Totalitarian regime study institute OKd by court

Tomáš Fránek
14. 3. 2008 17:00
Objections of Social Democrats rejected by court
On the eve of a tragedy: Austrians welcoming German troops in 1938
On the eve of a tragedy: Austrians welcoming German troops in 1938 | Foto: Holocaust Research Project

Prague - The Constitutional Court rejected an objection raised by the Social Democratic law-makers against the establishment of the Institute of Studies of Totalitarian Regimes. Therefore the institution founded in January can continue in its work.

According to the judges, the institute's foundation is a political affair and as such, it is not in the Constitutional Court's competence to intervene with such a decision. The court cannot function as the third legislative chamber, explained the judges.

"No monopoly of research"

The court assured the institute won't have any research monopoly in the issue of totalitarian past.

Even the rule that no politician can become a member of the institute is consistent with the Czech constitution. "Rules that set limits of membership are legitimate," explained a constitutional judge-reporter Stanislav Balík.

The same can be applied to the former and present members of the Communist Party being banned from becoming members of the department.

The Constitutional Court changed the law on the institute solely at one point. The Senate can now recall the chief of the institute only when he or she doesn't perform her duties for more than six months.

In past, it was possible for the Senate to recall the chief on the basis of him or her not working "correctly". According to the judges, such a condition is unconstitutional.

Promise of objectivity

The court  was not united in their opinion during the proceedings. The original judge-reporter Jiří Nykodým was replaced by Stanislav Balík after a discussion that anticipated the court's ruling.

"Of course, I am happy with what the court has ruled and that research work on totalitarian regimes of the past century is not unconstitutional," said the chief of the institute Pavel Žáček.

"However, I can assure everybody that we will be as unbiased and objective as we have been up to now," Žáček added.

The proposal for the state institute for research on Nazism and communism in Czech history to be abolished was signed by 57 Social Democratic MPs (ČSSD).

The Social Democratic MP Zdeněk Jičínský warned against the history being abused
The Social Democratic MP Zdeněk Jičínský warned against the history being abused | Foto: Ondřej Besperát

Concerns for interpretation of history

The objections claimed the new institution would be able to influence the interpretation of history. On top of that, they didn't like the wording of the law. For example, the whole era of the rule of the Communist Party designated as totalitarian. 

The judges thus had to decide whether the regime had been totalitarian all the time, or whether it had brought even positive things to the people.

Social Democrats were represented by the MP Zdeněk Jičínský. He claimed the whole issue is linked to evaluating history and reminded the judges of the recent controversial affair of the Mašín brothers who were awarded a few weeks ago.

"I don't understand on what grounds the Prime Minister awarded the Mašín Brothers," said Jičínský.

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Jičínský added that the majority of Czech historians have negative opinion on the institute.

In addition, Jičínský attacked the PM Topolánek´s government that is based on two Social Democratic "turncoats".

Read more: Czech govt survives another vote of no confidence


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