Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
February 4, 1999
HELSINKI COMMISSION LEADERSHIP
EXPRESSES REGRET OVER CZECH PARLIAMENT’S ACTIONS
(Washington, DC) — Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) today released the following joint statement:
“The Parliament of the Czech Republic yesterday debated and rejected a proposed amendment to their law on extrajudicial rehabilitation that would have eliminated Czech citizenship as a condition for property restitution claims. We commend Parliamentarians Jiri Karas and Pavel Tollner for raising this complex issue. We profoundly regret that, in rejecting the amendment, the Czech Parliament has missed an excellent opportunity to resolve a long-standing and contentious issue between the Czech Republic and the United States. Enactment of the amendment also would have brought the Czech restitution law into conformity with decisions of the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee that these citizenship restrictions violate the anti-discrimination clause (article 26) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“We hope that the Czech Government will move forward swiftly with alternative mechanisms to restore property to those victims of fascism and communism who have thus far been excluded from restitution solely due to their lack of current Czech citizenship. In a meeting two weeks ago, Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous assured members of this Commission that his government would soon propose a new citizenship law which will permit dual citizenship. We urge the Czech Government to promptly put forth this new law as a first step towards resolving the discrimination Czech Americans have faced in making claims for restitution or compensation for property that was wrongly taken from them by the previous Communist regime.
“In addition, we are alarmed by recent statements from Prime Minister Zeman and Deputy Prime Minister Rychetsky that question the legitimacy of returning seven hundred properties to the Catholic Church in 1996. The re-nationalization of these properties would send a troubling signal regarding the Czech government’s commitment to private property rights and respect for religious liberties. We will be monitoring these developments closely and hope the government’s position will soon be constructively clarified.
Media Contact: Chadwick R. Gore
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Citizenship and Political Rights