Edvard Beneš, 1935–1938 and 1940–1948 President of Czechoslovakia
|Decrees of the President of the Republic|
|Enacted by||National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic|
|Introduced by||Czechoslovak government-in-exile|
The Decrees of the President of the Republic (Czech: Dekrety presidenta republiky, Slovak: Dekréty prezidenta republiky) and the Constitutional Decrees of the President of the Republic (Czech: Ústavní dekrety presidenta republiky, Slovak: Ústavné dekréty prezidenta republiky), commonly known as the Beneš decrees, were a series of laws drafted by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in the absence of the Czechoslovak parliament during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II. They were issued by President Edvard Beneš from 21 July 1940 to 27 October 1945, and retroactively ratified by the Interim National Assembly of Czechoslovakia on 6 March 1946.
In journalism and political history, "Beneš decrees" refer to the decrees of the president and the ordinances of the Slovak National Council dealing with the status of ethnic Germans, Hungarians and others in postwar Czechoslovakia. These decrees facilitated the enforcement of Article 12 of the Potsdam Agreement by laying a national legal framework for the loss of citizenship and expropriation of the property of about three million Germans and Hungarians. Some of those affected held land settled by their ancestors since their invitation by the Czech king Otokar II during the 13th century or the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin at the turn of the ninth and tenth centuries.
The Beneš decrees differed in validity in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia because of the legal position of the Slovak National Council (SNR). Some decrees were valid only in Bohemia and Moravia, with the SNR issuing ordinances for Slovakia. In some cases, they had different solutions for the problems of the German and Hungarian minorities.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Loss of citizenship and confiscation of property
- 3 Current status
- 3.1 United Nations
- 3.2 European Court of Human Rights
- 3.3 Czech Republic
- 3.4 Slovakia
- 4 Contemporary political effects
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Beneš, who was elected president of Czechoslovakia in 1935, resigned after the Munich Agreement in 1938. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia Beneš and other Czech officials emigrated to France, establishing in 1939 the Czechoslovak National Committee to restore Czechoslovakia. The committee's primary task was to establish a Czechoslovak army in France. After the fall of France the committee moved to London, where it became the Interim Czechoslovak Government. The government was recognized by the British government on 21 July 1940 and in 1941 by the U.S. and the USSR.
Beneš returned to his post as president, with the rationale that his 1938 resignation under duress was invalid, and was assisted by the government-in-exile and the State Council. In 1942, the government adopted a resolution that Beneš would remain president until new elections could be held.
Although Beneš alone issued Decree No. 1/1940 (on the establishment of the government), all later decrees were proposed by the government in exile according to the 1920 Czechoslovak constitution and co-signed by the prime minister or a delegated minister. The decrees' validity was subject to later ratification by the National Assembly. Beginning on September 1, 1944 (after the Slovak National Uprising) the Slovak National Council (SNR) held legislative and executive power in Slovakia, later differentiating between statewide acts and other regulations; presidential decrees were valid in Slovakia only if they explicitly mentioned agreement by the SNR.
On 4 March 1945 a new government was created in Košice, Slovakia (recently liberated by the Red Army), consisting of parties united in the National Front and strongly influenced by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The president's power to enact decrees (as proposed by the government) remained in force until 27 October 1945, when the Interim National Assembly convened.
The decrees may be divided as follows:
Although decrees were not covered by the 1920 constitution, they were considered necessary by the Czechoslovak wartime and postwar authorities. On ratification by the Interim National Assembly, they became binding laws with retroactive validity and attempted to preserve Czechoslovak legal order during the occupation. Most of the decrees were abolished by later legislation (see the list below) or became obsolete by having served their purpose.
List of decrees
Loss of citizenship and confiscation of property
Legal basis for expulsions
The Beneš decrees are associated with the 1945-47 deportation of about 3 million ethnic Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia. The deportation, based on Article 12 of the Potsdam Agreement, was the outcome of negotiations between the Allied Control Council and the Czechoslovak government. The expulsion is considered ethnic cleansing (a term in widespread use since the early 1990s) by a number of historians and legal scholars. The relevant decrees omit any reference to the deportation.
