What could be the positive outcome of the IMF and World Bank meeting in Prague? A realisation that the Czech police use brutal methods against detainees in their power.
If Czech society was able to look at this issue rationally, objectively and dispassionately, and if a public discussion would ensue, this could lead to a thorough reform of the Czech police force.
At the moment, though, Czech society is still unwilling to face this issue: all the evidence of police brutality is being dismissed—in jargon reminiscent of the Communist era—by the Czech Interior Minister and by official Czech police spokesmen as "an orchestrated campaign, conducted against the Czech Republic by hostile forces." But the mood in the country may be changing, and it is not out of the question that in the near future, the Czech police will be subjected to some serious questioning on this matter.
I suspect that the Czech police have been in the habit of using brutality against detainees (both those suspected of criminal offences and "illegal immigrants") for a long time. Why do I think this? The evidence, gathered together by Občanské právní hlídky (Civic Legal Observers) in the Czech Republic, by Amnesty International and other sources seems to suggest that various instances of police brutality are a part of a well-established police culture.
If similar police techniques are reported by witnesses from different police stations and/or detention centres (for instance, forcing a detainee at the end of an interrogation by kicking and punching him to return to his cell on all fours), it is highly unlikely that these techniques would have been used only against the anti-globalisation demonstrators over the past fortnight or so.
I cannot see the Czech police being able to coordinate such behaviour in anticipation of the anti-globalisation protests, for example, issuing a special set of guidelines outlining which acts of police brutality should be used against the demonstrators. It seems much more likely that the reported instances of police brutality are a part of an ingrained police culture. It is highly likely that Czech detainees and illegal immigrants would have suffered these types of police brutality previously as a matter of course.
The regular victims of Czech police brutality would not have protested. Czech citizens on the whole do not have a highly developed sense of proud citizenship, in the sense that they would complain emphatically whenever they encounter abuses of human rights. If a person suspected of petty theft is roughed up in a Czech police station, it is very unlikely that he or she would be able to complain about it.
The Czech media on the whole are not interested in instances of abused individuals, especially if these individuals are "controversial" ("if you were beaten up at a police station, it serves you right, you should not have committed the theft"). Similarly, the Czech media, which is on the whole rather defensive and righteous about the "civilised behaviour" of the Czech community, is rather unlikely to feature instances of police brutality perpetrated on illegal immigrants. Undoubtedly, there is a vast area of research here for international human rights organisations.
It was not until Prague was visited by the anti-globalisation demonstrators, on the whole rather vocal and articulate individuals, well aware of their human rights that the police brutality was brought up in a large number of individual testimonies. The testifying individuals were rather shocked when they were arbitrarily arrested and roughed up.
The Czech police and many members of the Czech public reject the testimonies of these demonstrators. In the Czech Republic, individual personal testimonies are not regarded as reliable, unless they are backed up by other testimonies. The Občanské právní hlídky who attempted to monitor the anti-globalisation demonstrations at the end of September, have collected almost a hundred testimonies from abused detainees or from detainees who have witnessed police brutality. Yet Občanské právní hlídky are reluctant to publish this evidence, if the facts contained within it are not corroborated from more than one individual.
The collected evidence often comes from individual witnesses describing individual situations in police stations, but the instances of police brutality in many of the testimonies have a number of common features. Yet, many members of the Czech public would argue that the international demonstrators, in particular, are hostile towards the Czech police, and thus their evidence cannot be regarded as objective.
On Saturday, 7 October, the Czech internet daily Neviditelný pes, maybe a typical yardstick of Czech prejudice, published a comment, arguing that it is right that a demonstrator was beaten up by the police in the street: he had broken a shop window. The notion that the police are not supposed to be "avenging angels," dispensing punishment indiscriminately, but that punishment should be left to the courts, is something that many members of the Czech public and the Czech media find rather hard to understand.
Be that as it may, a number of testimonies of police brutality have been published over the past few days, and all of them are rather disturbing. It follows from them that after the violent demonstrations of 26 September, the Czech police arrested a large number of persons, many of whom were arbitrarily picked up from peaceful pedestrians on the streets of Prague. They were then roughed up and kept in detention for up to three days.
