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Czech Republic

The Czech Republic was the western part of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. Formed into a common state after World War I (October 28, 1918), the Czechs, Moravians, and Slovaks remained united for almost 75 years. On January 1, 1993, the two republics split to form two separate states. The Czechs lost their national independence to the Hapsburgs Empire in 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain and for the next 300 years, were ruled by the Austrian Monarchy. With the collapse of the monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed, encouraged by, among others, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Despite cultural differences, the Slovaks shared with the Czechs similar aspirations for independence from the Hapsburg state and voluntarily united with the Czechs. For historical reasons, Slovaks were not at the same level of economic and technological development as the Czechs, but the freedom and opportunity found in Czechoslovakia enabled them to make strides toward overcoming these inequalities. However, the gap never was fully bridged, and the discrepancy played a continuing role throughout the 75 years of the union.

Although Czechoslovakia was the only east European country to remain a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it was plagued with minority problems, the most important of which concerned the country's large German population. Constituting more than 22% of the interwar state's population and largely concentrated in the Bohemian and Moravian border regions (the Sudetenland), members of this minority, including some who were sympathetic to Nazi Germany, undermined the new Czechoslovak state. Internal and external pressures culminated in September 1938, when France and the United Kingdom yielded to Nazi pressures at Munich and agreed to force Czechoslovakia to cede the Sudetenland to Germany. Fulfilling Hitler's aggressive designs on all of Czechoslovakia, Germany invaded what remained of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939, establishing a German "protectorate." By this time, Slovakia had already declared independence and had become a puppet state of the Germans. At the close of World War II, Soviet troops overran all of Slovakia, Moravia, and much of Bohemia, including Prague. In May 1945, U.S. forces liberated the city of Plzen and most of western Bohemia. A civilian uprising against the German garrison took place in Prague in May 1945. Following Germany's surrender, some 2.9 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia with Allied approval under the Benes Decrees. Reunited after the war, the Czechs and Slovaks set national elections for the spring of 1946. The democratic elements, led by President Eduard Benes, hoped the Soviet Union would allow Czechoslovakia the freedom to choose its own form of government and aspired to a Czechoslovakia that would act as a bridge between East and West. The Czechoslovak Communist Party, which won 38% of the vote, held most of the key positions in the government and gradually managed to neutralize or silence the anti-Communist forces. Although the Communist-led government initially intended to participate in the Marshall Plan, it was forced by Moscow to back out. Under the cover of superficial legality, the Communist Party seized power in February 1948. After extensive purges modeled on the Stalinist pattern in other east European states, the Communist Party tried 14 of its former leaders in November 1952 and sentenced 11 to death. For more than a decade thereafter, the Czechoslovak Communist political structure was characterized by the orthodoxy of the leadership of party chief Antonin Novotny.

The Communist leadership allowed token reforms in the early 1960s, but discontent arose within the ranks of the Communist Party central committee, stemming from dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the economic reforms, resistance to cultural liberalization, and the desire of the Slovaks within the leadership for greater autonomy for their republic. This discontent expressed itself with the removal of Novotny from party leadership in January 1968 and from the presidency in March. He was replaced as party leader by a Slovak, Alexander Dubcek. After January 1968, the Dubcek leadership took practical steps toward political, social, and economic reforms. In addition, it called for politico-military changes in the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact and Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. The leadership affirmed its loyalty to socialism and the Warsaw Pact but also expressed the desire to improve relations with all countries of the world regardless of their social systems. A program adopted in April 1968 set guidelines for a modern, humanistic socialist democracy that would guarantee, among other things, freedom of religion, press, assembly, speech, and travel; a program that, in Dubcek's words, would give socialism "a human face." After 20 years of little public participation, the population gradually started to take interest in the government, and Dubcek became a truly popular national figure. The internal reforms and foreign policy statements of the Dubcek leadership created great concern among some other Warsaw Pact governments. On the night of August 20, 1968, Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak Government immediately declared that the troops had not been invited into the country and that their invasion was a violation of socialist principles, international law, and the UN Charter. The principal Czechoslovak reformers were forcibly and secretly taken to the Soviet Union. Under obvious Soviet duress, they were compelled to sign a treaty that provided for the "temporary stationing" of an unspecified number of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia. Dubcek was removed as party First Secretary on April 17, 1969, and replaced by another Slovak, Gustav Husak. Later, Dubcek and many of his allies within the party were stripped of their party positions in a purge that lasted until 1971 and reduced party membership by almost one-third.

The 1970s and 1980s became known as the period of "normalization," in which the apologists for the 1968 Soviet invasion prevented, as best they could, any opposition to their conservative regime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated. The population, cowed by the "normalization," was quiet. At the time of the Communist takeover, Czechoslovakia had a balanced economy and one of the higher levels of industrialization on the continent. In 1948, however, the government began to stress heavy industry over agricultural and consumer goods and services. Many basic industries and foreign trade, as well as domestic wholesale trade, had been nationalized before the Communists took power. Nationalization of most of the retail trade was completed in 1950-51. Heavy industry received major economic support during the 1950s, but central planning resulted in waste and inefficient use of industrial resources. Although the labor force was traditionally skilled and efficient, inadequate incentives for labor and management contributed to high labor turnover, low productivity, and poor product quality. Economic failures reached a critical stage in the 1960s, after which various reform measures were sought with no satisfactory results. Hope for wide-ranging economic reform came with Alexander Dubcek's rise in January 1968. Despite renewed efforts, however, Czechoslovakia could not come to grips with inflationary forces, much less begin the immense task of correcting the economy's basic problems. The economy saw growth during the 1970s but then stagnated between 1978-82. Attempts at revitalizing it in the 1980s with management and worker incentive programs were largely unsuccessful. The economy grew after 1982, achieving an annual average output growth of more than 3% between 1983-85. Imports from the West were curtailed, exports boosted, and hard currency debt reduced substantially. New investment was made in the electronic, chemical, and pharmaceutical sectors, which were industry leaders in eastern Europe in the mid-1980s.

