Michael Kocáb has been dismissed as government commissioner for human
rights. Mr Kocáb had already tendered his resignation, but said he
to stay on as human rights commissioner until a successor was installed.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas announced on Wednesday that the cabinet had
voted to remove him with immediate effect, saying a number of names were
contention for the post.
In the early 1990s Mr Kocáb, then best known as a rock musician, became an MP and oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. In more recent times he served as minister for human rights in a caretaker Czech government.
A ceremony was held at the Czech Radio building in Prague on Saturday honouring the victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. Warsaw Pact troops had entered the country during the previous night, halting the liberalisation reforms of the Prague Spring. Speaking at Saturday’s memorial ceremony, the chairman of the Senate, Přemysl Sobotka, paid tribute to the Czechoslovak Radio journalists who had kept the public informed about the invasion; he said that listeners did not hear the truth again until 21 years later, when the communist regime fell. Over 100 people were killed in the violence that followed the occupation. The greatest losses were recorded at the Czech Radio building on Vinohradská St, which had become a rallying point for resistance.
August 21 marks the anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and other communist countries. The occupation crushed an attempt to reform the communist regime, and drove the country into two decades of hard-line rule. What that all meant to the people of Czechoslovakia has been looked at many times. In our special programme today, we look at August 1968 from another perspective: that of the occupiers.
One hundred and sixteen soldiers of the occupying armies of the Warsaw Pact died on Czechoslovak territory during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia launched on August 21st, the daily Hospodarské Noviny writes on the eve of the anniversary. The paper says that the vast majority died in traffic accidents or by mishandling their weapon in a skirmish. Only one was killed by a local protesting against the invasion. Historians estimate that over 100 Czechs and Slovaks were killed in the first days and weeks of the Soviet-led invasion.
A monument was unveiled in Prague on Friday morning to Ryszard Siwiec, the Polish man who set himself alight in September 1968 in protest at his country’s participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Siwiec committed suicide in Warsaw just weeks after the invasion and six months before the Czech student Jan Palach made his own terrible sacrifice in Prague. The monument was unveiled on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of the invasion.
US intelligence agency, the CIA, had a very good picture of the Soviet build up of forces before the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and warned the then president Lyndon Johnson it was about to happen. That is the message from around 500 archive documents relating to the Warsaw Pact clampdown collected and released by the agency at a recent seminar in Austin, Texas. The papers show that the CIA warned of the build up of forces on August 2, saying an invasion could happen two weeks later. On August 20, the CIA noted that Soviet leaders had cut short their holidays for an emergency meeting. They said this was likely connected to an invasion. President Johnson rejected that interpretation. The Warsaw Pact forces rolled in that night to stamp out the liberalising moves by Czechoslovak authorities in the previous months. Some previous interpretations suggested the West was surprised by the Soviet-led invasion.
Exactly 20 years ago, Czechs and Slovaks were celebrating their first Christmas for four decades without a hint of official disapproval. While the communists tolerated the trappings of Christmas – with Christmas trees and traditional Czech Christmas carp in abundance – their tolerance of Christian traditions was never more than skin deep. In the 1950s, priests and members of religious orders were often locked up for their beliefs, and the brief reforms of the 1960s were followed by another wave of persecution, following the Soviet-led invasion
The Czech Chamber of Deputies has passed a proposal put forward by senators for compensation to be provided for victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The bill on Friday was supported by deputies from all of the parliamentary parties, other than the Communists. If the bill is approved in the Senate and passed into law, the state will pay up to 30 million crowns to victims.
June 30 could soon be recognised as a notable day in the Czech calendar, marking the historic departure of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia in 1991. On Friday, a bill put forward by the Greens recognising the importance of the date, was passed in a first reading in the lower house. Former Green Party head Martin Bursík said June 30 was significant because it was the day former Czechoslovakia regained independence, no longer being a Soviet satellite country. If passed into law, June 30 will by definition remain a regular working day.
A memorial ceremony was held at the Czech Radio building on Vinohradská Street on Friday morning, marking the events of August 21, 1968. During the previous night, Soviet tanks had rolled into Czechoslovakia, crushing the Prague Spring reform movement and the hopes of a generation. Czech Radio became a rallying point for resistance to the occupation; thousands of people gathered in front of the building, and bloody fighting ensued.