A very disturbing main theme, running through most of the testimonies, is the xenophobia, directed against the "foreigners." Here is a selection of some of the testimonies:
Shout "Shame on you!" and get roughed up
"Foreigners complain of infringement of the law," reported the Czech News Agency ČTK in Czech on 5 October. British citizen Tim Edwards (31), told the Czech News Agency that the Czech police repeatedly beat him, kicked him, denied him water and food for a long time, refused to allow him an interpreter and to make a telephone call to the outside world. Edwards also saw a policeman to kick American Matt Price in the face in such a way that broke his nose. Tim Edwards is a scientist who researches the Indian health service and lives in Brighton, England. Matt Price (32) is a researcher into history at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. The third witness, American Jane Dennett-Thorpe (30) is an astrophysicist and lives in Groeningen in the Netherlands.
Edwards, Price and Denneth-Thorpe took part in the Prague demonstrations and say they behaved non-violently. They were arrested at approximately 9 pm on 26 September, near the Renaissance Hotel at Prague's Republic Square. According to Edwards, they were arrested because, when they saw some IMF and World Bank delegates arriving by coach for a conference session in the Hotel, one of them exclaimed "Shame on you!". The police beat them up on the spot, threw them on the ground and tied their hands behind their back so tightly that their blood circulation was affected.
"They kicked me strongly in the face, so that they broke my nose and I started bleeding," said Price. "We asked for an interpreter, they laughed at us. When we tried to communicate amongst ourselves, they yelled at us, kicked at our feet, threatened us and pushed our heads to the wall, so that they injured Price's face," said Edwards.
Edwards and Dennett-Thorpe were taken to a police station near the Tesco supermarket at the National Avenue in Prague. "A policeman at the station hit me in the face, another policeman at the station hit him in the stomach and threw him against a wall, which Mr Edwards hit with his head."
After they had been taken to a cell, they were refused water and food and 15 people were given only one blanket. They did not get food until the following mid-morning, and they had to pay for it, said Edwards.
"I saw the most horrifying things at the police centre for foreigners near Vinohrady," said Edwards. Some 60 detainees were guarded by six to eight policemen there. Their handcuffs had been taken off and their personal belongings were returned to them. "A woman next to me took out her mobile phone and tried to use it. Two policemen took the telephone from her and broke it. They also broke a camera, owned by a woman who tried to photograph policemen in a threatening posture. "In spite of repeated requests, we were not allowed to make a phone call. Price was denied access to a doctor," said Edwards.
All three witnesses say that the police treated a group of some 15 detained skinheads much more liberally. These prisoners were quickly released with their offensive weapons—baseball bats, truncheons and a small gun. Dennett-Thorpe said that it was obvious from the behaviour of the police that at least two of them knew the skinheads and were their friends. The police also made it possible for the skinheads to insult a detained black woman. Price added that the police behaved more brutally to people with a dark skin.
The Guardian: Prague protesters say they were beaten in jail by police
The Czech News Agency also duly reported an article, published in the British newspaper The Guardian on 4 October, entitled "Prague protesters say they were beaten in jail by police." The article says, among other things:
Assertions by released detainees that sexual and physical abuse has taken place are being investigated by Amnesty International as an increasing number of protesters come forward. A 21-year-old university student from London told the Guardian he was picked up at a pub by police on the evening after the September 26 demonstration outside a meeting of international financiers.
His hands were bound with plastic so tight, he said, that his wrists swelled. He was strip-searched, his fingerprints and photograph were taken and he was then kept in a four metre by four metre cell with 35 other people.
Anyone who tried to sleep was woken up by bright lights and an officer running a stick along the cell bars. People were strip-searched in front of him and slapped when naked.
"I got off fairly lightly in comparison to the Italians and Israelis who they pointed at and beat up in a very fascistic way," he added.