The roots of the 1989 Civic Forum movement that came to power during the "Velvet Revolution" lie in human rights activism. On January 1, 1977, more than 250 human rights activists signed a manifesto called the Charter 77, which criticized the government for failing to implement human rights provisions of documents it had signed, including the state's own constitution; international covenants on political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights; and the Final Act of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Although not organized in any real sense, the signatories of Charter 77 constituted a citizens' initiative aimed at inducing the Czechoslovak Government to observe formal obligations to respect the human rights of its citizens. On November 17, 1989, the Communist police violently broke up a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration, brutally beating many student participants. In the days which followed, Charter 77 and other groups united to become the Civic Forum, an umbrella group championing bureaucratic reform and civil liberties. Its leader was the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel. Intentionally eschewing the label "party," a word given a negative connotation during the previous regime, Civic Forum quickly gained the support of millions of Czechs, as did its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence. Faced with an overwhelming popular repudiation, the Communist Party all but collapsed. Its leaders, Husak and party chief Milos Jakes, resigned in December 1989, and Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia on December 29. The astonishing quickness of these events was in part due to the unpopularity of the Communist regime and changes in the policies of its Soviet guarantor as well as to the rapid, effective organization of these public initiatives into a viable opposition. A coalition government, in which the Communist Party had a minority of ministerial positions, was formed in December 1989. The first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1946 took place in June 1990 without incident and with more than 95% of the population voting. As anticipated, Civic Forum and Public Against Violence won landslide victories in their respective republics and gained a comfortable majority in the federal Parliament. The Parliament undertook substantial steps toward securing the democratic evolution of Czechoslovakia. It successfully moved toward fair local elections in November 1990, ensuring fundamental change at the county and town level. Civic Forum found, however, that although it had successfully completed its primary objective--the overthrow of the Communist regime--it was ineffectual as a governing party. The demise of Civic Forum was viewed by most as necessary and inevitable. By the end of 1990, unofficial parliamentary "clubs" had evolved with distinct political agendas. Most influential was the Civic Democratic Party, headed by Vaclav Klaus who later became Prime Minister. Other notable parties that came to the fore after the split were the Czech Social Democratic Party, Civic Movement, and Civic Democratic Alliance. By 1992, Slovak calls for greater autonomy effectively blocked the daily functioning of the federal government. In the election of June 1992, Klaus's Civic Democratic Party won handily in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform. Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on fairness to Slovak demands for autonomy. Federalists, like Havel, were unable to contain the trend toward the split. In July 1992, President Havel resigned. In the latter half of 1992, Klaus and Meciar hammered out an agreement that the two republics would go their separate ways by the end of the year. Members of the federal parliament, divided along national lines, barely cooperated enough to pass the law officially separating the two nations. The law was passed on December 27, 1992. On January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia were simultaneously and peacefully founded. Relationships between the two states, despite occasional disputes about the division of federal property and governing of the border have been peaceful. Both states attained immediate recognition from the U.S. and their European neighbors.

Today, the Czech Republic is a constitutional parliamentary democracy with a bicameral Parliament. Following elections in June 1998, Prime Minister Milos Zeman formed a minority government comprised almost exclusively of members of his left-of-center Social Democratic Party. The Parliament elects the President for a 5-year term; in January 1998, President Vaclav Havel was reelected by a narrow margin. Although the country essentially has completed the reform of political structures initiated after the 1989 "Velvet Revolution," some institutions remained in a state of transformation. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary is hampered by structural and procedural deficiencies and a lack of resources.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Information on the Czech Republic's criminal codes provided by Library of Congress, and presented below, predates the 1989 "Velvet Revolution"; however, this description provides a foundation for today's Czech codes which are in a state of transformation.

Other than for the period of Nazi domination, Czechoslovakia operated under two different penal codes for the first thirty-two years of its existence. Bohemia and Moravia used the Austrian Penal Code, which had been in effect in those areas before independence, whereas Slovakia used the Hungarian Penal Code. Both codes had been amended during the years of independence, but no distinctively Czechoslovak code had been formulated until the KSC hastily improvised one after the coup.

This 1950 Penal code was harsh and repressive, reflecting the siege mentality of the Communist elite, who felt threatened by the people they ruled. Amendments in the mid-1950s eliminated some of the harshest aspects, and a new code was issued in 1961, with a revision in 1973. The 1961 code underwent no significant altercation during the Prague Spring in 1968.

The Czechoslovak Constitution of 1960 guarantees basic political freedoms while negating them in Article 34, which states that citizens are "in all their actions to pay heed to the interests of the socialist state and the society of the working people." This article thus provides a way for laws to be written that infringe on rights guaranteed elsewhere in the Constitution. Still in effect in late 1987, the Czechoslovak Penal Code of 1961 encroached upon such constitutionally guaranteed rights as freedom of speech, the press, and association. According to provisions of the code's "Sedition" section, people participating in mass demonstrations "against the Republic, its organs or public organizations of the working people" could be punished by sentences of up to 15 years' imprisonment, and under certain circumstances--for example, proof of conspiracy, acts resulting in death, or acts committed during a declared defense emergency--even death. Article 98 dictated punishments for "subversive activity against the social and governmental system of the Republic, against its territorial integrity, defensive capacity or independence, or against its international interests." Article 100 specified prison sentences of up to five years for inciting two or more people against the subjects enumerated in Article 98 or "against the alliances or friendly relations between the Republic and other states." Articles 102 and 104 allowed for prison sentences for those who "publicly defame" the state or its officials or those of any state "belonging to the world socialist system." Article 112 stipulated prison sentences of up to three years for persons harming the interests of Czechoslovakia abroad. Thus, the Penal Code provided that those who criticized the Czechoslovak government or its policies would be imprisoned. Sentences tended to be more severe for crimes against the state or state property than for crimes against the person or personal property. The death penalty, although infrequently carried out, was permitted for several crimes against the state and for a few heinous crimes against the person.

The 1973 revisions to the code increased the maximum allowable prison sentence from fifteen to twenty-five years for so-called antisocialist crimes. The death penalty was extended to cover hijacking or kidnapping crimes in which death resulted and to cover cases in which such crimes were committed during a state of emergency. Penalties were increased for fleeing the country and for disclosing state secrets abroad. Articles 106 and 107, concerning state secrets, were expanded to include so many area of information about the government, the economy, the military, and other institutions that news coverage became almost meaningless. Published articles or public statements only mildly critical of the regime have led to arrests and conviction, and criticisms of the Soviet Union or of Soviet involvement in Czechoslovakia have resulted in prison sentences.

Although the 1961 code was harsh, it was never adhered to strictly. The KSC often issued secret instructions to judges to ensure that certain court rulings would be in accord with its wishes. The Dubcek reformers attempted to stop this practice during the period of the Prague Spring, but it was resumed during the subsequent period of "normalization."

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Penal Code with its amendments allowed the regime to protect itself against any further democratization attempts. When the Charter 77 movement emerged, the laws that the authorities could use to crush the incipient democratic force were in the code. Because the offenses for which people were being arrested, e.g., signing Charter 77 or speaking publicly against repression, could be construed as crimes under the Penal Code, those arrested were charged as criminals when in fact they were political offenders. In 1984 the government introduced a form of punishment for political prisoners called "protective supervision," a kind of internal exile and house arrest. In two such cases, Charter 77 signatories Ladislav Lis and Jiri Limomisky were required to report daily to a local police station at a specific time, seven days a week. Violations, including tardiness, could be punished by additional sentences. Those subject to such measures were also subject to house searches at any time.