Of the allies, the Soviet Union urged Great Britain and the U.S. to agree to the transfer of ethnic Germans and German-speaking Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Yugoslavs and Romanians into their zones of occupation. France, which was not a party to the Potsdam Agreement, did not accept exiles in its zone of occupation after July 1945. Most ethnic-German Czechoslovak citizens had supported the Nazis through the Sudeten German Party (led by Konrad Henlein) and the 1938 German annexation of the Sudetenland. Most ethnic Germans failed to follow the mobilization order when Czechoslovakia was threatened with war by Hitler in 1938, crippling the army's defensive capabilities.
In general, the decrees dealt with loss of citizenship and confiscation of the property of:
- Art 1(1): Germany and Hungary, or companies incorporated in Germany or Hungary and selected entities (e.g. NSDAP)
- Art 1(2): Those who applied for German or Hungarian citizenship during the occupation and specified German or Hungarian ethnicity in the 1929 census
- Art 1(3): Those who acted against the sovereignty, independence, integrity, democratic and republican organization, safety and defense of the Czechoslovak Republic, incited such acts or intentionally supported the German or Hungarian occupiers (Polish occupiers were omitted)
The defining character in definition of the entities affected was their hostility to the Czechoslovak Republic and to the Czech and Slovak nations. The hostility presumption was irrebuttable in case of entities in the Art.1(1), while it is rebuttable under Art.1(2) in case of physical persons of German or Hungarian ethnicity, i.e. that they were exempted under Decrees 33 (loss of citizenship), 100 (nationalization of large enterprises without renumeration) and 108 (expropriation) where they proved that they remained loyal to the Czechoslovak Republic, they didn't commit an offense against the Czech and Slovak nation, and that they had either actively participated in liberation of Czechoslovakia or were subjected to Nazi or fascist terror. At the same time, Art 1(3) covered any persons notwithstanding ethnicity, including Czechs and Slovaks.
Some 250,000 Germans, some anti-fascists exempted under the Decrees and others considered crucial to industry, remained in Czechoslovakia. Many ethnic German anti-fascists emigrated under an agreement drawn up by Alois Ullmann.
Regaining Czechoslovak citizenship
Loss of Czechoslovak citizenship was addressed in Decree 33 (see description above). Under article three of the decree, those who lost their citizenship could request its restoration within six months of the decree's promulgation and requests would be assessed by the Interior Ministry.
On April 13, 1948 the Czechoslovak government issued Regulation 76/1948 Coll., lengthening the window for requesting reinstatement of Czechoslovak citizenship under Decree 33 to three years. Under this regulation, the Interior Ministry was bound to restore an applicant's citizenship unless it could determine that they had breached the "duties of a Czechoslovak citizen"; the applicant may had been requested also to prove "adequate" knowledge of Czech or Slovak language.
On 25 October Act 245/1948 Coll. was adopted, in which ethnic Hungarians who were Czechoslovak citizens on 1 November 1938 and lived in Czechoslovakia at the time of the act's promulgation could regain Czechoslovak citizenship if they pledged allegiance to the Republic within 90 days. Taking the oath would, according to the German laws valid at the time, automatically lead to loss of German citizenship.
On 13 July 1949, Act 194/1949 Coll. was adopted. Under article three of the act, the Interior Ministry could bestow citizenship on applicants who had not committed an offense against Czechoslovakia or the people's democracy, had lived in the country for at least five years, and who would lose their other citizenship by receiving the Czechoslovak one.
On 24 April 1953, Act 34/1953 Coll. was adopted. Under this act, ethnic Germans who lost Czechoslovak citizenship under Decree 33 and were living in Czechoslovakia on the day of the act's promulgation automatically regained their citizenship. This also applied to spouses and children living in Czechoslovakia with no other citizenship.
