Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Some Czech judges are against unlimited access to archives

ČTK |
12 January 2017

Brno, Jan 11 (CTK) - The virtually unlimited access to archival sources on the work of the Communist StB secret service, including delicate personal data gathered by dubious methods, which the Czech Constitutional Court (US) supported on Wednesday, is wrong, US chairman Pavel Rychetsky has said.

Rychetsky spoke on behalf of the seven judges who voted against the ruling on Wednesday.

The affair prompts the question of whether the unlimited access to the files on encroachment on the private life of the "observed persons" lasting for many years is really a right way to come to terms with the past, Rychetsky said.

Pointing out the practice abroad, Rychetsky said there were also more cautious ways.

The Constitutional Court, which has 15 judges, ruled with a narrow majority on Wednesday that the accessibility of archival sources from the totalitarian era will not change, but researchers must take into account the protection of delicate personal data if they publish them.

The US has turned down a proposal opposing the exception granted to historians thanks to which they have easy access to the documents from the Nazi (1939-1945) and Communist (1948-1989) regimes.

For this, they do not need the consent of the living people whose sensitive personal data appear in the documents.

In some cases, the researchers need the consent by the living protagonists of past events with the subsequent publication of the documents.

The outvoted judges were of the view that the law on archives did not relate to the StB documents, including the examined exception.

Instead, an older law on opening access to the files that defines stricter rules for the access should be applied, they said.

"The seven judges believe that it is still valid and must be applied," Rychetsky said.

The judges said the StB had abused its power for decades, encroaching on the privacy against the will of those concerned.

In addition, one can hardly consider all of its information truthful, they added.

Their unlimited opening denies the right to information self-determination of the people who appear in the files as watched, persecuted or mentioned persons, the judges said.

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