The 1961 Criminal Procedure Code states that a person will not be prosecuted for acts not established as crimes in law and will not be considered guilty until tried by competent authority. An accused may select his or her own attorney and, if in detention, may consult privately with counsel. During trial defendants may not be prohibited from making statements on all charges and on evidence brought against them; they may describe circumstances, exhibit evidence, and make motions in their defense. The code provides that the accused be informed of his rights at appropriate times during preliminary investigations, detention, and trial. Trials are conducted in the language of the defendant and in a manner suited to the person's educational background or ability to understand court proceedings. Only evidence submitted during the trial can be considered in determining the verdict and sentence. Police are restricted by the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, but violations occur. In cases of search and seizure, for example, a warrant is required before police may enter a home. The only exceptions are emergency situations when an official cannot be found and when evidence may be lost or destroyed. Despite the provision, house searches have been conducted without warrants, and even though the practice declined during the 1970s and 1980s, people continued to complain that they did not feel secure in their own homes. Pretrial detention is another area where the code has been violated. Two months is the legal limit, but some cases have extended for six months and longer despite the law. For the protection of arrested persons, the code provides that they may be held for no longer than forty-eight hours, at which time a government prosecutor must make a decision concerning release or holding for investigation. However, according to reports from many who had been arrested on political charges, the forty-eight-hour limitation was frequently circumvented.

Another article of the Criminal Procedure Code that was violated with seeming impunity dealt with the conduct of trials. Although the code states that trials must be open, in many cases involving political charges courtrooms have been packed with spectators selected by the authorities, and in most cases foreign correspondents have been barred. Amnesty International reported that in 1976 a courtroom in which four young musicians were tried was literally filled with people invited by officials, leaving only ten spaces for the families, friends, and supporters of the defendants. In that case, the prosecutor also made changes in the case file without notifying defense lawyers, and the judge refused the defense lawyers' request for a postponement that would enable them to study the changes. The defense was also refused permission to call witnesses who had given testimony in the pretrial investigation. In a similar fashion, during the socalled Jazz Section trial in early 1987, the court did not allow the section's long-time counsel to participate or even to attend the trial.



EDITOR'S NOTE: A general qualitative description of incidence and trends in crime before the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" below is drawn from the Library of Congress country profile; this description serves not only as background for today's crime rates, which will be given subsequently, but no doubt many of the observations given in the report hold true today.

Gypsies (especially in Slovakia) and young people were viewed as the primary perpetrators of crime, and alcohol was seen as a major factor. In Slovakia, for example, 65,869 offenses and petty offenses were registered between January and November 1983; this number was 52 percent more than in the same period of 1982. Gypsies reportedly were responsible for about 20 percent of these crimes, even though they made up less than 3 percent of the population of Slovakia. "Economic crime," a wide category including shoplifting and vandalism, accounted for Kcs116 million worth of damages. Losses due to burglary went up 37 percent between 1981 and 1985. In 1985, in the Czech Socialist Republic alone, the value of goods stolen was reported as Kcs43 million. Burglaries were a special problem in large cities, especially Prague. Property was inadequately protected, although security devices (such as security locks) were available in the stores.

In the mid-1980s, statistics were not available for rape and other violent crimes. In the 1970s, when statistics were published, the number of court cases involving rape and child abuse fluctuated between 1,623 and 2,475 a year, peaking in 1973. Rapists "on the prowl" appeared to be a common phenomenon, and young girls were warned not to hitchhike. The penalty for rape was three to eight years' imprisonment, which increased to fifteen years if death occurred. The penalty for child abuse was from one to eight years and up to fifteen years if death resulted.

Juvenile delinquency was on the rise in the 1980s and usually involved children from broken homes. Parents were held responsible for their children and could be prosecuted for allowing their child's truancy. Juveniles were believed responsible for about 21 percent of all crime, often vandalizing state-owned property. Youth gangs were not unknown; and drug abuse and alcoholism were major problems. Children convicted of crimes served terms in juvenile correctional and training facilities, apart from adults. They might also be placed in the protective custody of the state, but there was a shortage of institutions to provide such care.

The most common offense in Czechoslovakia was nonpayment of mandatory child support. In a country in which divorce was commonplace, this abuse had become a serious problem. In 1985 approximately 3,800 child support cases were prosecuted in the Czech Socialist Republic alone. In general, convicted parents were given the maximum sentence and were often sent to work camps.

Black-market money changing was also common in Czechoslovakia, as it appeared to be in all East-bloc economies. The black-market changer might be a taxi driver or someone on the street corner waiting for foreign tourists who needed Czechoslovak currency or for Czechoslovak citizens who needed hard currency. Such a money changer would exchange hard (Western) currency for Czechoslovak korunas at a far better rate than the State Bank of Czechoslovakia, often doubling that figure. This "speculation" was highly illegal, and the papers carried reports of such transactions. On occasion, these money changers were agents of the government who tried to entrap foreigners in a crime.

In 1987 the official Czechoslovak press conveyed the impression that the country had few social problems. Occasionally, however, reports appeared on such topics as alcohol abuse, illegal drugs, theft, and "hooliganism" (a catch-all term that covered everything from disorderly conduct to vandalism).

Drinking has always been part of Czech and Slovak life; however, it has become a serious problem since the 1948 Communist coup. Apparently, many people drink because there is nothing else to do and because it is a way to escape the dreariness that pervades life in Czechoslovakia. As of 1987 drinking during the workday and drunkenness on the job reportedly were common and even tolerated. In 1984 Czechoslovakia's per capita consumption of hard liquor (over 20 proof) was 8.2 liters, of beer 140.1 liters, and of wine 15.5 liters. The total amounted to 163.8 liters per capita of alcoholic drinks, as compared with 101.2 liters per capita of nonalcoholic drinks, i.e., alcoholic drinks were consumed at a rate of 1.6 times that of nonalcoholic drinks. There were, however, differences in the drinking habits of Czechs and Slovaks. In 1983 the Czech Socialist Republic's per capita consumption of beer was 154.1 liters, whereas the Slovak Socialist Republic's per capita consumption was 111.8 liters. (Czech beer is world famous; Pilsner beer, for example, is named after the city of Plzen.) The Slovak Socialist Republic, on the other hand, consumed hard liquor at a rate of 12.2 liters per capita, while the Czech Socialist Republic came in at 6.3 liters. Wine consumption was slightly higher in Slovakia (17.0 liters) than in the Czech lands (14.8 liters). On the whole, the population spent about 19 percent of its total expenditures for food products (about Kcs19 billion annually) on alcohol. Some consumer goods might have been in short supply, but alcohol, especially beer, was plentiful and omnipresent. Czechoslovakia, along with France, West Germany, and East Germany, was among the world's highest consumers of alcoholic beverages, and consumption was increasing.

In the Czech Socialist Republic, consumption of alcohol was linked to 47 percent of all violent crimes and 56 percent of all rape cases. In the Slovak Socialist Republic, the figures were about the same, alcohol figuring in about 50 percent of all crimes.