For comparison, any person may currently be granted Czech citizenship if they:
- Have been granted long-term residence and have been living in the country for at least five years, and
- Have not been found guilty of a criminal offense in the past five years, and
- Demonstrate knowledge of the Czech language, and
- Fulfill the legal requirements of the Czech Republic, such as paying taxes and obtaining health insurance
Restitution of property
After the Velvet Revolution Act 243/1992 Coll. was adopted, arranging restitution of real estate taken by the decrees or lost during the occupation. The act applied to:
- Citizens of the Czech Republic (or their descendants) who:
- Lost their property after the communist coup of 25 February 1948 (loss of title to the property was entered into the land registry after this date) on the basis of decrees 12 (confiscation of agricultural property) or 108 (general confiscation), and
- Regained Czechoslovak citizenship under Decree 33 or Acts 245/1948, 194/1949 or 34/1953 Coll. and had not lost their citizenship by 1 January 1990, and
- Had not committed an offense against Czechoslovakia.
- Claims could be made until 31 December 1992 by those living in the Czech Republic and until 15 July 1996 by those living abroad.
- Citizens of the Czech Republic (or their descendants) who lost their property during the occupation, were entitled to its restitution under decrees 5 and 128 and had not been compensated (e.g. Jews); claims could be made until 30 June 2001.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
In 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Committee, under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reviewed a communication submitted by Josef Bergauer et al. The committee held that the covenant became effective in 1975 and its protocol in 1991. Since the covenant could not be applied retroactively, the committee held that the communication was inadmissible.
After the Velvet Revolution Czechoslovakia also adopted Act 87/1991 Coll., providing restitution or compensation to victims of confiscation for political reasons during the Communist regime (25 February 1948 – 1 January 1990). The law also provided for restitution or compensation to victims of racial persecution during World War II who are entitled by Decree 5/1945.
In 2002 the UN Human Rights Committee stated its views in Brokova v. The Czech Republic, in which the applicant was refused restitution of property nationalized under Decree 100 (nationalization of large enterprises). Brokova was excluded from restitution, although the Czech nationalization in 1946–47 could only be implemented because the author's property had been confiscated during the German occupation. In the committee's view, this was discriminatory treatment of the plaintiff compared to those whose property was confiscated by Nazi authorities and not nationalized immediately after the war (and who, therefore, could benefit from the laws of 1991 and 1994). The committee found that Brokova was denied her right to equal protection under the law, in violation of article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
European Court of Human Rights
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights refused the application of Josef Bergauer and 89 others against the Czech Republic. According to the applicants, "after the Second World War, they were expelled from their homeland in genocidal circumstances", their property was confiscated by Czechoslovak authorities, the Czech Republic failed to suspend the Beneš Decrees and had not compensated them. The court held that the expropriation took place long before the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights with respect to the Czech Republic. Since Article 1 of Protocol 1 does not guarantee the right to acquire property, although the Beneš Decrees remained part of Czech law the applicants had no claim under the convention against the Czech Republic to recover the confiscated property. According to the court, "it should be further noted that the case-law of the Czech courts made the restitution of property available even to persons expropriated contrary to the Presidential Decrees, thus providing for the reparation of acts which contravened the law then in force. The Czech judiciary thus provides protection extending beyond the standards of the Convention."
Review by the Czech Constitutional Court
Validity of the decrees
The validity of the Beneš decrees was first reviewed at the plenary session of the Czech Constitutional Court in its decisions of 8 March 1995, published as Decisions No. 5/1995 Coll. and 14/1995 Coll. The court addressed the following issues concerning the decrees' validity:
- Conformity of the decree process with the Czechoslovak law and the 1920 Constitution:
The Constitutional Court is of the opinion that the Interim Czechoslovak Government, as established in the United Kingdom, must be viewed as internationally accepted legitimate constitutional body of the Czechoslovak country, whose territory was occupied by the German army. The enemy compromised possibility of performance of the sovereign Czechoslovak powers, as they enshrine in the Czechoslovak constitution and the Czechoslovak legal order. Therefore all the normative acts of the Interim Czechoslovak Government, including the Decree No. 108/1945 Coll. - also as a consequence of their ratihabition by the Interim National Assembly - are the manifestation of the legal Czechoslovak (Czech) legislature and constitute the culmination of efforts of the Czechoslovak nations to restore the Constitutional and legal order of the Republic.
