PRAGUE - Human rights groups in the Czech Republic have said the president should call for the resignation of the prime minister and interior minister over recent police action that they say was ”more brutal” than anything under the repressive communist regimes of the past.
Rights groups have condemned recent police action when almost 1,000 police officers used water cannon, tear gas and clubs to drive 5,000 people from a techno music concert 'CzechTek' held in a field near the western Czech town of Mlynec July 30.
”In a proper democracy the prime minister and interior minister would resign over this. But our prime minister and interior minister won't do that here. They think it is all okay,” Jiri Kopal of the Czech rights group The League of Human Rights told IPS.
As many as 90 people were injured when police clashed with the thousands who had arrived for the concert.
The police had already blocked off roads to prevent people getting to the site in the days prior to the concert, claiming that the owner of the land on which the concert would take place had revoked his permission for it to go ahead.
They then said complaints had been made by the owners of neighboring fields that concertgoers had pitched makeshift camps on their land without permission.
After thousands of people crossed a publicly accessible pathway to get to the field the police used force to drive them away.
Witnesses say charging police beat dozens of people with clubs as they fled from the field while there have been reports that other officers attacked people well away from the field as people left the area.
Four officers admitted to police chiefs that they had beaten people, after they were caught on film later broadcast on national television. They were seen beating and kicking people in the field who had not resisted their orders to move on.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek defended the police action, but it was immediately condemned by some senior political figures, including President Vaclav Klaus and his predecessor, the dissident Vaclav Havel.
Fifteen politicians and former dissidents signed an open letter criticising the police response, while one newspaper ran a column comparing the action with the brutal police crackdowns at the beginning of the 1989 revolution that overthrew the communists.
People who were at CzechTek have held spontaneous demonstrations across the country since then.
Human rights groups say the prime minister and interior minister must resign for presiding over a brutal police force and then defending it.
”They should resign. What went on was more brutal than anything even during the totalitarian policing under the communist regimes. I know of one case where a 14-year-old girl was beaten so severely there by the police that she is now going to have health problems for the rest of her life.. That would have been unbelievable even under the communists,” Kopal said.
”The Czech police had orders to take pro-active action to stop this event going ahead and when they realised that the owner of the land had given permission for it to happen they didn't know what to do and weren't capable of not following through their order, and now we are seeing the consequences of that,” he added.
Previous CzechTek concerts have passed off with little trouble. Authorities have described these as drug and alcohol fuelled open-air parties.
Rights groups like the Czech Helsinki Committee said the police action this time had been planned in advance for the benefit of some government officials ahead of next year's planned parliamentary elections.
”This demonstration of power was probably meant to win some government officials the support of that part of the population who reject gatherings of this kind,” the Committee said in a statement.
Both Prime Minister Paroubek and Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan, who apparently sanctioned the police action, show no signs of backing down in their defence of the police.
But President Klaus met with Bublan Monday and handed him a letter demanding a full explanation for the police action. He said he did not see in CzechTek ”any fundamental attack on our country, on its constitutional order, its political system or its public order to warrant such intervention.”
© 2005 IPS-Inter Press Service