In 1984 alcoholism was the third most frequent reason cited by women seeking divorce. ("Irreconcilable differences" was first, followed by "infidelity.") Over 18 percent of the women involved in divorces gave alcoholism as a reason, whereas only 1 percent of men secured divorces for this reason. In Slovakia 26 percent of women and 2 percent of men divorced because of alcoholism; in the Czech lands these figures were roughly 16 percent for women and 1 percent for men.

Although in the 1980s the press started attacking alcoholism more vociferously than it had in the past, little was actually done to fight the problem. Production of alcoholic beverages increased, and they were sold at affordable prices, while production of soft drinks was neglected and their quality was very poor. In October 1984, the government sharply raised the price of alcoholic beverages, but this measure was not intended to reduce alcohol consumption, inasmuch as the price of nonalcoholic beverages was also raised significantly. Because the government had a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages, it would have lost a great deal of money if the country had suddenly become "dry." (Spending on alcohol was also a means of absorbing excess savings because there was little in the way of quality consumer goods to spend them on.) Rather than trying to prohibit alcohol consumption, the government relied on education, especially of the young, but without much success. The government also established ineffective alcoholism boards, which citizens viewed as a token gesture.

Drugs have also been a growing problem in recent years, especially among young people, although abuse was not believed to be at Western levels. As of 1987 the printing of drug-abuse statistics was banned, so that much of what was known about the problem came from Western or nonofficial Czechoslovak sources. The country had an estimated 500,000 drug addicts, although this figure consisted mostly of those addicted to various kinds of medicines. Drug users were a relatively young group; most were in their teens and twenties. According to Charter 77, about 50 percent of addicts were males between fifteen and nineteen years of age. In the case of females, more adult women were addicted than teenage girls. Urine tests of prison inmates showed that about 50 percent used drugs.

Most of the drugs came from pharmacies and were widely available, often without a prescription. Such drugs included amphetamines and barbiturates; codeine was especially popular. Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD, and other illegal drugs, although rare, were also available. They were often smuggled into the country, although sometimes they were produced in clandestine domestic laboratories by persons having a knowledge of chemistry. Drug dealers were usually taxi drivers, hotel employees, black marketers, money changers, and students.

It was also a common practice to buy certain over-the-counter drugs and mix them. A 1961 law that remained in force in 1987 covered only the production and distribution of illegal narcotics (heroin, cocaine, and marijuana) and made no provision for drugs produced from legal drugs. Pharmaceutical supplies and prescription drugs were sometimes illegally diverted to an enterprising person who would concoct new drugs and sell them on the black market. New legislation had been proposed, but no details were available in mid-1987.

Facilities to treat drug addiction were seriously lacking. Although in 1983 about 8,400 addicts were officially registered in hospital psychiatric departments--1,700 at the Prague Drug Abuse Center alone--only a few beds were set aside for addicts, and specialized care and supervision were rarely provided. There were three drug abuse centers in the country, one each in Prague, Brno, and Liberec, but they could not adequately cope with addicts.

Charter 77 tried to bring the growing drug problem to the attention of the government, calling for more public awareness. The official attitude, however, was that drug abuse, characteristic of sick, decaying, bourgeois Western society, did not exist in socialist Czechoslovakia because there was no reason for it to exist.

The recent crime rate in the Czech Republic, based on statistics reported to the U.N., is low compared to other industrialized countries. According to the United Nations Sixth Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the grand total of recorded crimes in the Czech Republic to be 3917.41 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1997. This compares with 1,506.50 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 9,622.10 for USA (country with high crime rate). For intentional homicides, the rate in 1997 was 1.81 for the Czech Republic, 0.54 for Japan, and 6.80 for USA. For total assaults, the rate in 1997 was 225.38 for the Czech Republic, compared with 903.84 for USA and 20.91 for Japan. For rapes, the rate in 1997 was 6.36 for the Czech Republic, 1.31 for Japan, and 35.93 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 1997 was 46.11 for the Czech Republic, 2.23 for Japan, and 186.27 for USA. For automobile theft, the rate in 1997 was 285.54 for the Czech Republic, 213.49 for Japan, and 505.99 for USA. The rate of burglaries for 1997 was 918.11 for the Czech Republic, 175.81 for Japan, and 919.35 for USA. The rate for total thefts was 1473.07, compared to 931.65 for Japan and 2893.41 for USA.


Between 1995 and 1997, according to the Sixth Annual Survey, the rate for all recorded crime increased from 3635.95 to 3917.41 per 100,000 population in the Czech Republic, an increase of 7.7%. The rate of intentional homicide increased from 1.7 to 1.8, an increase of 32.2%. The rate for total assaults increased from 210.2 to 225.4, an increase of 7.2%. On the other hand, the rate of rape decreased from 7.0 to 6.4, a decrease of 9.5%. The rate for robbery increased from 38.5 to 46.1 per 100,000, an increase of 20.0%. The rate for automobile theft increased from 242.6 to 285.5, an increase of 17.7%. The rate of burglaries decreased from 968.9 to 918.1, an decrease of 5.2%. The rate of total thefts increased from 1375.4 to 1473.1, an increase of 7.1%.


The legal system of the Czech Republic is civil law system based on Austro-Hungarian codes. The legal code has been modified to bring it in line with Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) obligations and to expunge Marxist-Leninist legal theory.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Again, Library of Congress description of the police below predates the 1989 "Velvet Revolution"; however, as an institutional backdrop for today's policing in the Czech Republic, it will be reprinted here, along with a brief description of policing today in the Czech Republic.

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for public order and internal security. The ministry controls the armed security organizations in the country except for the regular armed forces and some prison guards. It is also responsible, inter alia, for fire prevention, government archives, and passport and visa control. In theory the interior ministries that exist at the Czech and Slovak Socialist republic levels have similar responsibilities and functions, but the real power rests in the federal ministry in Prague. The federal Ministry of Interior is considered one of the key posts because of the power inherent in the control of the country's security agencies. In mid-1987, the minister of interior was Vratislav Vajnar, who had held the post since 1983. Vajnar was concurrently a deputy in the Chamber of the People in the Federal Assembly and a member of the KSC Central Committee.

At the end of World War II, when President Benes established the first postwar government at Kosice, control of the Ministry of Interior was sought and obtained by the KSC. Party member Vaclav Nosek was appointed minister and began the process of converting the security forces into arms of the party. Anti-Communist police officers and officials were fired, non-Communist personnel were encouraged to join the party or its youth organization, and all were subjected to heavy doses of Communist propaganda. It was Nosek's packing of the police hierarchy with Communists that caused the protest resignation of anti-Communist government ministers in February 1948, leading to the coup d'etat. When the coup took place, Nosek's Communist-dominated security forces ensured an easy takeover.

During the purges of the early 1950s, the security agencies aided the Klement Gottwald faction against those Communists accused of antistate crimes. Police participation in the purges, their arrogance and lack of scruples in dealing with ordinary citizens, and their brutal methods of interrogation were typical of the Stalinist model that they emulated. The term Secret Police as an official appellation was dropped in 1953, but the public, almost thirty years later, still used the title in referring to State Security.