- Beneš' right to issue the decrees, despite the existence of a formal protectorate government and German occupation:
The Czechoslovak legal order was based on the Act No. 11/1918 Coll. of 28 November 1918, on the Establishment of the Independent Czechoslovak State. This basis of the Czechoslovak law could not be in any way challenged by the German occupation, not only because the Articles 42 through 56 of the Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land clearly demarcated the borders within which the occupant could have exercised the state powers within the territory of the occupied state, but especially because the German Empire, being a totalitarian state lead by the Rosenberg's principle: Recht ist, was dem Volke nützt ("Whatever serves the German nation is the law"), was performing the state power and enacting legal order essentially notwithstanding its material value. (...) In the contradiction to this, the Constitutional requirement of the democratic character of the Czechoslovak state as defined in the 1920 Constitution may be a concept of political science (and only hardly defined in legal terms), however, that does not mean that it is metajuridical and that it is not legally binding. To the contrary, being the basic characteristic of the constitutional order, it has the effect that the constitutional principle of democratic legitimacy of the state order took precedence over the requirement of formal legal legitimacy in the 1920 Constitution.—Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Decrees appropriate for the time of their issuance, in accordance with international consensus:
The general belief, as it was formed during the second world war and shortly afterwards, included the conviction regarding the necessity of recourse of the Nazi regime and restoration, or at least redress, of damages perpetrated by this regime and by the war. Taking this into consideration, the Decree No. 108/1945 Coll. does not contradict the "legal principles of civilized societies in Europe held valid in this century", but it is a legal act appropriate to its time, supported by the international consensus.—Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Decrees using the principle of responsibility, rather than guilt:
It must be stressed, that even as regards persons of German nationality, there was no presumption of "guilt", but a presumption of "responsibility". The category of "responsibility" aims clearly beyond the boundaries of "guilt" and therefore it has much larger, value-wise, social, historical as well as legal extent. (...) Here the question must be raised, whether only the figureheads of the Nazi regime or also those who had profited, fulfilled their orders and did not resist them, are responsible for the gas chambers, concentration camps, mass exterminations, humiliation and de-humanization of millions. (...) Together with the other European states and their governments, unable and unwilling to counter Nazi expansion from the very start, also the German nation is in the first line responsible for the inception and development of Nazism, although there were many Germans who had actively and bravely apposed it.—Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic , Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Decrees targeting those hostile to the republic, not an ethnic group in general:
The defining character in definition of the entities whose property was to be confiscated was their hostility to the Czechoslovak Republic and to the Czech and Slovak nations. The hostility presumption is irrebuttable in case of entities in the Art.1(1), i.e. Germany, Hungary, German Nazi Party (...), while it is rebuttable under Art.1(2) in case of physical persons of German or Hungarian ethnicity, i.e. that their property is not subject to confiscation where they prove that they remained loyal to the Czechoslovak Republic, they never committed an offense against the Czech and Slovak nation, and that they had either actively participated in its liberation or were subjected to Nazist or fascist terror. At the same time, according to Art.1(3) the property of physical and legal persons who acted against the sovereignty, independence, democratic and republican legal order, safety and defense of the Czechoslovak Republic (...), notwithstanding ethnicity, was also subject to confiscation.—Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Decrees meeting the proportionality test:
After the Nazi occupation ended, the rights of the former citizens of Czechoslovakia had to be curtailed not because they had different opinions, but because these opinions were in the general context alien to the very essence of democracy and its order of values and because their consequence was a support to a war of aggression. In the case at hand, this curtailment was valid for all cases fulfilling the given premise, i.e. hostile stance to the Czechoslovak Republic and to its democratic state order, notwithstanding ethnicity.—Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
In Decision 14/1995 Coll. the court held that the decree at issue was legitimate. It found that since the decree has fullfiled its purpose and has not produced legal effects for more than four decades, it may not be reviewed by the court for its adherence to the 1992 Czech constitution. In the court's view, such a review would lack legal purpose and cast doubt on the principle of legal certainty (an essential principle of democracies adhering to the rule of law).
