The Czech Republic is currently chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, one of Europe’s top human rights institutions. During a visit to Strasbourg last week Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek also discussed a case that has raised emotions in the Czech Republic – a not guilty verdict in the case of an attacker who killed a Czech man in London following an altercation outside a fast food outlet. The Czech Republic has been seeking ways to get the case reopened.
The case of 31-year-old Zdeněk Makar who was brutally beaten to death by Raymond Sculley following an altercation outside a fast food outlet has received a lot of attention in the Czech Republic. The verdict of a London court which cleared the British national both of murder and manslaughter in April evoked outrage and disbelief in the Czech Republic. Several thousand people signed a petition calling for justice for Zdeněk Makar and the Czech Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador to Prague for an explanation. Following a futile appeal on the British side for the case to be reviewed Czech foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek concluded that an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is the only means of trying to secure justice. During his visit to Strasburg last week Foreign Minister Zaorálek said the case had been brought up in talks with Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjörn Jagland.
“One of the cases we discussed with Secretary General Jagland was the case of the Czech killed in Great Britain since there is interest in the Council of Europe in how the case is developing. I told him we were in contact with the victim’s sister who is preparing to file a complaint against the verdict at the European Court of Human Rights. We are giving her every assistance possible since we see this as the only possible means of reacting to a verdict that we have grave doubts about and that I personally see as grossly unjust and a failure of justice.”
The case has also raised some doubts in Great Britain where a petition was launched seeking justice for Zdeněk Makar. According to British law 100,000 signatures on such a petition would open the way for it to be debated in Parliament. However even that would not guarantee the case being reopened. The case could be reopened by the prosecution in the event of compelling new evidence and such cases are very rare. European Court of Human Rights Judge Aleš Pejchal says its own ruling on the case would only have moral weight.
“This court does not have the right to cancel verdicts. All we can do is pass a verdict on whether we believe the court of a given country violated the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and if we reach that conclusion then it depends on the laws of the given country whether the case can be reopened. The only thing this court can do, if it concludes that the rights of an individual have been violated, is order the country to pay some form of compensation –we can do no more.”
Section 2 of the Human Rights Act requires UK courts to ‘take into account’ any decision of the European Court of Human Rights in so far as they are relevant in cases concerning a convention right but are not bound by it.