As was the case in the military, but to a lesser extent, some members of the security forces were weeded out for having supported the Dubcek reforms. Stability returned to the security forces early in the 1970s--during normalization--and the forces have kept a tight rein on Czechoslovaks ever since. The repressive measures have led to discontent and dissidence, but never to a degree that was beyond control. Many Western observers and most expatriates of the era reported that the public became apathetic after the Warsaw Pact invasion and the return to rigid Communist orthodoxy. The dissent movement known as Charter 77 that took form in 1977 was certainly a rebuke to the government and to the KSC, but it was far from being a mass movement and was rather easily contained by the security police. Ten years after its inception, the Charter 77 group remained small; security forces had ensured that it would not attract mass support.

The police in Czechoslovakia are not called police, but rather security. The National Security Corps (Sbor Narodni Bezpecnosti--SNB) comprises Public Security (Verejna Bezpecnost--VB) and State Security (Statni Bezpecnost--StB). Public Security is a uniformed force that performs routine police duties throughout the country. State Security, the former Secret Police, is a plainclothes force, also nationwide, that is at once an investigative agency, an intelligence agency, and a counterintelligence agency. Any activity that could possibly be considered antistate falls under the purview of State Security. In mid-1987, strength figures for the SNB were not available. A 1982 article in the Czechoslovak press indicated that 75 percent of the SNB members were either members or candidate members of the KSC and that 60 percent were under 30 years of age. In 1986 about 80 percent of the SNB members in Slovakia came from worker or farmer families.

The SNB is an armed force, organized and trained as such but equipped to perform police rather than military functions. Its members are subject to military discipline and are under the jurisdiction of military courts. Ranks in the SNB correspond to equivalent levels in the CSLA. As of 1987 the SNB was a volunteer service, although the conscription system was apparently used to rebuild the force after the loss of personnel at the end of the Dubcek period. Citizens having the requisite physical and educational qualifications could apply for direct appointment to the SNB. Qualifications included completion of the compulsory nine years of schooling and of the basic conscript tour in the armed forces; higher education was required of those seeking appointment to higher level positions, for example, scientific, technical, and investigative positions. The Ministry of Interior operated its own higher level educational institute, which trained security personnel at different stages of their careers. The Advanced School of the National Security Corps, which occupied a large complex of buildings in Prague, granted academic degrees to the SNB and the Border Guard, also under the Ministry of Interior.

Public Security performs routine police functions at all levels from federal to local. In 1987 it was reported to be a relatively small force for the extent of its responsibility, but it was augmented by volunteer auxiliary units. Articles in the Slovak press in the mid-1980s referred to 27,000 auxiliary guards in 3,372 units assisting Public Security in Slovakia alone. No figure was available for the number of auxiliary guards and the number of guard units in the Czech lands, but it is reasonable to assume that these numbers would be at least double that reported for Slovakia. The federal minister of interior controlled other forces that could be ordered to assist Public Security if needed, and he could also request further help from the military.

In mid-1987, the olive-drab uniform of Public Security was almost identical to the CSLA uniform, but red shoulder boards and red trimming on hats distinguished Public Security personnel from military. Public Security vehicles were yellow and white. The initials VB appeared on the sides, front, and rear of police vehicles.

Public Security and State Security units were deployed throughout the country and had headquarters at regional and district levels; there were 10 kraje and 114 districts in 1987. Public Security forces also established sections in rural areas. Both forces were under the ostensible supervision of the ministries of interior of the Czech and Slovak socialists republics. However, there seemed to be no question that operational direction of the security forces emanated from the Ministry of Interior at the federal level and that the two ministries of the component republics had administrative rather than supervisory functions.

A manifesto made public under the title Charter 77 in January 1977 challenged the government to live up to its own laws in regard to the rights--human, political, and social--of the Czechoslovak people. The manifesto revealed that Dubcek-style reformism was alive and well eight years after Dubcek himself had been forced into obscurity. Signed during the next two years by several hundred citizens representing the entire spectrum of economic, political, and social life, the document claimed to be apolitical, but in an authoritarian state any demand for a lessening of authoritarianism is inherently political, and the government reacted accordingly. The police responded by sharply increasing the very activities of which the Charter complained, that is, unwarranted arrests, illegal searches, harsh interrogations, and general harassment. Charter spokesman Jan Patocka, a well-known and highly respected retired professor, died one week after an intensive interrogation by State Security agents. Another prominent signer, Vaclav Havel, who had been blacklisted as a playwright for earlier support of Dubcek, was arrested immediately, held for four months, and then released without being charged. Havel was rearrested in 1979 and sentenced to prison for antistate crimes.

Repression continued into the 1980s as the dissidents refused to give up their demand that the basic laws of the land apply to everyone, including those officials sworn to uphold them. In April 1978, a group calling itself the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (Vybor na branu nespravedlive stihanych--VONS) was formed to publicize the police vendetta against the signers of Charter 77. The new group itself then became a police target, and in October 1979 several of its members were convicted on charges of subversion and sentenced to prison terms By early 1987, the Charter 77 movement and its offspring, VONS, were still clinging tenaciously to their demand that legal processes be observed, a demand that had brought grief to the members but had also attracted world attention. The movement remained small, and the security agencies always had the upper hand, but the dissidents refused to capitulate.

The use of brutal methods by the Czechoslovak police continued into the 1980s. In a 1984 report, Amnesty International cited Czechoslovakia as a country that used torture as a tool of state policy. Yet continued concern in the West with human rights in Czechoslovakia may have helped to ameliorate the situation after that time. In a 1986 telephone interview with Austrian radio, a Charter 77 spokesman said that the political oppression of human rights activists had diminished somewhat and was not as severe as it had been in the early 1980s. The police also showed restraint at a December 1985 demonstration in downtown Prague commemorating the death of John Lennon, a restraint that had been lacking at a similar demonstration the previous year. Nevertheless, marked oppression of religious groups and believers continued unabated into the 1980s. As one Western observer has suggested, this differentiated approach toward dissent indicates that the Czechoslovak government considered religious activists, who are supported by a large segment of the population, to be more of a threat than a small number of political dissidents.

Today, the Ministry of the Interior oversees the police. The civilian internal security service, known as the Security and Information Service (BIS), reports to the Parliament and the Prime Minister's office through the Foreign Minister, who is a Deputy Prime Minister. Police and BIS authorities generally observe constitutional and legal protection of individual rights in carrying out their responsibilities. However, some members of the police have committed some human rights abuses. Occasional police violence and use of excessive force remained a problem. The law prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respects these prohibitions in practice. Electronic surveillance, the tapping of telephones, and the interception of mail require a court order, and violations are subject to effective legal sanction. During the year 2001, security forces monitored the activities of the Patriotic Republican Party.