Although under Decrees 12 and 108 confiscations were automatic on the basis of the decrees themselves, Decree 100 (nationalization of large enterprises) required a formal decision by the Minister of Industry. According to the Constitutional Court, if a Decree 100 nationalization decision was made by someone other than the minister the nationalization was invalid and subject to legal challenge.
While hearing appeals of court decisions dealing with Decree 12 confiscations, the Constitutional Court held that courts must decide whether a confiscation decision was motivated by persecution and a decree used as a pretext. This applied to cases of those who remained in the Sudetenland after the Munich Agreement (gaining German citizenship while remaining loyal to Czechoslovakia) and those convicted as traitors whose convictions were later overturned (with their property confiscated in the meantime).
Slovakia, as a legal successor of Czechoslovakia, adopted its legal order by Article 152 of the Slovak constitution. This includes the Beneš decrees and Czechoslovak Constitutional Act 23/1991 (the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms). This act made all acts or regulations not compliant with the charter inoperable. Although the Beneš decrees are a valid historical part of Slovak law, they can no longer create legal relationships and have been ineffective since December 31, 1991.
On September 20, 2007, the Slovak parliament adopted a resolution concerning the untouchability of postwar documents relating to conditions in Slovakia after World War II. The resolution was originally proposed by the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party in response to the activities of Hungarian members of parliament and organizations in Hungary. The Beneš decrees were a significant talking point of the Hungarian extremist groups Magyar Garda and Nemzeti Őrsereg, which became active in August 2007. The approved text differed from the proposal in several important respects. The resolution commemorated the victims of World War II, refused the principle of collective guilt, expressed a desire to stop the reopening of topics related to World War II in the context of European integration and declared a wish to build good relationships with Slovakia's neighbors. It also rejected all attempts at revision and questioning of laws, decrees, agreements or other postwar decisions of Slovak and Czechoslovak bodies which could lead to changes in the postwar order, declaring that postwar decisions are not the basis of current discrimination and cannot establish legal relationships. The resolution was adopted by an absolute parliamentary majority and approved by the coalition government and opposition parties, except for the Party of the Hungarian Coalition. It prompted a strong negative reaction in Hungary, and Hungarian President László Sólyom said that it would strain Hungarian-Slovak relations.
Differences from the Czech Republic
Politicians and journalists have frequently ignored differences in conditions between Slovakia and the Czech Republic during the postwar era. In Slovakia, some measures incorrectly called "Beneš decrees" were not presidential decrees but ordinances by the Slovak National Council (SNR). The confiscation of the agricultural property of Germans, Hungarians, traitors and enemies of the Slovak nation was not enforced by the Beneš decrees, but by the Ordinance of the SNR 104/1945; punishment of fascist criminals, occupiers, traitors and collaborators was based on the Ordinance of the SNR 33/1945. The Beneš decrees and SNR ordinances sometimes contained different solutions.