"When they took 25 of us to the third destination we had to run towards the bus through two lines of police who hit us in the kidneys with their truncheons and fists. There were women as well, and they laughed as they hit us. Afterwards there were several bleeding noses."
Like other detainees, the student said he was denied access to a translator most of the time, forced to sign Czech documents he did not understand and deprived of sleep and food.
Other reports claim that arrested women were asked to strip and perform physical exercises in front of male officers.
A British woman in her 20s, who suffers from epilepsy, was reportedly forced to mime her condition to prison officers and was then hit for refusing to take the medicine made available to her.
Head for the tram: good enough reason to be arrested
Ondřej Čapek, a PhD student at the Prague School of Economics (Vysoká škola ekonomická), testified in Britské listy that he and other individuals were arrested without reason in a street near Wenceslas Square on the evening of 26 September and detained until the following morning:
It is Tuesday, about 9 pm. A cordon of helmeted policeman is standing on Wenceslas Square, plastic shields in their hands. The shop windows of MacDonald's at Wenceslas Square have been broken, most people standing about can hardly be seen as violent demonstrators. There are many journalists with red PRESS signs and lots of foreigners. There are no banners, no clubs.
Suddenly, without warning, the police start shooting light signals. The police cordon starts running down the square. People run down for several dozen yards, then the police cordon stops. Nobody resists the police. People look for their friends and wait for what is going to happen next. The police use loudspeakers to demand that the square be cleared. This happens. I move to Štěpánská Street nearby. Along with other people, I direct my steps to a tram stop to wait for a tram.
The police behaviour seems absurd to me: it is a police action in a situation where there are no demonstrators. Suddenly I hear yelling: it is another cordon of the police. The street where I am is sealed in two places. In between the two police cordons about 70 people are left: many journalists and foreigners. It is an arbitrary sample of inhabitants of Prague and tourists.
One by one, we are eventually arrested, given handcuffs and taken away. Once on a police bus, my hands are tied behind my back with plastic handcuffs, so that at first I feel pins and needles in my hands. After an hour and a half of being tied up like this, my shoulder joins and muscles ache.
I enter the police bus as one of the last detainees, after me, an Englishman with a violin in a case is also brought in. I tell everyone on the bus that we are a "normal democratic country," but anyone can be detained here for 48 hours without charge. I also say that we have normal, democratic police, and that they way the policemen are behaving now is only the result of stress and tiredness.
East European tourists have no protection
Many detained foreigners were taken to an internment camp for illegal immigrants in Balková, near Plzeň, Western Bohemia. According to reports, the internees included a Ukrainian citizen, Darina Vasilyevna Bylan, who was allegedly still being detained there on 5th October. This Ukrainian tourist was unlucky enough to find herself in the wrong place without her passport on the evening of 26th September.
According to testimony given by other detained foreigners, the police tried to ascertain Bylan's identity by beating: she was seen in Balková with a swollen, red and blue face. Apparently, Bylan was beaten up much more ferociously than the citizens of Poland, Hungary and Israel, who became the main victims of Czech police brutality. Western diplomats in the Czech Republic made special trips to Balková to pick up the detained nationals from their countries—it appears no such care was taken by East European diplomats.
We would dearly like to know more details about the fate of Darina Vasilyevna Bylan—representatives of the Czech Občanské právní hlídky are denied access to Balková—apparently, the Czech police say, it would be dangerous for them.
Taking photographs: another good reason to be detained
Here is a testimony by someone who was detained in Balková, Belgian activist Michael van Broehkhoven, (published in Czech and in English in Britské listy):
[Some half an hour after a violent demonstration, in the Na Slupi Street in Prague], I was looking around at the debris left in the wake of violent rioting (none of which I witnessed), taking photos of the debris with some of the police officers in the background. Within seconds, without—it went so fast I froze and didn't even think of running away, all I could bring out was "I'm only taking a photo"—these agents, about 5 or more, grabbed me and beat me down by heavily hitting the side right under the knee very hard, immobilizing me. That's how it all started, but it was only the beginning of what was so outrageous it seemed unreal. Police were screaming obscenities, beating me and the other 11 arrestees on the jail bus with batons, pushing and violently grabbing us while we were bussed to a police station in Prague...
