By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The highest court in the Czech Republic banned a right-wing political party this week, allegedly to protect Czech democracy. This is the first time that a party has been banned in the country for reasons other than financial irregularities since the country broke away from Slovakia in 1993.
The Czech Republic’s Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) outlawed the Workers’ Party on Wednesday February 17 based on factual findings that indicated a history of using racist and xenophobic language and related violence.
The Court felt that, specifically, homophobic and anti-Semitic language and a checkered history of violence towards gypsy groups constituted a were indicative threat to Czech democracy. The Court also linked the Workers’ Party to neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups. Judge Vojtech Simicek rationalized the decision “as a preventive one”, necessary “to maintain the constitutional and democratic order in the future.”
In 2008, the government unsuccessfully attempted to ban the Worker’s Party, but a trial court dismissed the government’s petition.
For sure, the Workers’ Party has a history of “overzealous” protesting. In particular, the Workers’ Party has often been involved with organizing and staging anti-gypsy communities in close proximity to Roma communities. These events, according to various press accounts, “typically” end in violence.
For example, in November 2008, 500 or more Worker’s Party members protested in the town of Litvinov. When the group attempted to march on a Roma suburb, some 1,000 riot police were called to diffuse the situation. Seven police and seven demonstrators were injured as a result.
The Workers’ Party has already launched an effort to appeal the decision. Workers’ Party leader Tomas Vandas says that the result was entirely political and designed to exclude the Party from national elections in May, calling the timing “highly suspicious”.
Mr. Vandas also disputed links to neo-Naziism or white supremacy, claiming there is “absolutely nothing” in the Party’s manifesto that indicates these extreme views.
Workers’ Party officials said that even if an appeal does not succeed, the Party will dissolve and regroup under a different name. Mr. Vandas suggested that the Party may now be called the Affiliated Workers’ Social Justice Party.
The Workers’ Party is normally unsuccessful in gaining a significant share of votes in Czech elections. For example, in 2008, only 1% of the electorate voted for Worker’s Party.
Nonetheless, political commentators and human rights group are worried that the NSS ruling will give the government precedent to dismantle other anti-establishment political parties, like the Communist Party which won 14 percent of the vote in 2009 elections.
For more information, please see:
EU OBSERVER – Czech court bans far-right Workers Party – 19 February 2010
BBC – Far-right Czech Workers’ Party to challenge court ban – 18 February 2010
NEW YORK TIMES – Czech Court Bans Far-Right Party – 18 February 2010
PRAGUE POST – Despite ban, Workers Party vows to go on – 17 February 2010