HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
15 October-2 November 2001
Communication No. 774/1997
Submitted by:Mr. Robert Brok
Alleged victim:The author
State party:The Czech Republic
Date of communication:23 December 1996 (initial submission)
Document references:Special Rapporteur’s rule 91 decision, transmitted to the State party on 22 October 1997 (not issued in document form)
Date of adoption of Views:2001
Submitted by:Mr. Robert Brok
Alleged victim:The author
State party:The Czech Republic
Date of communication:23 December 1996 (initial submission)
The Human Rights Committee, established under article 28 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights,
Meeting on 2001,
Having concluded its consideration of communication No. 774/1997, submitted to the
Human Rights Committee by Mr. Robert Brok under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
Having taken into account all written information made available to it by the author of
the communication and the State party,
Adopts the following:
Views under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol
1.The original author of the communication dated 23 December 1996, Robert Brok, was a Czech citizen, born in September 1916. When he passed away on 17 September 1997, his wife Dagmar Brokova maintained his communication. It is claimed that the Czech Republic has violated articles 6, 9, 14 (1), 26 and 27 of the Covenant. The Optional Protocol entered into force for the Czech Republic on 12 June 1991. The author is not represented by counsel.
The facts as submitted
2.1Robert Brok’s parents owned a house in the centre of Prague since 1927 (hereinafter called the property). During 1940 and 1941, the German authorities confiscated their property with retroactive effect to 16 March 1939, because the owners were Jewish. The property was then sold to the company Matador on 7 January 1942. The author himself, was deported by the Nazis, and returned to Prague on 16 May 1945, after having been released from a concentration camp. He was subsequently hospitalized until October 1945.
2.2After the end of the war, on 19 May 1945, President Benes’ Decree No. 5/1945 declared null and void all property transactions effected under pressure of the occupation regime on the basis of racial or political persecution. National administration was imposed on all enemy assets. This included the author’s parents’ property pursuant to a decision taken by the Ministry of Industry on 2 August 1945. However, February 1946, the Ministry of Industry annulled that decision. It also annulled the prior property confiscation and transfers, and the author’s parents were reinstated as the rightful owners, in accordance with Benes Decree No. 5/1945.
2.3However, the company Matador, which had been nationalized on 27 October 1945, appealed against this decision. On 7 August 1946, the Land Court in Prague annulled the return of the property to the author’s parents and declared Matador to be the rightful owner. On 31 January 1947, the Supreme Court confirmed this decision. he Court found that since the company with all its possessions had been nationalized in accordance with Benes Decree No. 100/1945 of 24 October 1945, and since national property was excluded from the application of Benes Decree No. 5/1945, the Ministry had wrongfully restored the author’s parents as the rightful owners.
2.4he author applied for restitution under Act No. 87/1991 amended Act No. 116/1994. The said law provides restitution or compensation to victims of illegal confiscation carried out for political reasons during the Communist regime. he law also restitution or compensation to victims of racial persecution during the Second World War, who have an entitlement by virtue of Decree No. 5/1945. The courts (District Court decision 26 C 49/95 of 20 November 1995 and Prague City Court decision 13 Co 34/94-29 of 28 February 1996), however, rejected the author’s claim.
2.5 he author filed a complaint that his right to property had been violated. Thallows an individual to file a complaint to the Constitutional Court if the public authority has violated the claimant’s fundamental rights guaranteed by a constitutional law or by an international treaty the right to property.
2.6the Constitutional Court invoked the question on its own motion and concluded that “the legal proceedings were correctly and all the legal regulations have been safeguarded”. he Constitutional Court rejected the author’s on 12 September 1996.
The author alleges that the court decisions in this case are vitiated by discrimination and that the courts’ negative interpretation of the facts is manifestly arbitrary and contrary to the law.
The author’s widow contends that the Act No. 87/1991, amended by Act
No. 116/1994,not appl to all Czech citizens equally. She deems it obvious that Robert Brok met all the conditions for restitution set forth in the law, the Czech courts were not willing to apply these to his case, in violation of articles 141 and 26 of the Covenant.
3.5The author’s widow further claims that since the initial expropriations happened as part of genocide, the property should be restored regardless of the positive law in the Czech Republic. The author points to other European countries where confiscated Jewish properties are restituted to the rightful owners or to Jewish organizations if the owners could not be identified. Article 6 of the Covenant refers to obligations that arise from genocide. In the authors’ opinion, the provision should not be limited to obligations arising from complainants killed in genocide, but also to those, like Robert Brok, who survived genocide. The refusal to restitute property thereby constitutes violation of article 6 of the Covenant.
3.6The Czech Republic has, according to the author’s widow, systematically refused to return Jewish properties. She claims that since the Nazi expropriation targeted the Jewish community as a whole, the Czech Republic’s policy of non-restitution also affects the whole group. As a result and for the reason of lacking economical basis, the Jewish community has not had the same opportunity to maintain its cultural life as others, and the Czech Republic has thereby violated their right under article 27.
Observations by the State party
4.1By note verbale of 16 October 2000, the State party objects to the admissibility of the communication. The grounds for the State party’s objections are the following:
(1)It argues that the author invoked the right to own property in the domestic procedure, and not the rights covered by the Covenanthus the domestic remedies for Covenant
(2)The State party points out that the events complained of occurred prior to the
entry into force of the Optional Protocol for the Czech Republic, when the property was subject to confiscation in the 1940s, and the communication is therefore inadmissible ratione temporis; and
(3)The State party notes that the communication concerns the right to own property, which is not covered by the Covenant, and the communication is therefore inadmissible ratione materiae.