I personally experienced the following acts of police brutality, human rights violations and intimidation:
- Being beaten violently by about 5 or 6 policemen, without warning, for being in an area that was then totally calm.
- They dragged me by the arm in a pain compliance hold and continued to beat me. I did not resist or fight back. My left leg was hurting so bad I could not stand on it.
- They slapped me in the face several times for no reason.
- Being held locked up in a room two by three meters with twelve people for at least five hours.
- Sometimes they'd close the door and it was completely dark, other times they slammed the door creating a huge, scary, loud noise.
- When asked to write down my name and address, they repeatedly slammed my head down to the table, and as I was unable to see the paper yelled "Write faster!" and pulled my head up again.
- The strip searches consisted of repeated beatings and being pushed around, hit behind the knees, and being forced to the ground. They pushed sensitised parts of my body and squeezed my groin.
- I was forced to sign a document (in Czech) promising to pay CZK 1000 (USD 30). Others who had enough money paid on the spot. We were lied to—police said that signing would get us out the next morning.
- I was pushed to the ground to my hands and knees and kicked forward with their boots to race back into our cell like an animal.
- They took my fingerprints and photo, and searched through my belongings.
- When they found INPEG (the organization that called for a peaceful protest) info flyers, they screamed "INPEG!" and hit me on the back very hard with a baton stick. Then they yelled "Revolution!" and hit me again.
- We continued to press for our right to make a phone call, but were only responded to with slapping, loud yelling and the door being slammed.
- Then we could give our statement, through an interpreter, where I tried to get accounts of police brutality in, but most was left out and my words were consistently watered down to make it appear that I might still have been at or involved in the riots. (For instance I said I was arrested at 5 or after; they wrote "between 4:30 and 5").
- My three rolls of photos taken of the marches, and of the tourist attractions my girlfriend and I visited in Prague, were all destroyed. For one roll, an officer came to the cell, and ripped the film out of the roll, then sarcastically pointed the camera at us and said "Cheese," laughing as he walked away.
- For the last 12 hours before being transferred to Balková, we were cramped in a two-by-three-metre room, but this time with 24 people, all unable to sit, we had to stand all night, depriving us of sleep.
- I was not allowed to use a toilet until six hours after I asked.
- We were deprived of food and water for over 24 hours.
In Balková prison/detention centre, we were locked up in four-by-eight-metre rooms with four people; the toilet in the corner made the whole room stink, and a light was kept on all night. The anxiety, door slamming and yelling made it extremely difficult to rest. I barely slept for four days.
They did not accommodate for vegetarians like myself. I was taken to the hospital for a check-up on my injured left leg on the 28th. The pain had subsided and most of the purple bruises were starting to disappear. At the hospital the doctor, translating what the police were telling him, seemed very disturbed. The nurse also looked very shocked, almost with tears in her eyes.
Myself and a women from Sweden, who also needed medical attention, were told we were actually not in a detention center but in a concentration camp, and the earliest release would be in one month, if we behaved nicely, otherwise we'd be there till February. Because of everything that had already happened, we thought he was telling us the truth at first. I struggled my way out of one of the metal handcuffs, but was then told that if I even tried to escape they'd kill me, making the hand gestures of shooting me and cutting my throat.
We were never allowed for a walk outside in the fenced off guarded courtyards.
Finally late in the afternoon September 29, the Consul of the Belgian Embassy in Prague came to personally pick me up, and drove me to Prague, where I had 24 hours to leave the country. The Consul told me the Czech authorities had not informed him about me, as they should have according to international law. They found out about me because my girlfriend Kaylene repeatedly called the embassy, and my name was faxed to them from a jail support group, who had received my info by cell phone via a fellow activist who had managed to smuggle a cell phone into the jail bus.
The Czech police, still present all throughout the city scared me so much I immediately took a metro and bus to the airport. With no more flights to Brussels that night, I took the first flight to Paris and then the train back to Brussels, to be picked up at 5 am by my sister.
