Prague, 16 November 2020. Thirty-one years after the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the Platform of European Memory and Conscience has uncovered yet another attempt to thwart the prosecution of Communist crimes.
Something is rotten in the running criminal investigation against the last living Prime Minister and a Minister of Interior of Communist Czechoslovakia for the killings of civilians on the Iron Curtain. The prosecuting authorities want to close the case based on an attestation on mental illness of the perpetrators commissioned from a military medical doctor. Based on the findings of the Platform, he was a professional officer of the Czechoslovak people’s army active in the anti-aircraft defence, he was a member of the Communist party and he had a highest-level security clearance from the Communist State security. The anti-aircraft defence was directly involved in the protection of the state borders. The Platform has asked for a meeting with the Supreme State Prosecutor of the Czech Republic.
In November 2019, the Platform welcomed the opening of criminal prosecution by Czech authorities against three top-ranking perpetrators responsible for the killings of civilians on the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia – the last chairman of the Communist party Milouš Jakeš (1922-2020), the last prime minister of Czechoslovakia Lubomír Štrougal (b. 1924) and one of the last ministers of interior Vratislav Vajnar (b. 1930). However, in September 2020, the district state prosecutor in Prague 1 announced they wanted to stop the prosecution of Štrougal and Vajnar (Jakeš had died in July 2020), based on a medical attestation commissioned by the Office for investigation and documentation of the crimes of Communism of the Police of the Czech Republic. Two military medical experts came to the conclusion that neither of the men can stand trial because they would not understand it (see press release PEMC of 24 September 2020).
The Platform’s new archival research however proves that at least one of the two experts is heavily biased. At the age of 21, during his studies at a military medical academy, he not only joined the Communist party of Czechoslovakia, but he also received security clearance for the “strictly confidential” level by the Communist State security, following which he served as a medical officer with the anti-aircraft defence forces in the 1980s.
Peter Rendek, Managing Director of the Platform, explains: “There were many successful attempts to escape across the Iron Curtain by the air in former Czechoslovakia, GDR or Poland. One unsuccessful documented case when the anti-aircraft defence forces of the Czechoslovak people’s army were responsible for the death of a refugee took place in 1975. Thirty-six-year-old Polish citizen Dionyzy Bielański was killed in his attempt to fly over the Iron Curtain in a small aircraft. He was shot down near the Austrian border by a Czechoslovak military plane.”
“It is obvious that this expert should not have been involved in the case at all,” says Dr. Neela Winkelmann, former Managing Director of the Platform, now manager of the Platform’s JUSTICE 2.0 project. “Unfortunately, we are witnessing yet another in a long list of cases in which police authorities, prosecutors or judges with a Communist past have been shielding key Communist perpetrators from justice. It is dangerous for democracy in the EU that thirty-one years after the fall of Communism, these “old boys’ networks” are still working.”
The Platform has requested a meeting with the Supreme State Attorney of the Czech Republic Mr Pavel Zeman to discuss the situation.
The prosecution was initiated by the Platform of European Memory and Conscience via criminal complaints filed in Poland in 2015, in Germany in 2016 and in the Czech Republic in 2017.