The list of decrees which have never been valid in Slovakia contains several with a significant impact on German and Hungarian minorities in the Czech lands:
|5/1945||Presidential decree concerning the invalidity of some transactions involving property rights from the time of loss of freedom and concerning the nationalization of property of Germans, Hungarians, traitors, collaborators and certain organizations and associations
|12/1945||Presidential decree concerning the confiscation and expedited allotment of agricultural property of Germans, Hungarians, traitors and enemies of the Czech and Slovak nations
|16/1945||Presidential decree concerning the punishment of Nazi criminals, traitors and their helpers and extraordinary people's courts
|28/1945||Presidential decree concerning the settlement of Czech, Slovak or other Slavic farmers on the agricultural land of Germans, Hungarians and other enemies of the state
|71/1945||Presidential decree concerning the work duty of persons who have lost Czechoslovak citizenship
Apologies for postwar persecution
In 1990 the speakers of the Slovak and Hungarian parliaments, František Mikloško and György Szabad, agreed on the reassessment of their common relationship by a commission of Slovak and Hungarian historians. Although the initiative was hoped to lead to a common memorandum about the limitation of mutual injustices, it did not have the expected result. On February 12, 1991 the Slovak National Council formally apologized for postwar persecution of innocent Germans, rejecting the principle of collective guilt. In 2003, speaker of the Slovak parliament Pavol Hrušovský said that Slovakia was ready to apologize for postwar injustices if Hungary would do likewise. Although Hungarian National Assembly Speaker Katalin Szili approved his initiative, further steps were not taken. In 2005 Mikloško apologized for injustices on his own, and similar unofficial apologies were made by representatives of both sides.
Contemporary political effects
According to Radio Prague, since the decrees which dealt with the status and property of Germans, Hungarians and traitors have not been repealed they still affect political relations between the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Austria, Germany and Hungary. Expellees in the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft (part of the Federation of Expellees) and associated political groups call for the abolition of the Beneš decrees based on the principle of collective guilt.
On 28 December 1989 future Czechoslovak president Václav Havel, at that time a candidate, suggested that former inhabitants of the Sudetenland might apply for Czech nationality to reclaim their lost property. The governments of Germany and the Czech Republic signed a declaration of mutual apology for wartime misdeeds in 1997.
During the early 2000s, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber demanded that the Beneš decrees be repealed as a precondition for both countries' entrance to the European Union. Hungarian Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy eventually decided not to press the issue.
In 2003 Liechtenstein, supported by Norway and Iceland, blocked an agreement about extending the European Economic Area because of the Beneš decrees and property disputes with the Czech Republic and (to a lesser extent) Slovakia. However, since the two countries were expected to become members of the European Union the issue was moot. Liechtenstein did not recognize Slovakia until 9 December 2009.
Czech President Miloš Zeman said that the Czechs would not consider repealing the decrees because of an underlying fear that doing so would open the door to demands for restitution. According to Time, former Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan said: "Why should we single out the Beneš Decrees? ... They belong to the past and should stay in the past. Many current members of the E.U. had similar laws." In 2009 eurosceptic Czech president Václav Klaus demanded an opt-out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, feeling that the charter would render the Beneš decrees illegal. In January 2013 conservative Czech presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg said, "What we committed in 1945 would today be considered a grave violation of human rights, and the Czechoslovak government, along with President Beneš, would have found themselves in The Hague."
- Zimek, Josef (1996), Ústavní vývoj českého státu (1 ed.), Brno: Masarykova Univerzita, pp. 62–105
- Those who elected German or Hungarian ethnicity and those who became members of German or Hungarian national associations or political parties were considered Germans and Hungarians.
