Human rights organizations are calling for an urgent investigation into the death of a Czech man who died after being detained by the police, after images of the incident went viral on social media.
The neck restraint technique used during the detention of a Roma was “reckless, unnecessary and disproportionate and therefore illegal”, according to Amnesty International, which also call to local authorities for an immediate and impartial investigation and a ban on coercive techniques that severely restrict breathing.
in a statement, Amnesty International said that the Czech police violated Czech law 273/2008, which obliges the police not to interfere with the rights of others more than is inevitable and only to use necessary and proportionate force.
The Council of Europe published a statement describing the police action as “alarming” and also called for an “urgent, thorough and independent investigation.”
The man, locally called Stanislav Tomáš, died in an ambulance shortly after being arrested on June 19. Footage from the arrest shows police officers pinning Tomáš to the ground, with one officer kneeling at various times on the man’s neck and back. The Czechs compared his death to that of George Floyd, who died in 2020 after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes during his arrest.
Eyewitnesses told The Guardian that Tomáš was arrested after trying to prevent a car from being wrecked, but the Czech police and authorities have rejected this narrative. Regional police spokesman Daniel Vítek said police received a complaint on Saturday, shortly before 3pm, about two men fighting and damaging cars on Dubská Street in Teplice.
Police then tweeted a Video entitled “No Czech Floyd …” to show what had preceded his speech. The footage shows two shirtless figures running down the street, yelling and hitting cars.
Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček he backed the police, saying on Twitter: “The police have my full support. If someone under the influence of drugs breaks the law, they must have the intervention of the Czech police. Thanks to the work of police officers, we are one of the 10 safest countries in the world. ”
Jonathan Lee of the European Roma Rights Center believes that Tomáš’s death is emblematic of discrimination against Roma in the Czech Republic and Europe. “Police violence is the most common and visible human rights abuse faced by Roma across Europe,” he said.
“Whether due to lack of training, negligence or willful discrimination, the Czech authorities must be held accountable after an impartial investigation is carried out,” said Lee.
Vigils for Tomáš are taking place in the Czech Republic, Brussels and Glasgow.