BIS slams justice officials for corruption and criminality

The civilian intelligence agency, BIS, has issued a scathing report on malpractice and criminal activity within the Czech justice system. The agency’s annual report accuses judges and state prosecutors of a litany of shortcomings from sluggishness to connections to organised crime. On Thursday the Czech judges’ association went on the offence, comparing the allegations to a baseless tabloid report.

The national intelligence agency pulled no punches in its annual report for 2010, where it discusses the state of Czech justice. The report paints a picture of rampant irregularities indicating criminal activity, where information is leaked from court and prosecutors’ databases, corruption is rife and court cases are manipulated.

That, however, is about as specific as the spy agency gets, much to the consternation of the justice officials themselves. Tomáš Lichovník, who heads the Czech association of judges slammed the report as bordering on unsubstantiated slander.

“I truly don’t know if this report is intentionally aggressive towards justice officials, or if this is just about the very clumsy formulations used. May the BIS officials not be angry with me, but this report was phrased with the standards of some tabloid newspaper. There’s nothing more than unsubstantiated claims, this or that is happening, but we learn nothing of the extent of these problems or what they’ve done about them. The completely general way that the report was written makes it impossible to review and it is very damaging to the entire justice system.”

Tomáš Lichovník,  photo: CT24
Perhaps most damning of all is the intelligence agency’s statement that they have noted direct contact between justice officials and known criminals, and that organised crime has infiltrated the judiciary. This however is not described in any detail. Another point of concern – in fact the one that the report deals with the most – are the webs of relationships indicating widespread clientelism, or personal and political back-scratching. In this case the only example cited is that of the law school at the West Bohemian University, a well known case of recent years where the agency says that police, attorneys, state administrators and the school colluded on fast-tracking degrees for certain students who never did the course work. BIS writes that it spent 2010 monitoring how the responsible parties would be held to account, but to no avail. No blame was placed even after the departure of the management because data was lost and modified, and inspections were tampered with. The previous management kept its contacts with the school and the highest bodies of state administration, including the Ministry of Education. The same kinds of “dysfunction”, the agency writes, were discovered time and time again in other - primarily law - colleges in the Czech Republic, thereby creating new cycles of clientelism in the justice system.

All that being said, the judges’ association holds that these are not problems endemic to the justice system alone – in fact Judge Lichovník explains why the judiciary is more resilient in the face of corruption than other sectors.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“Nothing to my knowledge would allow me to say that these problems are worse in the justice system then elsewhere – quite the contrary. The very principles on which the judiciary is based makes corruption more difficult, and I will tell you why: it is possible to appeal almost every decision of any judge, so their decisions are reviewed again and again. Verdicts are delivered to the public, which has the possibility of checking up on them. Nearly every decision must be justified in detail, so the judge must state the facts of the case and his own deliberations; there must be evidence and legal conclusions.”

Justice aside, the report also confirms general misgivings about corruption in the Czech state overall, with state officials accepting payments to manipulate public tenders, the tunnelling of property from state institutions, irregular and non-transparent dealings between competitors and public representatives, optimising the prices of public tenders not for the state but for private enterprises.