quiet, stops shouting, stops moving, then it would be time to start testing his vital signs,” news server Romea.cz reported that a police trainer said while watching the closing phase of the video of the police intervention, when Stanislav Tomáš has stopped moving and shouting.

Reporter Richard Samko, who watched the footage together with the police instructor, asked him whether the officers actually proceeded correctly if the video shows that the man had not been moving for about 30 seconds while the officer’s knee remained on his neck; the instructor said: “The patrol is beginning to examine what’s going on with him. He isn’t communicating anymore, but we can’t assess what happened there, what kinds of pressures were exerted.”

Unfortunately, the death of George Floyd, an African-American man subjected to a similar police approach in the USA, has not yet led to a ban of the police technique of using the knee on someone’s neck across all European countries, despite European wide outrage and follow-up European Parliament resolution. However, after the death of George Floyd, police officers in France stopped using the manoeuvre and have also stopped teaching it at their police academies. “During arrests it will be forbidden to apply pressure to the neck or nape of the neck,” the then-Interior Minister of France, Christophe Castaner, announced at the time.

Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, has announced in an interview for ROMEA TV that she will be investigating Saturday’s intervention by the police patrol in Teplice after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, died. “After watching the video of the intervention in Teplice and reading all of the available information, I’ve decided to use my competencies and the scope of activity made possible by the law on the Public Defender of Rights with respect to the Police of the Czech Republic to begin an investigation on my own initiative,” she told ROMEA TV. “This investigation will focus on the proportionality of the methods of force used during the intervention in Teplice,” Šimůnková said. According to her, the investigation will be launched in the next few days and the results will depend on how quickly the Czech Police provide her office with the relevant materials. “I don’t dare predict the timeframe, it could be weeks, it could be months. I am bound by my duty to maintain confidentiality until the case is closed and the entire matter has been investigated, but I will try to conduct this investigation as quickly as possible,” she said.

The Council of Europe (CoE) also published a statement on 23 June, “calling for an urgent, thorough, and independent investigation into the recent death of a Romani man in the Czech Republic after he had been apprehended by the police. Footage taken on 19 June from Teplice, Czech Republic, showing police intervention against a Romani man who later died in an ambulance is alarming and raises numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident,” the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General reads.

Signatories

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Brussels

European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels

European Network against Racism, Brussels

Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels

ILGA-Europe, Brussels

AGE Platform Europe, Brussels

Romanonet network, Czech Republic

ROMEA association, Czech Republic

Life Together, Czech Republic

Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic

 

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache,  Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team

Citizens Equality, Rights and Values – ERGO participation in CERV dialogue week

Citizens Equality, Rights and Values – ERGO participation in CERV dialogue week

“Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” (CERV) is the new European programme offering funding for citizens’ engagement, equality for all and the protection and promotion of rights and EU values. Civil society organisations active at local, regional, national and transnational level, as well as other stakeholders, can apply to receive CERV funding for the 2021-2027 period.

CERV stands for “Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” and will be the biggest-ever EU fund for promoting and protecting fundamental rights inside the EU. It will provide 1,55 billion euro for the next 7-years period to projects protecting and promot the rights and values as enshrined in the Treaties, the Charter and in the applicable international human rights conventions. This will be achieved by supporting civil society organisations and other stakeholders active at local, regional, national and transnational level. The programme will replace the previous Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme and the Europe for Citizens programme.

The CERV programme will be based on 4 strands:

  1. Equality, Rights and Gender Equality – promote rights, non-discrimination, equality, including gender equality, and advance gender and non-discrimination mainstreaming;
  2. Citizens’ engagement and participation – promote citizens engagement and participation in the democratic life of the Union and exchanges between citizens of different Member States and to raise awareness of the common European history;
  3. Daphne – fight violence, including gender-based violence;
  4. Union values – protect and promote Union values. The Union values strand is one of the big innovations of the programme. It puts at its centre values which are common to all Member States and on which the European Union is founded:  respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. At a time where European societies are confronted with extremism, radicalism and divisions and a shrinking space for independent civil society, this strand will place civil society organisations at the heart of its priorities by funding projects which promote and raise awareness on EU values and EU fundamental rights and by providing financial support to local, regional and transnational civil society organisations.

During the CERV Civil Dialogue Week 2021 from 25-28 May 2021, potential partners and beneficiaries had the opportunity to get to know the new programme and to engage in an open dialogue on policy developments, opportunities and challenges.

The session on Equality and Rights was moderated by Irena Moozova, Director “Equality and Union citizenship” in the European Commission and engaged Sirpa Pietikäinen – Member of the European Parliament, FEMM Committee and  co-rapporteur CERV programme, Evelyne Paradis – Executive Director of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe, Tamás Kádár – Deputy Director and Head of Legal and Policy of the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET), Elizabeth Gosme – Director of COFACE Families Europe and Isabela Mihalache, our Senior Advocacy Officer.

At the invitation of the Moderator, our senior advocacy officer addressed the main challenges that that EU funds should address under the Equality and Rights strand of the CERV programme. We underlined the growing extremist and far right and populist movements, which challenge the idea of inclusive and democratic societies where people of different backgrounds can enjoy equal rights. Another challenge is addressing structural and institutional racism in the context of growing inequalities and discrimination and violence on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The fragmented nature and limited resources of EU funding programmes dedicated to various strands limit the EU’s capacity to respond to existing and new challenges, AI, climate change, covid-19; aspects regarding the distribution of funds across the groups of beneficiaries, the involvement of equality bodies, gender mainstreaming, mainstreaming of rights of the child and rights of people with disabilities, difficulties with the application process, implementation and reporting duties and mechanisms, ‘lack of support to first-time applicants’.