They called me a "fascist pig"
Here are excerpts from a testimony by a German citizen, published in Britské listy in Czech:
I was arrested on 26 September at about 6:30 pm. At the crossroads of the streets Na Vítězné Pláni and Petra Rezka, while taking part in a peaceful blocade, sitting on the ground. The police tried to break the blocade by running into us with motorbikes and with water cannon. The police beat people with truncheons over their heads.
After the blockade was broken, about 40 people were brutally manhandled and pushed into police vans. They took us to a small police station in Svatoslavova Street in Prague 4. All of us spent the whole night in a concrete courtyard. First, five Czechs were interrogated— one of them may have been an agent provocateur. The interrogation was interpreted by an older woman who could not do it very well and told us what she thought of us—in her view, "this was worse than during World War II." We were not allowed to make a phone call.
The policemen told the foreigners' police about me, allegedly I "aggressively protested." At every "incorrect" movement I was threatened—especially at the Olšanská police station for foreigners—and manhandled. Twenty-two of us were kept in a cell two by three metres for about an hour and we were forbidden to speak. We were forced to strip naked, and two civilian policemen were verbally abusive. They called me a Faschistisches Schwein, an Ossi (a person from the East), probably because they heard me speak Russian.
I refused to sign and told the interpreter to tell them I felt threatened. They replied that I would really feel threatened when we are alone. I shared my cell with four people, including an Englishman who was pushed towards the wall so roughly that his nose cartilage was broken. In the morning of 27 September we were transported to Balková.
I went on hunger strike demanding the right to make a phone call and asked the doctor there to record this. Later on, visits to the doctor were no longer permitted. Some 120 activists were moved to Balková. There was a total ban on using telephones. On 29 September I was picked up from Balková by Mr Hauer from the German Embassy and taken to the border.
They bashed my head against the table
This is a testimony by another German citizen, published in Britské listy in Czech:
I was arrested on 26 September at 5 pm near the Nuselský Bridge. I had taken part in a peaceful blockade near the Pankrác Square in the Žateckých and Petra Rezka Streets at about 1 pm. This was a sit-down protest. I was taken to a police bus where I was searched and my personal belongings were confiscated, without me being given any receipt. When I protested, I was hit about five times around the head and on a shoulder. They also beat me on the ground. They did the same to the others. Then a policemen dragged me by the hair hit my back with a truncheon and took me to the police bus. Others were dealt with even more brutally.
At the police station Prague 4—Chodov, Jižní Město, Hráského 2231—we were put in a cell where there were lots of us and there was very little space. The police yelled at us and kept slamming the doors. Then we were individually taken out of the cell, searched again and thrown against a wall. Then they photographed us and took out fingerprints. Then they pushed my head to the table, hit my head repeatedly against the table and forced me to sign a piece of paper, which I could not see and which was in Czech, so that I did not understand it. I had to leave the interrogation room on all fours and they kicked me along. We did not get anything to eat.
One of the demonstrators had a broken arm and was taken to a police hospital where the doctor refused to treat him, saying that since he is a demonstrator, he can surely cope with it. We were taken to Balková, where we went on a hunger strike. Once we lay down, a policeman told us we were not allowed to do that, and they tied us to a wall with handcuffs for more than two hours. One of us said this was illegal and he was hit by a policemen in the face.
We compared bruises
A testimony by an American citizen, published in Czech and in English in Britské listy here includes the following:
On 26 September, the day of the IMF/World Bank meeting, I attended the protest as a peaceful participant and photographer. At dusk, I hear there is some trouble at the museum, where I also go to photograph.
I arrive to see some people smashing a bank window and the police charging with tear gas. I run down a side street into a riot-police line as police approach from the other direction and surround us.
10:30 pm and I am cornered in with about 100 civilians down a side street, near the museum.
One by one the police reach into the crowd and arrest people by hand-cuffing them and putting them on a bus. I see my friends also being arrested. One of them is beaten upon arrest. They had just stepped out of a bar.
