Friday, 14 December 2018

European court supports noble family's property claim

ČTK |
12 January 2018

Prague/Strasbourg, Jan 11 (CTK) - Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld can ask the Czech Constitutional Court (US) for the re-opening of her proceedings concerning the furnishing of the Opocno chateau, east Bohemia, based the European Human Rights Court's ruling in her favour, the US spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The court in Strasbourg has supported Colloredo-Mansfeld's effort to re-open the proceedings in her dispute with the Czech Republic about the return of the chateau's furnishing, according to the written verdict the court released on its website on Thursday.

"On the basis of the convenient verdict by the European Court of Human Rights, the complainant has a chance to ask the Constitutional Court for her proceedings re-opening. The court dealt with such a proposal of hers in October 2017 when it rejected it as the Strasbourg court did not comment on her case then. If she filed a new request, the US will have to re-assess the matter," US spokeswoman Miroslava Sedlackova told CTK.

The Strasbourg court in particular argues that the Czech courts did dot include the decision of the Czechoslovak Agriculture Ministry on the nationalisation of Opocno chateau from 1947 among the pieces of evidence.

The European court concludes that Colloredo-Mansfeld's complaint is not apparently unsubstantiated and must be classified as admissible, the verdict says.

The noble heiress has also claimed the return of the whole Opocno chateau in lengthy proceedings since 1991, but so far in vain.

The Czech courts have rejected her claims for the Opocno furnishing. The complainant seeks the reopening of her proceedings pointing to the fact that her right to fair trial was violated. Most recently, the US rejected her proposal for re-opening the proceedings of her two unsuccessful complaints last November.

The Strasbourg court pointed out that Colloredo-Mansfeld filed complaints against the violation of her right to fair trial with the Czech courts on the basis of the article six of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The decision of the Czechoslovak Agriculture Ministry on the nationalisation of Opocno chateau from 1947 on which Czech courts based their verdicts was not included among the pieces of evidence. Colloredo-Mansfeld was not able to comment on this fact and both the Czech Supreme and Constitutional courts did not take steps to redress this shortcoming, the Strasbourg court pointed out.

The Agriculture Ministry declared the Opocno chateau including its furnishing, the state property on April 30, 1947.

Czech courts rejected requests for reopening the proceedings filed by Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld and well as her cousin Jerome Colloredo-Mansfeld. This is why the noble family heirs turned to the Strasbourg court.

Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld claims to be the heiress of the chateau furnishing. It was confiscated by Gestapo in 1942 and then by the Czechoslovak state after WWII. However, the land's national committee authority annulled the expropriation in January 1947 because of the finding that her ancestor was a loyal Czech citizen.

The property has been subject to court proceedings since 2000.

The European Human Rights Court stood up for Jerome Colloredo-Mansfeld in 2016, which gave him a chance to achieve the re-opening of his proceedings. The European court decided that the Czech courts had violated his right to fair trial as they had not enabled him to react to the key evidence. This was at variance with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Strasbourg Court concluded.

Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld was not a party of the proceedings at the Strasbourg court then.

The Czech courts originally returned 68 paintings to the heirs, but they rejected their claims for the remaining furniture and other items of the Opocno chateau.

The dispute about the chateau furnishing concerns thousands of items. Heritage protectors estimated the value of the collection at more than one billion crowns in the past, including a carriage, some 20 lamps and chandeliers, 38 paintings, 223 pieces from antique arms collection, hunting trophies and dinner services.

The Opocno chateau was confiscated from the Colloredo-Mansfeld family by the Nazis, and after 1945 it went to the state based on a post-war decree issued by Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. The Colloredo-Mansfelds claimed its return in court, but after the communist coup in 1948 they emigrated to Austria.

Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld has not given up her effort to have the chateau returned.

Jerome Colloredo-Mansfeld was returned the family's Dobris chateau, central Bohemia, in the past.

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