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Co-Chairs Welcome Justice in Attack on Romani Household

WASHINGTON—Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today expressed their support for the stiff sentences handed down in the Czech Republic to four neo-Nazis who firebombed a Romani family’s home in 2009.

The court found David Vaculík, Ivo Müller, Jaromír Lukeš, and Václav Cojocaru guilty of complicity in attempted murder and property damage in an attack that left an infant with second and third degree burns over 80 percent of her body and injured three others. The four men were all sentenced to at least 20 years in prison.  The sentences are reportedly the toughest ever handed down for a racially motivated crime in the Czech Republic. The rehabilitation ordeal of Natalka Sivakova, who will be maimed for life, has gripped the Czech nation.

“We welcome the verdict in this case as a small measure of justice for a Romani family that was clearly targeted for no reason other than their ethnicity,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD).  “The transparency of these court proceedings helped to remind the world of the horrific nature of this crime and the fact that the perpetrators of such extreme acts of violence and hate cannot hide from the law.  Nothing can compensate for the baby’s injuries and unfathomable suffering, but hopefully this sentence will not only deter future hate crimes, but send a signal to extremist elements in the Czech Republic that their day of reckoning is at hand.”

The four men allegedly committed the crimes to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s 120th birthday. In court one defendant, Lukeš, wore the shirt of a White Power band.  In the past three years, the Czech Republic has witnessed an escalation of arson attacks on Roma, attempted pogroms masquerading as “law-and-order” marches, and other manifestations of extremism.

“I am heartened to hear Czech political leaders supporting justice in this notorious hate crime,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL).  “We call on the new Czech Government to address Romani human rights comprehensively, including by strengthening public understanding of Romani experiences during the Holocaust. I will also be greatly interested in the outcome of the ongoing trial of eight alleged perpetrators of the mob attack on Roma in Havirov.”

In Havirov, a group of men attacked several Roma on November 8, 2008.  One teenager was savagely beaten into a coma and suffers permanent disability.

The Co-Chairmen, who have been tireless advocates for equal rights for Romani people, expressed their hope that the Natalka case would help focus needed attention on issues affecting Roma in the country.

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