JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen (Czech Republic) Constitutional Court Retains Archives Access to Nazi and Communist Era Documents #general
Jan Meisels Allen
On January 11, 2017 the Czech Republic Constitutional Court --ustavni soud
(US)-- ruled on the accessibility of archives >from the Nazi and Communist
eras. The ruling stated the information will remain unchanged, overturning a
proposal by the Czech Supreme Court which was against an exception for
historians to access documents >from the Nazi (1939-1945) and Communist
(1948-1989) era regimes. If researchers publish the information they must
take into account to protect personal data of a delicate nature. It is not
necessary to obtain the consent of living persons whose sensitive
information is in the documents. The Supreme Court asked the US judges
whether the legislation was in accordance with the "constitutional order".
Sensitive data relates to information on crime, health, sexuality, political
attitudes and religion.
Historians had expressed concerns that interfering with the archives law
would impede their work. For years Czech historians and researchers had
virtually unlimited access to the documents for the two periods mentioned
above. They had not needed permission >from the living whose sensitive
information were contained in the documents. The documents are those created
before January 1, 1990 regarding work of military courts and state
attorney's offices, courts, the National Front Communist umbrella
parliamentary organization, some archival documents of the German occupation
administration and the documents which were of public nature. According to
the director of Security Services Archives, the archive deal with up to
30,000 files each year-all with multiple names. If the US required the
names not to be released it would have paralyzed research.
The issue at hand emanated >from litigation brought by a man who believed he
was harmed by the archives revealing sensitive data >from his Communist
secret service StgB file to Czech television reporters. He demanded 30,000
Crowns. His claim was denied by the State. The Supreme court will now
decide if the issue brought by the man is bound by the US conclusions.
The US is a judicial body responsible for protecting the constitutionality
of the Czech Republic. It is composed of 15 presidentially appointed
justices who serve for 10 years.
To read more about this ruling see: http://tinyurl.com/js538ow
For more information on the underlying case that brought this to the US see:
Thank you to Rose Feldman, Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA),
for sharing the information with us.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee