Interior Ministry ordered to remove a name from StB collaborators list

In a historic first, the Czech Interior Ministry has removed a single name from its public list of thousands of alleged former agents and paid informants who worked for the StB, the communist-era secret police.

Jan Vanecek is the only person to date to have succeeded in having his name struck from the Interior Ministry's list of collaborators. Evidence proved that his signature below a report by an active StB agent had been forged.

StB agents recruited thousands of paid informants, but, under pressure to meet quotas, also included in their dossiers the names of innocent people who had not cooperated with the former Czechoslovak state security service.

The StB also blackmailed or otherwise forced people to work for them.

Former student leader and dissident Vaclav Bartuska was a member of the first parliamentary commission to investigate the events of the "Velvet Revolution" of November 1989.

At the age of 21, he was given unlimited access to the files of the notorious StB secret police, a privilege granted to no-one before or since. Having read through hundreds of StB files in the 1990s, Bartuska cautioned that they should never be taken at face value.

"The files of the secret service, of the StB, took on some aura of being the perfect source of history, the truthful source of history — which is nonsense. Those are only files written by people in a specific time. So there are of course plenty of lies and false statements as well as truthful statements."

Vaclav Bartuska
"They are an important part of our past, they are important for what we should know about out country, but they are not the only source of information, which, I'm afraid, is what in the eyes of the public they became."

Dozens of Czechs have sued to have their names removed from the list, which can be viewed on the Interior Ministry's public website, but, until the ruling on Vanecek's case, those found to have been unjustly accused were still listed, albeit with an asterisk next to their name.

The Czech law relating to the StB stipulates that if it makes information public, the Interior Ministry must disclose this information exactly as it was entered in the archives of the communist-era secret police.

However, the High Court in Prague has ruled that Vanecek was innocent — that he was falsely accused of being on the StB payroll — and so his inclusion on the Interior Ministry's list amounted to a violation of his "fundamental rights" under the Czech Constitution.

Although the Interior Ministry was forced to strike Vanecek's name off the list it has appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the decision. The Supreme Court must now decide whether the High Court of Prague correctly interpreted the Constitution.

Vaclav Bartuska again.

"I must say I don't envy the [Supreme] Court that it has to decide this case because the political establishment avoided these questions for most of the last 15 years. And there is no clear, I would say, governmental or establishment decision on how these cases should be dealt with, so... For me, I would keep the names public but with a strong information, or asterisk, if you will, that there is much more information about this case and there are many more questions about whether this person did or did not cooperate."

In 1992, in the absence of any relevant comprehensive law, former Czech dissident Petr Cibulka published a list of 160,000 names he had received on floppy disks from a source close to the StB. He is still compiling and publishing lists on nearly 200,000 alleged StB collaborators and officers.