The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions. Lengthy pretrial detention and long delays in trials have been problems. Police may hold persons without charge for up to 48 hours, during which time they have the right to counsel. The law does not allow bail for certain serious crimes. Under the law, pretrial detention may last no longer than 4 years, and then only for cases considered "exceptionally grave" under the Criminal Code. Pretrial detention for most crimes may last as long as 2 or 3 years, with mandatory judicial review intervals beginning at the end of the first 6 months of detention. If the court does not approve continued detention during a judicial review, the suspect must be released. In practice few pretrial detainees are held for longer than 2 years. In 2000 the average length of pretrial detention was 107 days. By year's end, there were 4,363 pretrial detainees. A suspect may petition the appropriate investigating authorities at any time for release from detention.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The Library of Congress description of the judiciary in the Czech Republic, given below, predates the 1989 "Velvet Revolution," but will be given below as a source of today's judiciary, also described below.

The highest judicial organ at the federal level is the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia. Supreme Court judges are elected by the Federal Assembly to serve ten-year terms of office. The Federal Assembly also selects a chairman and vice chairman of the Supreme Court. If the chairman is from the Czech Socialist Republic, the vice chairman must be from the Slovak Socialist Republic, and vice versa. The two republics must be represented by an equal number of Supreme Court judges.

Below the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia are the Supreme Court of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Supreme Court of the Slovak Socialist Republic. Below the supreme court of each republic are regional and district courts. District courts (one in easch district) are the courts of general civil jurisdiction and limited criminal jurisdiction and are presided over by one professional judge and two lay judges (there are no juries in the Czechoslovak judicial system). Regional courts (one in each kraj) are located in the capitals of each of Czechoslovakia's ten kraje and in Prague. They function as appellate courts and also have jurisdiction over trials in serious criminal cases where imprisonment exceeding five years may be imposed. Regional and district professional judges are chosen by the Czech National Council and the Slovak National Council; lay judges are chosen by district national committees. The Supreme Court of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Supreme Court of the Slovak Socialist Republic serve as appellate courts for their respective regional courts and also hear petitions for breach of law against decisions by the lower courts. The supreme courts of the two republics decide in panels of three professional judges.

Petitions for breach of law against decisions of the republic supreme courts are heard in the Supreme Court at the federal level. In addition to serving as the nation's final court of appeals, the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia examines the legality of decisions of the federal government and, in general, ensures the uniform interpretation of the laws. It also hears requests for recognition of foreign judgments in Czechoslovakia. The decisions of the Supreme Court emanate from "benches," which comprise the Supreme Court chairman and selected professional judges. The Supreme Court also acts as the final court of appeal in military cases, although below the Supreme Court level military cases are handled in military courts, which are distinct from civil courts. Another powerful arm of the judiciary is the Office of the Prosecutor. The general prosecutor, a federal officer, is appointed and removed by the president. In addition to the federal office, an Office of the Prosecutor exists for each republic. The republic office is administered by the republic Ministry of Justice. Prosecutors are responsible for supervising the observance of laws and legal regulations by public bodies and individual citizens. The Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting both criminal and civil cases. Prosecutors may recommend modification or repeal of laws, and they have the right to summon citizens to appear before them.

Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice; however, structural and procedural deficiencies as well as a lack of training and resources hamper the effectiveness of the judiciary. In December, 2001, the Parliament passed a judicial reform package proposed by the Ministry of Justice that is scheduled to become effective on April 1, 2002. The new law includes term limits of 7 years for Constitutional Court judges, a continuing education program, and a mandatory retirement age of 70 for all judges, as well as measures to streamline the judicial process. On December 19, the President signed the bill into law.

The court system consists of district, regional, and high courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal. The separate Constitutional Court has final authority for cases concerning the constitutionality of legislation. Under the terms of the new law, the President is the appointing authority for all judges, and judges who have at least 10 years' experience as lawyers will be eligible for appointment to the Supreme Court.

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforces this right. Defendants have the right to be informed of their legal rights and of the charges against them, to consult with counsel, and to present a defense. The State provides lawyers for indigent defendants in criminal and some civil cases through the bar association. All defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to refuse to testify against themselves. They may appeal any judgments decided against them. However, the lack of experienced police investigators and qualified judges, combined with a still evolving legal environment, have contributed to a backlog of court cases. At year's end, the Ministry of Justice reported that there were 388 judges and 282 prosecutors needed to fill vacant positions; 375 judges and 96 prosecutors were chosen to fill these empty positions and were undergoing training at year's end.

The UDV continued to investigate as criminal acts some actions taken by state authorities and the Communist Party during the 1948 to 1989 Communist regime. The UDV, an independent part of the Czech Police Office of Investigations, is empowered to launch and conduct prosecutions and propose filing suits to state attorney's offices. As of October 2000, the UDV had investigated 3,083 cases under its jurisdiction, and recommended action against 244 individuals. Charges have been filed in court against 103 persons. Nine of those have been sentenced; five were placed on probation, and four received unconditional sentences, the longest of which was 5 years' imprisonment. Nearly 2,000 cases have been dropped due to the death of suspects or witnesses, various presidential amnesties, or statutes of limitation. The UDV continued to work with Charles University to prepare "moral trials" to discuss crimes whose perpetrators cannot be punished due to their death or because of a statute of limitation. It targets primarily cases of: torture; border shootings; treason connected with the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia; state repression of opponents of the Communist regime; and investigation of Czech authorities who negligently allowed exposure of citizens to hazardous waste after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Although the statute of limitations for many of the Communist-era crimes under investigation by the UDV was set to expire in 2000, Parliament voted in December 1999 to suspend the statute of limitations for serious crimes committed during the Communist regime, which enabled the UDV to continue investigating these cases. The Interior Ministry has extended the UDV's mandate indefinitely and broadened the period of years it should investigate to include 1945 through 1948.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The Library of Congress description of the penal system in the Czech Republic below predates the 1989 "Velvet Revolution," but will be given below as a source of today's system of corrections, followed by a discussion of prison's today in the Czech Republic.

According to federal law, "The purpose of imprisonment is to prevent the convicted person from engaging in continued criminal activity and to educate him systematically toward becoming a lawabiding citizen. The execution of imprisonment must not humiliate human dignity." The laws regulating the operation of prisons appear just and humane and take into account up-to-date theories of penology. Prison authorities are directed to treat prisoners with compassion and respect for human dignity; education and rehabilitation, rather than punishment, are stressed. Prisoners are required to work, but the law states that work hours will be comparable to those in outside society. Remuneration will be fair, and prisoners may build up savings while incarcerated. Cultural and educational projects are to be provided for nonwork hours, and prison libraries are to be well stocked. From first-hand accounts of released prisoners, however, it appears that the actuality of prison life fell far short of the norms directed by law.