ERGO highlighted that programmes such as CERV are important since legislation alone is not enough to effectively tackle discrimination and racism and achieve equality. Structural problems and challenges are hardly funded by national funding if not for EU funding. Such structural problems are also cross-countries and better addressed at regional level through exchanges of knowledge and good practices. EU funding should allow developing synergies to tackle the challenges that are common to the promotion of equality, anti-discrimination and anti-racism to reach a critical dimension to have concrete results in the field. At the same time, the funds should take into account the specific nature of the different EU policies, their different target groups and their particular needs through tailor-made approaches. The current CERV strand on equality and rights should lead to a better understanding of various forms of discrimination, including antigypsyism, antisemitism, islamophobia and afrophobia; promoting a culture to combat discrimination on a more intersectional basis, thus making responses more effective, increased actions to prevent and combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, anti-muslim hatred, antigypsyism and other forms of intolerance. In that context, particular attention should also be devoted to preventing and combating all forms of violence, hatred, segregation and stigmatisation, as well as combating bullying, harassment and intolerant treatment. The CERV Programme should be implemented in a mutually reinforcing manner with other Union activities that have the same objectives, such as the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation, EU Action plans against racism etc; it should support NGO coalition building and platform on antiracism and avoid fragmentation of different antiracism movements.

In the future, the CERV programme could help by looking at the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic and crisis can inflict on marginalised ad vulnerable groups, which are more prone to discrimination, through continuous evidence data collection, awareness raising activities and combating negative narrative and stereotypes in the media and beyond and by ensuring synergies with the Recovery and resilience facility.

ERGO partner in Solidi project – Solidarity in Diversity

Solidi Project

ERGO Network is a partner in a new exciting academic project called the European Training Network “Solidarity in Diversity” (SOLiDi), providing a Roma perspective to the programme.

Over the last decade, liberal democracies in Europe have been shaken to their core by the rise of national populisms. This puts strong pressure on all forms of solidarity, especially as they cross ethnic-cultural boundaries. The increasingly successful capture of the notion of solidarity by radical right, anti-liberal democratic forces is testimony to this. The challenge for European democracies is to identify the conditions under which solidarities in diversity can be nurtured.

To address this urgent challenge, the European Training Network “Solidarity in Diversity” (SOLiDi) develops a training and research program that is focused on how to generate solidarities across cultural boundaries, taking the proximity of citizens with different ethnic-cultural backgrounds in specific places and the practices they engage in as starting point. Building on the strengths of the interculturalist paradigm, SOLiDi will contribute with an intersectional understanding of how place-based solidarity practices are shaped by and can work around entrenched social inequalities and unequal power relations.

To that end, SOLiDi brings together 10 academic partners from sociology, geography and educational science and 23 non-academic partners – one of them ERGO Network – in an international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral training network for 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs). The research and training will prepare a cohort of highly-skilled professionals who are well-versed in a range of different approaches to generate solidarity in diversity and are able to apply these in different geographical, policy and organisational contexts.

SOLiDi has 3 main objectives:

  • to combine knowledge from sociology, geography and social pedagogy to extend our knowledge on how solidarities can be generated across cultural boundaries
  • to articulate public pedagogies and organizational and policy strategies that support diversity
  • to promote social innovation by facilitating the translation of academic insights into skills to promote and to analyse societal change through training in research methods and ethics

SOLiDi will train doctoral researchers both in the state of the art on sociological, geographical and educationalist insights on solidarity in diversity, place-based practices, interculturalism and intersectionality as well as in analytical and transferable skills on public pedagogies and organizational and policy strategies. In this way, the SOLiDi consortium aims to articulate a new, academically grounded and practice and policy-oriented vision on solidarity in diversity. SOLiDi will provide an alternative to the prevailing pessimism around living in diversity and train a cohort of professionals well equipped to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and professional interventions on living in diversity

For more information please visit the Solidi website

(Post-)Pandemic Life Together

(Post-)Pandemic Life Together

This spring arrived accompanied by many challenges for our work. Instead of shrinking back, we battened down the hatches and continued supporting people with fewer opportunities.

During March, one of our localities became an epicentre of a special mutation of the corona virus. Many families, Roma and non-Roma, found themselves in the middle of danger of contagion. Together with other local NGOs and volunteers we distributed FFP2 respirators and masks and discussed the situation with adults and children.

Keeping the seriousness of the pandemic situation in mind, we tried hard to preserve the quality and quantity of our services and activities that we offer to local people in need. Instead of cancelling our events and appointments, we equipped our teams with protective aid or searched for alternative ways of helping the community. The arrival of spring allowed us to hold workshops outdoors, other activities took place one-to-one.

Every ten years, a Census is carried out in the Czech Republic to obtain information about the population that is not easily accessible. This May, another nation-wide census took place. As the attendance is obligatory under penalty of a fine, our street workers helped 131 households to fulfill this legal duty.

While maintaining the quality of our street work, counselling and other social services, we are also mindful of human rights aspect of our work. This spring became a milestone for women who suffered – and still suffer – from forced sterilisation. At the beginning of May, after many years of struggle, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill on compensation for the female victims.

Since Czech schools implemented distance learning, children needed extra support to cope with online lessons. We restored our „outdoor school“ and offered assistance with homework or learning on-spot. For families that were not endowed with digital devices, we arranged computers and laptops as a gift in cooperation with the Česko.digital initiative.

To celebrate the International children’s day, all teams prepared special activities for the children and young people they work with. Almost hundred children from Liscina, a neighbourhood once flooded, gathered for fun outdoor activities and received sweet rewards. Other events related to the International children’s day and the end of the school year will take place all over the localities we work in. Preparations for our traditional summer camp are already under way as well.