One in six of the Czech Republic’s state attorneys are ex-members of the pre-1989 Communist Party, Czech Radio’s iRozhlas news website reported on Monday. But defenders say it is unfair to judge them, as some prosecutors were blackmailed into getting a party card.
Some 204 of the 1,252 current state attorneys in the Czech Republic were members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia prior to 1989, a study by iRozhlas has found. That represents around 16 percent of the total number.
This figure is higher than among judges, 13 percent of whom carried party cards prior to the fall of communism almost 30 years ago.
At the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague, a full 30 percent of prosecutors are ex-Communists.
The Prague High State Attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, told Czech Radio there were historical reasons for her office’s composition. She said the situation was legally recognised and could not be changed.
Among ex-Communist prosecutors is Igor Stříž. Today first deputy Supreme State Attorney, he was a party member from 1987 until 1989, when he served as a military prosecutor.
A spokesperson for the Supreme State Attorney’s office, Petr Malý, defended Mr. Stříž.
“It is important to look not only at his former membership of a political party but also at his professional skills and moral quality. When it comes to Mr. Stříž, the Supreme State Attorney’s office doesn’t have any doubts about either of those things.”
Formally at least, joining the party was not a prerequisite to becoming a prosecutor. However, some may have felt they had no alternative.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, Vladimír Řepka, says that there were various reasons for becoming a member.
“It’s not possible to generalise when it comes to evaluating prosecutors’ membership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Some were pressurised, for instance being blackmailed as to whether their children could study. Rank and file membership of the party on its own cannot be used to disparage the moral character of state attorneys.”
However, this doesn’t wash with blogger Tomáš Pecina, who is known as a judiciary activist. He argues that the Czech justice system is a “Jurassic Park” of communism – and this has effects.
“There are well-known cases in which Communist criminals evade trial for many years. And that definitely wouldn’t be possible if the judiciary had undergone reforms back in the 1990s and these people had been replaced by others capable of at least neutral judgement.”
In any case with each passing year there are fewer former Communist prosecutors and judges, as both are obliged to retire at the age of 70 at the latest.