As of 1987, prison conditions in Czechoslovakia were poor, especially for political prisoners, who often were subjected to the "third category" of imprisonment, the so-called "harshest regime." Some former prisoners complained of beatings by authorities and confinement in substandard cells. Others told of beatings and ill-treatment by fellow prisoners that were ignored, or possibly encouraged, by guards. Complaints about food were widespread, and dietary deficiencies led to ailments that required medical attention after release. Medical care in prisons was said to be deficient, and family visits were sometimes curtailed or prohibited. These shortcomings were routinely reported during the 1970s and 1980s by Amnesty International, which concluded that prison conditions in Czechoslovakia fell below "internationally accepted standards."

A January 1979 report in Vienna's Die Presse about prison conditions in Czechoslovakia referred to the "disastrous" conditions of that country's sixteen remand prisons, or those prisons used for pretrial detention. Cells were said to be tiny, facilities primitive, and medical care haphazard. Prisoners were charged a daily rate for their upkeep, which they were required to pay after release. Some prisoners reportedly owed as much as an average worker earned in five months. The more than twenty non-remand prisons were said to be in extremely poor condition, most having been built prior to World War II or even prior to World War I and never modernized. Discipline in the prisons was said to have become more severe after 1968. Punishments of prisoners included cutting the already small food ration or taking away the privilege of receiving a package once every three months. As had been reported frequently by released prisoners, political offenders were confined with common criminals, and the educational programs called for by law rarely existed in practice. Prisoners were allowed one library book and one newspaper per week. It was reported that, more often than not, the library book was a collection of speeches by some party functionary.

Physical abuse of political prisoners by prison personnel was also not unknown. In 1987 Die Presse reported that one prisoner serving a one-year term for alleged "incitement to rebellion " was beaten so badly by the prison warden that he could neither stand nor walk without the help of police officers when making a court appearance; moreover, scars on his abdomen showed that prison officials and investigation officers had extinguished cigarettes on his body.

Prisoners or former prisoners who complained publicly about mistreatment and poor prison conditions were severely punished. For reporting on harsh conditions at several prisons, Jiri Wolf was accused of "divulging state secrets" in December 1983 and given a six-year sentence at the harshest regime. In June 1984, Jiri Gruntorad received an additional fourteen-month sentence for complaining that he was beaten by a prison guard.

Details on the total number of penal institutions (referred to as corrective educational facilities) were not routinely publicized. Well-known prisons are located at Prague-Pankrac, Bory-Plzen, and Litomerice in Bohemia; Mirov and Ostrava in Moravia, and Leopoldov in Slovakia. Facilities at Prague-Ruzyne and Brno-Bohunice served primarily as detention centers for people being held during pretrial investigation or those awaiting appeal hearings. The prison system, including the Corps of Corrective Education (prison guards), was administered by the governments of the Czech and Slovak socialist republics through their ministries of justice.

Today, prison conditions in the Czech Republic generally meet international standards; however, there is overcrowding in many prisons, although overcrowding declined during the course of the year. By mid-year 2001, the prison system was at 110 percent of capacity. Six large prisons designed to hold 500 inmates each were operating at twice that capacity, with 1000 inmates each. The ratio of prisoners to prison guards was approximately 2 to 1. Women and men are held separately, juveniles are held separately from adults, and pretrial detainees are held separately from convicted prisoners. Attorney and family visits are permitted. The authorities follow these guidelines in practice.


The actual extent of violence against women is unknown; however, some studies by experts indicate that it is more common than publicly acknowledged. ROSA, an NGO that helps women in trouble, estimated that 1 in 10 women in domestic situations suffer from emotional or physical abuse, and that 30 percent of the abusers were university educated. A 1998 research study conducted by Prague's Sexological Institute indicated that 13 percent of women were raped. Spouses or partners were responsible for 51 percent of rapes, with an additional 37 percent of the attacks committed by men known to the victims. Only 12 percent of rape victims were attacked by strangers. According to police statistics, there were 500 rapes reported countrywide in 2000, although researchers at the Institute estimated that only 3.3 percent of rape victims reported the crime to the police; however, it is believed that rape and domestic violence cases are widely underreported. According to the Ministry of Justice, during the year 2001 there were 140 convictions for rape throughout the country. Researchers and NGO's estimated that between 3.3 and 7 percent of rape victims filed reports with the police, and it is believed widely that rape and domestic violence cases were greatly underreported.

Legislation does not address spousal abuse specifically; however, the Criminal Code covers other forms of domestic violence. An attack is considered criminal if the victim's condition warrants medical treatment (incapacity to work) for 7 or more days. If medical treatment lasts less than 7 days, the attack is classified as a misdemeanor and punished by a fine not to exceed approximately $80 (3,000 Czech crowns--approximately one fourth of the average monthly wage). Repeated misdemeanor attacks do not result in stricter sanctions on the abuser.

Gender studies experts reported that women were ashamed to report rape or speak about it, and that the police were not equipped to help, either by attitude or training. However, to improve police responsiveness and prosecution efforts, the Ministry of the Interior runs a training program in protocols for investigating family violence and sexual crime cases. The police continued to train specialized personnel to handle domestic violence; however, the police do not yet engage in regular contact with welfare and medical services. The Police Academy and secondary police schools have introduced, into both the introductory and continuing education curriculums, instructional material to improve the identification and investigation of domestic violence and sexual abuse cases and to sensitize police to the treatment of victims. The Government maintains a comprehensive awareness and prevention program designed to address problems of trafficking, abuse, and violence against women.

Pimping is illegal; prostitution is not, although local communities have the right to regulate it and enforce restrictions. The Interior Ministry estimates that up to 25,000 persons worked in the sex industry during the year 2001. Prostitution and sex shops were prevalent particularly in the border regions with Germany and Austria, where international vehicular traffic is heaviest. The law prohibits trafficking persons into prostitution; however, trafficking in women was a problem.

Sexual harassment is a recognized problem, and the labor law contains a definition of, and prohibition against, sexual harassment. The law defines sexual harassment as unwanted, inappropriate or offensive sexual behavior, acceptance or rejection of which could be interpreted by another employee as affecting her status in the workplace. Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, studies concluded that approximately one-half of all women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The concerns of women's groups over workplace sexual harassment previously were ignored or dismissed; however, in 1999 a university student became the first woman to win a civil sexual harassment lawsuit.


The Government is committed to children's welfare; it funds programs for health care, basic nutrition, and provides free and compulsory education through age 15 (through age 14 in special schools). Girls and boys enjoy equal access to health care and education at all levels. Language and cultural barriers frequently impeded the integration of Romani children into mainstream schools. Official estimates indicated that less than 20 percent of the Romani population completed the ninth grade, and less than 5 percent completed high school. A significant number of Romani children are transferred at an early age, after a psychological exam, to "special schools" for the mentally disabled and socially maladjusted. According to unofficial government estimates, Romani children made up 60 percent or more of pupils placed in these special schools, although Roma constitute less than 3 percent of the population. Graduates of the "special schools" are not restricted from attending secondary schools. Some Romani parents do not send their children to school regularly due to a fear of violence, and the expense of books and supplies.

