Czech police declares 11 deceased politburo members fully responsible for the killings of refugees on the Iron Curtain
On 26 November 2020, the Office for the Documentation and the Investigation of Crimes of Communism, which operates under the Czech police, declared that 11 members of the former Czechoslovak Politburo were fully responsible for the deaths of refugees who were trying to cross the border to the West. The only problem is that the 11 men are all deceased as of today. However, several Politburo members are still alive and further steps are expected in the near future. The Czech Police proceedings were opened in November 2019 in response to a detailed complaint filed by the Platform of European Memory and Conscience in September 2017.
Prague, 2 December 2020. In its milestone decision published last week, the Czech Office for Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes of the Police of the Czech Republic declares that 11 deceased members of the 1980s’ politburo of the Communist party of Czechoslovakia are fully responsible for the killing, wounding, arresting and criminalising of unarmed refugees trying to flee the Communist bloc to the West. The Platform of European Memory and Conscience welcomes the significant development, which is a result of the criminal complaints filed in Germany and the Czech Republic within its “Justice 2.0”– project, and asks: what about the members of the politburo who are still alive?
The milestone decision of the Office for Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes of the Police of the Czech Republic was published on Thursday 26 November 2020. On 31 pages, the police elaborates in detail the personal involvement and responsibility of each of 11 members of the Presidium of the Central committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (a.k.a. politburo) from the 1980s in a list of cases of German and Czech civilians killed, injured and arrested at the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia while trying to cross to the West.
This is a result of the ongoing police proceedings which were opened in the Czech Republic in November 2019 in response to a detailed complaint filed by the Platform in September 2017. The only problem is that the 11 men are all deceased as of today. However, several members of the politburo are still alive now.
Until this day, no politburo member has been sentenced for any crime committed during the dictatorship (sic!).
“The police conclusions about the unambiguous criminal liability of the politburo members represent a large shift in the assessment of these crimes not only within Czech society, but also on an international scale,”says Dr. Neela Winkelmann, former Managing Director of the Platform, now responsible for the “Justice 2.0” project. “We are looking forward to further developments which now must follow. Only in 2016, the same police office had dismissed a previous complaint about 246 civilians killed on the Iron Curtain as unsubstantiated”.
“The police decision lists the cases of twenty-one victims of the Iron Curtain. Nine of them were killed, but twelve survived and are waiting for justice. Since the fall of Communism, the public has been expecting a much larger rate of success of police investigations of living perpetrators.” says Peter Rendek, Managing Director of the Platform.
In its "JUSTICE 2.0" project, the PEMC is systematically documenting violations of human rights of citizens during the Communist regime. The PEMC sees the killing of civilians trying to overcome the Iron Curtain as a crime against humanity. Former senior officials of the Communist regime responsible for killings of civilians at the borders in Czechoslovakia are currently under investigation in the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland.
Since 2019, the PEMC has been documenting further cases of victims of the Iron Curtain (killed, injured, imprisoned) in cooperation with the Centrum Historii Zajezdnia in Wroclaw.