The State party contends that the author on 19 February 1946 obtained restitution of his property on the basis of the Industry Ministry Decision No. II/2-7540/46 and not on the basis of the National Committee decision as empowered by Decree No. 5/1945. It further states that the by the author was inconsistent with the special legislation governing exemptions from national administration. In addition, the author’s father did not avail himself of Decree No. 108/1945 that regulated the confiscation of enemy assets and the establishment of National Restoration Funds. He thereby waived enlarged avenues for appeals against dismissal of claims for exemptions from national administration, to the Ministry of Interior.
Furthermore, the State party contends that the author in his claim to the courts in 1995/1996 did not complain about discrimination nor challenge the handling of the case by the courts in 1946 and 1947.
The State party points out that in communication No. 670/1995 Schlosser v. the Czech Republic and in communication No. 669/1995 Malik v. the Czech Republic, the Committee concluded that the said legislation applied in the case was not prima facie discriminatory within the meaning of article 26 merely because it did not compensate victims of injustices committed in the period before the Communist regime.
The State party contends that all formal restoration of title according to Decree No. 5/1945 was completed before 25 1948, whereas the Act No. 87/1991 as amended only covers restitution of property that was confiscated between 25 February 1948 and 1 January 1990.
Author’s comments to State party’s submission
.1By letter of 29 January 2001, the author’s widow contends that the State party has not addressed her arguments concerning the amendment to Act No. 87/1991Act No. 116/1994, which she considers crucial for the evaluation of the case.
She further states that the property would never have become subject to nationalization if it werefor the prior transfer of the assets to the German Reich which on racial basis, and therefore the decisions allowing nationalization were discriminatory. The author’s widow concedes that the communication concerns a property right, but explains that the core of the violation is the element of discrimination and the denial of equality in contravention of articles 6, 14, 26 and 27 of the Covenant.
The author further contends that the claim complies with the ratione temporis condition, since the claim relates to the decisions made by the Czech courts in 1995 and 1996.
With regard to the State party’s claim that the author’s father could have claimed the
property pursuant to Act No. 128/1946 until 31 December 1949, the author’s widow contends that the author’s father had good reason to fear political persecution from the Communist regime after 25 February 1948. Moreover, the violations of the Communist regime are not before the Committee, but rather the ratification and continuation of those violations by the arbitrary denial of redress following the adoption of restitution legislation in the 1990s.
Examination of admissibility
Before considering any claims contained in a communication, the Human Rights Committee must in accordance with rule 87 of its rules of procedure, decide whether or not it is admissible under the Optional Protocol to the Covenant.
As required under article 5, paragraph 2 (a) of the Optional Protocol, the Committee has ascertained that the same matter is not being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement.
The Committee has noted the State party’s objections to the admissibility and the author’s comments thereon. It considers that the State party’s allegations that the author has not met the ratione temporis condition for admissibility, is not relevant to the case, viewing that the author specifically noted that his claim relates to the decisions of the Czech courts in 1995 and 1996.
With regard to the State party’s objections ratione materiae, the Committee notes that the author’s communication does not invoke a violation of the right to property as such, but claims that he is denied a remedy in a discriminatory manner.
Furthermore, to the State party’s objections that the communication is inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, the Committee notes that the facts raised in the present communication have been brought before the domestic courts of the State party in the several applications filed by the author, and have been considered by the State party’s highest judicial authority. The Committee considers that it is not precluded from considering the communication by the requirement contained in article 5, paragraph 2 (b), of the Optional Protocol.
In its inadmissibility decisions communications No. 669/1995 Malik v. the Czech Republic and 670/1995 Schlosser v. the Czech Republic, the Committee held that the author had failed to substantiate, for purposes of admissibility, that Act No. 87/1991 was prima facie discriminatory within the meaning of article 26. The Committee observes that in this case the late author and his widow have made extensive submissions and arguments which are more fully substantiated, thus bringing the case over the threshold of admissibility so that the issues must be examined on the merits. Moreover, the instant case is distinguishable from the above cases in that the Act No. 116/1994 provides for an those entitled under Benes Decree No. 5/1945. The non‑application of to the author’s case raises issues under article 26, which should be examined on the merits.
The Committee finds that the author has failed to substantiate for purposes of admissibility his claims under articles 14, paragraph 1 . Thus, this part of the claim is inadmissible under article 2 of the Optional Protocol.
Examination of merits
The Human Rights Committee has considered the present communication in the light of all the information made available to it by the parties, as provided in article 5, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol.
The question before the Committee is whether the application of Act No. 87/1991 as amended by Act No. 116/1994, to the author’s case entails a violation of his right to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law.
These laws provide restitution or compensation to victims of illegal confiscation carried out for political reasons during the Communist regime. The law also provides for restitution or compensation to victims of racial persecution during the Second World War who had an entitlement under Decree No. 5/1945. The Committee observes that legislation must not discriminate among the victims of the prior confiscation, since all victims are entitled to redress without arbitrary distinctions.
.The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol, is of the view that the facts before it substantiate a violation of article 26 in conjunction with article 2 of the Covenant.
.In accordance with article 2, paragraph 3 (a), of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. Such remedy should include restitution of the property compensation for the period starting on the date of the court decision of 20 November 1995 and the date the restitution has been completed. The State party review its relevant legislation and administrative practices to ensure that neither the law nor its application entails discrimination in contravention of article 26 of the Covenant.
.Bearing in mind that, by becoming a party to the Optional Protocol, the State party has recognized the competence of the Committee to determine whether there has been a violation of the Covenant or not and that, pursuant to article 2 of the Covenant, the State party has undertaken to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant and to provide an effective remedy in case a violation has been established, the Committee wishes to receive from the State party, within 90 days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s Views.