We are hand-cuffed and pushed onto a police bus along with about 35 other people from all over Europe.
We arrive at the police station at about 12 pm in the suburbs of Prague.
We are taken in one by one and searched. They throw away many of my belongings—mostly phone numbers and maps.
I am made to take off my jewelry. A policeman rips off my necklace. One silver and the other leather and beaded.
The boys are locked in a very small cell where they can barely sit down.
The girls are taken to a larger carpeted room. We are nine girls. One German, three English—two others and myself, one Bosnian, one Czech and I forget the others.
The room is freezing cold with three windows open.
We ask for windows to be closed. They say no. The German girl pursues. She is pulled off her chair backwards by a policeman... she has his police number.
I go to the toilet. The same policeman kicks the door open whilst I am on the toilet. He watches me.
They take our fingerprints and photographs. They attempt to take statements, but I do not understand Czech so I refuse to sign.
I am forced to sign fingerprints. I sign in a different signature.
Throughout this time, we are being pushed and pulled. For example they shout at me in Czech, I do not understand so they push again.
After hours of being "processed," we get a couple of hours sleep. We are woken at sunrise and not allowed to sleep. Some sit and sleep and the police don't notice.
We are given two slices of bread some cheap salami (most people can't eat it because they are vegetarian) and a cup of water.
The Czech people are released and one older gentleman. We are now all young and none of us speak Czech.
At about 1 pm we are bundled into a police bus and taken to a place on the outskirts of Prague. It is near the cyclist's caravan camp. There are cells, it is surrounded by barbed wire and there is an apple tree in the middle.
We are split into three groups. Two are taken to cells. We are left outside.
There are about 40 officers. We are outside till about 11:30 pm, getting cold.
We are not allowed food. One of us is able to buy some food. We have a bread-roll each.
Two other prisoners arrive. They speak Czech. The boy makes a joke. He is kicked in the face.
They are taken into a cell. We can see into the cell from outside. The boy is being punched and slapped by a group of about five policemen. His girlfriend is made to watch. He is made to take off his shirt. We complain and are told to face the wall. We do not see them again and do not know if they have been released.
The police seem to be enjoying themselves. They are laughing, playing music, it looks more like a party. Some take photographs of us with snapshot cameras.
A Slovakian boy manages to interpret some of what the police are saying. They tell us they can keep us for three months, say we have to sit outside for the night, will not tell us where we are and tell my friend they will get the social services to take away her child.
We are hungry and thirsty. They eat, drink and smoke in front of us.
They take our photographs again.
Eventually at about midnight we are lined up with our bags. It is dark so we cannot see police numbers. We are made to walk, one by one, through police lines as they hit us so hard with batons that people fall to the floor. The police laugh. We hear our friends scream and know it's our turn next.
The girls are not hit as hard as the boys.
I am just pushed, squeezed at the neck and prodded with batons.
Throughout the entire time we had been denied an English interpreter. As I go through the police lines they shout "leave and never come back!"
A small girl from Bosnia who has been crying a lot is hit on the hand and becomes hysterical. We calm her down.
We are driven on a bus to the immigration police station with about 100 other prisoners.
The others cheer as we walk in, to the alarm of other officers.
About 1 am Wednesday night. Our bags are searched again. Camera films are destroyed. No respect for belongings. My camera is kicked. My friend's video camera is broken.
Boys and girls are kept separate. The girls have chairs. The boys have the floor.
We are given rusks to eat—no good for vegans.
The atmosphere is excited, friends are re-united. We are unaware of the long night ahead.
We compare bruises. Some are taken to hospital. There are two broken arms, one suspected broken nose, and one suspected broken finger, many black eyes and lots of bruises.
Pushing and shoving continues.
We are taken upstairs in small groups and one by one into a small room. We have a complete strip search by female officers. The smell is overwhelming by now.
Our bags are searched again and valuables put in an envelope. This is taken off us.
Fingerprints are taken, again.