In 1999 12 Romani families filed suit in the Constitutional Court to protest the "de facto segregation" of Romani children into special schools; however, the Constitutional Court rejected the complaint in November 1999 and stated that it did not have the power to order the Ministry of Education to create programs to end racial discrimination. In April 2000, the families took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg; a decision was pending at year's end. The Ministry of Education later took steps independently to implement some of the recommended changes; for example, the Ministry of Education is working on changes to the psychological exam given to Czech children that many claim is culturally biased against Romani children. Children are assigned to "special schools" based on poor results on the exam.

Many districts with high concentrations of Roma participate in year-long programs (so-called zero grades) to prepare for their first year in school; these programs are funded solely by local authorities. More than 100 zero grades operated throughout the country. Some districts tracking local Romani students report that up to 70 percent of the children who attend zero-grade training successfully entered and remained in mainstream schools. In addition Romani "assistant teachers" are placed into primary and special schools to help teachers communicate with Romani pupils and encourage cooperation between schools and Romani parents. According to the Ministry of Education, there were 200 Romani assistant teachers in the school system during the year 2001, an increase from 144 in 2000. Joint Romani-Czech language textbooks are used in 60 elementary schools to help overcome the barrier in the early school years between Romani children and non-Romani speaking teachers. The Ministry of Education ordered a textbook for use in schools on the cultural and historical roots of the Romani minority and on successful members of the Romani community. Local NGO's support additional studies and private initiatives to prepare Romani children for mainstream schools.

In 2000 the Ministry of Justice reported a 6 percent decrease in the number of neglect and welfare cases: 5,894 in 2000, compared to 6,207 in 1999. Laws criminalize family violence, physical restraint, sexual activity, and other abuse of a minor. A Children's Crisis Center was established in 1995 and is 70 percent state supported. The Fund for Endangered Children estimated that the total number of children suffering from physical, psychological, and sexual abuse is 20,000 to 40,000, but only about one-tenth of such cases are registered by the police. Between 50 and 100 children die each year as a result of abuse and violence within the family.

Child abuse continued to receive press attention during the year 2001. Press and government reports throughout the year indicated that Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, remained a popular destination for pedophiles due to its convenient location and low risk of sexually transmitted disease. Some experts estimated that the number of visits to the country, primarily by other Europeans, for the purpose of abusing children has increased 20 percent since 1997. During the year 2001, police personnel took measures to prevent this type of "sex tourism" more effectively: police maintained patrols in high-risk areas, enforced curfew-type policies more actively, and worked to raise public awareness of the issue through the media. Despite increased police efforts, press reports still indicated that in many border regions sexual tourism with adolescents continues. Dissemination of child pornography, whether by print, video, CD-ROM, or the Internet is a criminal act; laws against child pornography are generally enforced. Court convictions against persons guilty of sexual abuse of children are reported routinely in the media.


A small but persistent and fairly well-organized extreme rightwing movement with anti-Semitic views exists in the country. For example, neo-Nazi's shouted anti-Semitic slogans at concerts and rallies during the year 2001. In May the Ministry of Interior announced a forceful effort to counter the neo-Nazis, which included increased monitoring of their activities, closer cooperation with police units in neighboring countries, and concentrated efforts to shut down unauthorized concerts and gatherings of neo-Nazi groups.

After ethnic Slovaks, the largest minority is the Romani population, officially estimated to number between 200,000 and 250,000. However, in the census published during the year 2001, only 11,716 persons officially claimed Romani identity; the census used "self-identification," and it is believed that many persons chose not to identify themselves as Roma for fear of negative consequences. Roma live throughout the country but are concentrated in the industrial towns along the northern border, where many eastern Slovak Roma were encouraged to settle in the homes of Sudeten Germans transferred to the West more than 40 years ago. Roma suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, interethnic violence, discrimination, illiteracy, and disease.

Members of skinhead organizations and their sympathizers most often perpetrated interethnic violence, particularly against Roma although other "dark-skinned" individuals also were attacked. An estimated 5,000 skinheads were active in the country. During the first half of the year, police recorded 167 "racially motivated or extremist crimes," a decrease from 316 recorded in the first half of 2000. However, police and courts at times were reluctant to classify crimes against Roma as racially motivated. Observers believed that the actual figures were higher; nonetheless, developments during the year 2001 indicated a positive trend toward recognizing the racial motivation of such crimes. There were 470 prosecutions of racially motivated crimes during the year 2001, which was a 4 percent increase from the 451 prosecutions in 2000.


The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem.

The Czech Republic is a country of origin, transit, and destination country for trafficking in persons. A small number of Czech men are trafficked to the United States for coerced illegal work. Czech women and girls were trafficked to other European countries, such as Germany. Women and girls were trafficked to the Czech Republic from the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Women from Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and the Balkan countries were trafficked to and through the country--to other European countries and the United States--to work as prostitutes. There is some evidence that a small amount of trafficking of Czech women and children for prostitution takes place within Czech borders, from areas of low employment to border areas with Germany and Austria. The full extent of trafficking in children is unknown; however, convictions of child sex offenders were reported routinely in the media.

Trafficked women were offered jobs as models, maids, waitresses, and dancers and then forced into prostitution. Once in a destination country, traffickers withhold the victims' travel documents and use isolation, violence, threats of violence, and the threat of arrest and deportation to ensure compliance. Traffickers are most often members of organized criminal groups from Russia, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, and the Far East who work in cooperation with individual Czechs, Slovaks and, less often, Austrians and Germans.

There also are other relevant statutes that can be used to prosecute traffickers. The penalties for trafficking are roughly commensurate with those for rape and sexual assault. The Government investigates and prosecutes cases of trafficking in persons, although the conviction rates are low. During the year 2001, 25 persons were prosecuted for trafficking crimes, compared to 13 in 2000. In several cases, they received additional sentences for charges under other sections of the Criminal Code.

Organizing prostitution and pimping are illegal and punishable by a prison term of up to 8 years, with a term of up to 12 years if the victim is under the age of 15. (Adults can be prosecuted for engaging in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 15.) The Czechs cooperate extensively with other Central and Eastern European countries, European Union members and the United States during investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. On October 10, Czech, German, and Austrian border police acted together to break up a criminal enterprise which had allegedly smuggled as many as 100 Afghans per week to Western Europe since 1999. Czech authorities arrested seven Czechs and five Afghans for their roles in the operation; the case was pending at year's end. According to the police, most of those smuggled were headed for the United Kingdom to seek asylum there.

The Czech Police Organized Crime Division includes a Unit on Trafficking in Persons, established in 1995, which cooperates with other nations to enforce these laws. During the year 2001, a school curriculum package was introduced in schools across the country to educate minors about trafficking. In November the IOM and the Interior Ministry organized a 3-day workshop for officials dealing with trafficking problems. The event brought together experts from several countries to discuss methods to combat trafficking.


The Czech Republic is a major transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and minor transit point for Latin American cocaine to Western Europe. Domestic consumption - especially of locally produced synthetic drugs - on the rise

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Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University