Czech Republic has 'political police'

30-07-2002

Last year the head of Czech police, Jiri Kolar secretly set up two new departments at the Police Headquarters, whose main task is to investigate crimes committed by influential people. As the work of the departments gradually comes to light, some legal specialists are now voicing their opposition against what is dubbed the 'political police'.

In official documents, the two new departments are simply called 'Department 15' and 'Special Department', and they supervise not only government ministers and members of parliament, but also judges, board members of the Czech National Bank and other VIPs. Kolar's special departments come under the deputy interior minister, but the ministry has refused to comment on the reason why they were established and has not revealed the details of their activities. The Police Headquarters defends the setting up of the two departments, saying that there were already special departments in the state prosecution service concentrating on serious economic crime, and that these departments needed to be backed up by a police service.

Tuesday's edition of the daily Lidove Noviny quotes one of the investigators working in one of the departments, as saying that they gather sensitive information. "They are able to sweep anything under the carpet, or vice versa," the investigator said. Also the deputy head of the Czech Constitutional Court, Eliska Wagnerova, has expressed her reservations. She says the special departments have been set up to control certain groups of people, not concrete kinds of crimes. Also, says Dr. Wagnerova, the space for corruption has been widened: concrete people might know which policeman is observing them and they might try to influence his decisions. Other legal specialists say that crimes committed by public figures are being investigated under a different system than other crimes, which violates the principle of equality before the law. Also, it will be difficult to control the police officers themselves, as they will be working with delicate information.

The fact is, that such special departments have never before existed, and the Interior Ministry refused to specify how many people they employ or which cases they have dealt with so far. It insists, however, that Kolar's order to set-up the 'political police' had been consulted with the Supreme State Attorney's office, and that the police president himself bore full responsibility for its work.

30-07-2002