My friend and I are taken to collect our passports from a safe in the railway station. We are not allowed to talk and are threatened with a baton.
Everyone is locked in a cage to squeezing point. People cannot sit down. We cannot fit so we sit outside with about ten others.
People start whistling. A policeman picks up a fire extinguisher and threatens to shoot it into the cage.
An interpreter is opposite the hallway. He is the first person to speak English to us. He is telling people what their confession says and asking them to sign. I tell them they don't have to.
The interpreter says in the next place we will be treated better.
I am picked, asked to sign; I refuse and am bundled into another bus.
It is sunrise. I can just about see it out of the small window in the police bus. I am told off for looking at it.
It is a three-hour journey. I finally get some sleep.
We arrive at the immigration detention centre. There is big barbed wire fence surrounding the cells and autumnal trees beyond.
As we are taken off the bus the inmates chant "international solidarity!"
Sarah from Sweden has a panic attack. She is taken away by a lady in a white coat and a mask. Her friend is not allowed to go with her. She is given a shot of something in her bottom (she does not know what).
Our bags are searched—more things are put in a white envelope.
We are teased—they ask us for our passports (the police have them) then they laugh.
We are given prison clothes and taken into the shower room. I am strip searched again (by a female) and have to have a shower with her watching.
I am taken to a cell with two Swedish girls.
The Swedish say their press and embassy will be putting on a lot of pressure to "get their babies back." Can't see Britain having that response. Funny how the American embassy reacted with complete disinterest.
We are asked to sign a copy of our rights. This includes daily exercise (which we never received). There is no mention of our right to a telephone call or to see a lawyer. I sign it with a false signature.
We are not allowed a pen and paper.
We go on hunger strike for a phone call / solicitor.
We are taken to see the doctor. We are made to strip again for a body examination. They make a record of my bruises. One on my shin, one on the inside of my right arm and one on my right bicep.
I sleep until the next morning but awake in the middle of the night to a bus leaving and people shouting "international solidarity." Apparently it was the Spanish leaving.
I am awoken in the morning to people banging on their bars.
Lunch time and the Swedes and Germans leave.
At about two we are taken into a room and asked to sign a confession saying we were a threat to public order. I don't sign. We are told we will be deported. When I ask what I am being charged with, they say "nothing."
Again, we wait on the bus for hours.
At sunset, we are taken to the border. Some are allowed to go back to Prague for 24 hours, others go straight to the border. I am not allowed to find out where my friends are going.
It's about one when we reach the border. We are greeted by medics, food, phones, cigarettes and vodka!
In total we had our photographs taken three times, our bags searched four times, our finger prints taken twice and were stripped three times—twice to search us and once to examine us.
We were kept in total for more than 74 hours.
During this time we were not allowed to see a solicitor, nor were we allowed a phone call. Only on the second evening did we speak to someone who spoke English. He had no authority and did not stay long.
For the first two days and first two nights we were given two slices of bread to eat, one roll and a few rusks.
We were never told where we were, where we were going, what would happen next, when we would be released, where our friends were, or if anyone even knew we were there.
The names and the identification of some of the of the policemen in the above testimonies have been deleted. Občanské právní hlídky has all this information
A "hostile orchestrated campaign, directed against the Czech Republic"
As the Czech News Agency reported here (in Czech), the Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross dismisses all these testimonies as a hostile orchestrated campaign.
"Somebody is organising a targeted campaign against the Czech Republic and its police," said Gross. In his view, the information about Czech police brutality is the result of disinformation from a single source. No reliable evidence about police brutality has been produced, said Gross, adding that he will sue the organisers of the slanderous campaign.
Jan Čulík, 7 October 2000
Občanské právní hlídky
Marek Veselý, tel.: 0608/721 617
Or visit their Website:
Also of interest:
- "You fucked-up anarchist bastards are destroying Prague!"
Jan Čulík on Czech police brutality
- Notes from the Underground
Jan Čulík on the aggressive techniques of Prague's metro inspectors
- Archive of author's articles in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on the Czech Republic through CER
- Return to CER front page