Former Czechoslovak communist leaders sued in Germany for Iron Curtain deaths
Former high ranking communist party leaders such as Milouš Jakeš and prime minister Lubomír Štrougal are among 67 Czechs and Slovaks being sued for the deaths of five German citizens who were killed on the Iron Curtain trying to flee communist Czechoslovakia. The Platform for European Memory and Conscience filed a criminal complaint in Germany after losing faith that justice would be done in the Czech Republic.
“The motivation behind this move was the fact that those who are to blame for Iron Curtain deaths have largely escaped justice both in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Slovakia efforts to convict them failed entirely, in the Czech Republic, of those responsible for the deaths of 240 people on the Czech-German and Czech Austrian border, only four rank and file border guards stood trial and two of them received a suspended sentence.”
Among the 67 people on the list are three surviving members of the one-time politburo of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, former secretary general Milouš Jakeš, 94, former prime minister Lubomír Štrougal, 91,and former Slovak prime minister Peter Colotka,91. They have never been sentenced for any of their deeds committed during the dictatorship. Earlier this year a criminal complaint filed against Lubomír Štrougal in the Czech Republic came to nothing. The case was closed due to lack of evidence that Mr. Štrougal was informed about the deaths on the Iron Curtain. Although a report reached his office, there was no proof that he had read it. Neela Winkelmann counters that the politburo was closely involved in what went on on the Iron Curtain.
In Germany the killing of people on the inner-German border was established by German courts as an imprescriptible crime, namely as murder for base motives. The trials of those responsible resulted in the sentencing of about 150 perpetrators in the entire chain of command. The Platform of European Memory and Conscience is hoping that the German prosecuting authorities will extend this model to German refugees killed along the Iron Curtain outside Germany and thus bring some of those responsible for Iron Curtain deaths in the former Czechoslovakia to justice.