Soteria International is part of a network of scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates and practitioners, who collaborate together in order to raise awareness of the growing number of people adapting a spiritual perspective on life, and who often meet a resistant misunderstanding in a society of newly emerging values and principles. In some cases, this misunderstanding leads to governmental and institutional intolerance and misunderstanding towards new spiritual and religious movements.
Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) is a well-known and dynamic organisation working out of Brussels. This year at the OSCE's Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), HRWF brought forth the case of Jaroslav Dobes ('Guru Jara') and Barbora Plaskova, two Czech nationals who are currently detained in the Phillipines due to their inability to acquire valid Czech passports.
This is a case, which Soteria International has followed closely, and done extensive fact-checking and advocating for, in the period of 2014-2016. At last year's OSCE HDIM, Soteria International presented an intervention on this case.
This year, HRWF chose to, once again, bring the case to the attention of the OSCE member organisations and delegates.
This is the statement made by HRWF at the OSCE HDIM 2016:
Two Czech citizens, Barbora Plaskova and Jaroslav Dobes, have been respectively detained in the Immigration Detention Center of Bagong Diwa in the Philippines for almost 18 months on the grounds that their passports were no longer valid.
Jaroslav Dobes and Barbora Plaskova have been living and working for years as yoga teachers in the Philippines and each of them has a child born in the country.
On 14th April 2015 Barbora Plaskova went to the Czech consulate in Manila, in the Philippines, to prolong the validity of her passport but she was denied a new one and she was kept in the Immigration Detention Center in Manila where she still is.
On 15th May 2015, Jaroslav Dobes, was arrested in Surigao del Norte, in the Philippines, where he openly exercised his activities of yoga teacher because his passport was not valid any more. He was immediately sent to the Immigration Detention Center in Manila where he still is.
Both Czech citizens were hereby left “undocumented” by their embassy in the Philippines.
In Prague, an international arrest warrant had in the meantime been issued against Jaroslav Dobes and Barbora Plaskova on the grounds that they had respectively been sentenced to a prison term. However, this decision of the Regional Court in Brno (Czech Republic) in October 2014 was cancelled on 21st May 2015 by the High Court of Olomouc for lack of evidence. On that very day, the legal situation of the two Czech citizens changed. There was no sentence to be implemented, there was no evidence of guilt, and they were therefore fully entitled to enjoy the right to the presumption of innocence.
Moreover, since May of last year, no Czech court has ruled that Jaroslav Dobes and Barbora Plaskova had been guilty of any crime in the Czech Republic.
There is therefore no obstacle for the Czech authorities to issue a new passport to their two citizens, still presumed innocent, to restore their freedom and to give them the possibility to take care again of their underage children born and living in the Philippines.
However, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs goes on stating that “The reason for which they were apprehended, is fully under the jurisdiction of the Philippines and the decision of any changes related to their status is entirely outside the competence of the Czech Republic.”
This is not true. Human Rights Without Frontiers visited Manila in June and interviewed the Commissioner in charge of the Immigration Detention Center. He said his country was not against the presence of the two Czech citizens on its territory as they had not committed any criminal activity and he was ready to release Jaroslav Dobes and Barbora Plaskova if the Czech authorities gave them a passport.
HRWF Int'l recommends that:
The Czech authorities
● respect the presumption of innocence of Jaroslav Dobes and Barbora Plaskova as the prison sentence released by the Regional Court in Brno in October 2014 was totally cancelled by the High Court of Olomuc in May 2015;
● grant Jaroslav Dobes and Barbora Plaskova new passports, even if limited to travels between the Philippines and the Czech Republic, in order to put an end to their status of "undocumented" persons, and to their detention at Bagong Diwa Immigration Detention Center in Manila in the Philippines;
● agree with the Filippino authorities that they will have to regularly report to the police station close to their residence;
● maintain the proposed administrative status as long as there is no new legal or judicial development in their case in the Czech Republic.
*This statement has been extracted from the official intervention made by HRWF at the OSCE HDIM 2016
**For more more information about HRWF, you can visit their website