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- Všechny tyto úvahy a skutečnosti vedly proto Ústavní soud k závěru, že na Prozatímní státní zřízení Československé republiky, ustavené ve Velké Británii, je nutno nahlížet jako na mezinárodně uznávaný legitimní ústavní orgán československého státu, na jehož území okupovaném říšskou brannou mocí byl nepřítelem znemožněn výkon svrchované státní moci československé, pramenící z ústavní listiny ČSR, uvozené ústavním zákonem č. 121/1920 Sb., jakož i z celého právního řádu československého. V důsledku toho všechny normativní akty prozatímního státního zřízení ČSR, tedy i dekret prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb. - také v důsledku jejich ratihabice Prozatímním Národním shromážděním (ústavní zákon ze dne 28. 3. 1946 č. 57/1946 Sb.) - jsou výrazem legální československé (české) zákonodárné moci a bylo jimi dovršeno úsilí národů Československa za obnovu ústavního a právního řádu republiky. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Prvou ze základních otázek v projednávané věci je otázka, zda napadený dekret, totiž dekret prezidenta republiky ze dne 25. 10. 1945 č. 108/1945 Sb. byl vydán v mezích legitimně stanovených kompetencí či naopak, jak tvrdí navrhovatel, stalo se tak v rozporu se základními zásadami právního státu, neboť k jeho vydání došlo orgánem moci výkonné v rozporu s tehdy platným ústavním právem. V této souvislosti je třeba konstatovat, že základem, na němž spočíval právní řád Československé republiky, byl zákon ze dne 28. 10. 1918 č. 11/1918 Sb. z. a n., o zřízení samostatného státu československého. Tento základ československého práva nemohl být v žádném směru zpochybněn německou okupací, nejen z toho důvodu, že předpisy článků 42 až 56 Řádu zákonů a obyčejů pozemní války představující přílohu IV. Haagské úmluvy ze dne 18. 10. 1907 vymezily přesné hranice, v nichž okupant mohl uplatňovat státní moc na území obsazeného státu, ale především proto, že Německá říše jako totalitní stát, řídící se principem vyjádřeným Rosenbergovou větou - Právem je to, co slouží německé cti - vykonávala státní moc a vytvářela právní řád v zásadě již stranou jejich materiálně hodnotové báze. Tuto skutečnost snad nejlépe vystihují dva říšské zákony z roku 1935, totiž zákon o ochraně německé krve a cti a zákon o říšském občanství, v nichž se klade eminentní důraz na čistotu německé krve, jako předpokladu další existence německého lidu, a v nichž se jako říšský občan definuje pouze státní příslušník z německé nebo příbuzné krve, který dokazuje svým chováním, že je ochoten a schopen věrně sloužit německému národu a říši. Naproti tomu ústavní požadavek demokratické povahy československého státu v ústavní listině z roku 1920 formuluje sice pojem politicko-vědní povahy (jenž je juristicky obtížně definovatelný), což však neznamená, že je metajuristický a že nemá právní závaznost. Naopak, jako základní charakteristický rys ústavního zřízení znamená ve svých důsledcích, že nad a před požadavek formálně-právní legitimity byl v ústavní listině Československé republiky z roku 1920 postaven ústavní princip demokratické legitimity státního zřízení. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- V hodnotovém nazírání, jak se vytvářelo během druhé světové války a krátce po ní, bylo naopak obsaženo přesvědčení o nezbytnosti postihu nacistického režimu a náhrady, či alespoň zmírnění škod způsobených tímto režimem a válečnými událostmi. Ani v tomto směru tedy dekret prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb. neodporuje "právním zásadám civilizovaných společností Evropy platným v tomto století", ale je právním aktem své doby opírajícím se i o mezinárodní konsens. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Právě na tomto místě je třeba si položit otázku: v jaké míře a v jakém smyslu odpovídají za plynové komory, koncentrační tábory, masové vyhlazování, ponižování, ubíjení a odlidštění milionů jen představitelé nacistického hnutí, nebo jsou za tyto jevy spoluodpovědni i všichni ti, kteří z těchto hnutí mlčky profitovali, plnili jeho příkazy a nekladli jim odpor. Černobílé schéma výlučné odpovědnosti představitelů nacismu a nedostatku odpovědnosti všech ostatních sotva existuje. Tak jako na vzniku a vývoji nacismu se podílely i další evropské státy a jejich vlády, neschopné a neochotné čelit již od počátku nacistické expanzi, odpovídá za něj v prvé řadě sám německý národ, byť i v jeho řadách se našlo nemálo těch, kteří aktivně a statečně proti němu vystoupili. Mezi odpovědností "zbytku světa" a odpovědností německého národa, mezi mlčením a pasivitou jedněch a mlčením a spíše aktivitou druhých zdá se však přece jen existovat podstatný rozdíl, jenž hraje významnou roli i v otázce důkazního břemene. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Určujícím hlediskem při vymezení subjektů konfiskovaného majetku je jejich nepřátelství k Československé republice nebo českému a slovenskému národu, fakt, jenž v případě subjektů uvedených v ustanovení § 1 odst. 1 č. 1 dekretu - tj. Německé říše, Království maďarského, osob veřejného práva podle německého nebo maďarského práva, německé strany nacistické, politických stran maďarských a jiných útvarů, organizací, podniků, zařízení, osobních sdružení, fondů a účelových jmění těchto režimů nebo s nimi souvisejících, jakož i jiných německých nebo maďarských osob právnických - má nevyvratitelnou povahu, zatímco u subjektů uvedených v ustanovení § 1 odst. 1 č. 2 dekretu, tj. osob fyzických národností německé nebo maďarské, povahu vyvratitelnou, a sice v tom směru, že majetek těchto osob se nekonfiskuje, jestliže prokáží, že zůstaly věrny Československé republice, nikdy se neprovinily proti národům českému a slovenskému a buď se činně zúčastnily boje za její osvobození, nebo trpěly pod nacistickým nebo fašistickým terorem. Přitom vzhledem k ustanovení § 1 odst. 1 č. 3 dekretu se konfiskuje majetek, bez ohledu na národnost, i těch fyzických a právnických osob, které vyvíjely činnost proti státní svrchovanosti, samostatnosti, celistvosti, demokraticko-republikánské státní formě, bezpečnosti a obraně Československé republiky, které k takové činnosti podněcovaly nebo jiné osoby svésti hleděly, záměrně podporovaly jakýmkoliv způsobem německé nebo maďarské okupanty nebo které v době zvýšeného ohrožení republiky (§ 18 dekretu prezidenta republiky ze dne 19. června 1945 č. 16/1945 Sb., o potrestání nacistických zločinců, zrádců a jejich pomahačů a o mimořádných lidových soudech) nadržovaly germanizaci nebo maďarizaci na území Československé republiky nebo se chovaly nepřátelsky k Československé republice nebo k českému nebo slovenskému národu, jakož i fyzických nebo právnických osob, které strpěly takovou činnost u osob spravujících jejich majetek (§ 1 odst. 1 č. 3 dekretu prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb., ve znění zákona č. 84/1949 Sb.). Vztah nepřátelství není tedy v dekretu prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb. koncipován na národnostní bázi, neboť za nepřítele zde na prvém místě platí nacistický či fašistický systém, a to, jak již uvedeno, nevyvratitelně, a také objektem ochrany je zde především demokraticko-republikánská státní forma. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
- Práva někdejších občanů Československa bylo nutno po ukončení nacistické okupace omezit ne proto, že zastávali odlišné postoje, ale z toho důvodu, že tyto jejich postoje byly v celkovém kontextu nepřátelské vůči samé podstatě demokracie a jejímu hodnotovému řádu a ve svých důsledcích představovaly podporu útočné válce. Tato omezení platí v daném případě stejně pro všechny případy splňující stanovenou podmínku, totiž vztah nepřátelství k Československé republice a její demokratické státní formě, bez ohledu na národnostní příslušnost. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
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|Czech Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Second World War and its Impact at the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
- Facing history - The evolution of Czech-German relations in the Czech provinces, 1848-1948: a historical publication sponsored by Czech government, dealing a. o. with the transfer and decrees. A series of PDF files
- The effect of the Benes Decrees on the Accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union: an assessment by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law; a series of PDF files
- The Sudeten German Question after EU Enlargement by Jakob Cornides
- Ethnic cleansing in post World War II Czechoslovakia: the presidential decrees of Edward Benes, 1945-1948 - a sharply critical view at a Hungarian-American website; 111 kB DOC file
- No comparison - op-ed from the Prague Post criticising "pseudo-scholars" who allegedly regard the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans as morally equivalent to the Holocaust.
- Czech-German Declaration signed in 1997: "Both sides agree that injustice inflicted in the past belongs in the past, and will therefore orient their relations towards the future."