Government rejects compensation call for victims of 1968 invasion

13-11-2003

The cabinet decided on Wednesday to reject an opposition proposal calling for victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion to receive compensation from the state. The proposal, put forward by the main opposition Civic Democrat party, said victims and their immediate families should be compensated for the deaths and injuries that accompanied the 1968 invasion.

19681968 Rob Cameron has been following the story and joins me in the studio now - first of all Rob, how many victims are we talking about?

According to the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism, around 100 people were killed and 800 injured in the two months immediately following the invasion. That includes many cases of women and girls being raped by soldiers from the invading armies.

Right, so we're talking about a substantial number of victims. How much compensation were the Civic Democrats calling for?

The party wanted one million crowns (just over 35,000 US dollars) to be paid to the family of each person killed in the invasion, and 500,000 crowns to be paid to those who were raped or who received permanent injuries at the hands of Soviet or other troops. Those who were less seriously injured were to receive 100,000 crowns each.

That doesn't sound so unreasonable. Why did the government reject it?

Well, the cabinet agreed unanimously that the Civic Democrats' proposal was "bad in all respects". The main argument for rejecting it was that several victims have already received compensation under an international treaty between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.

Were there any other reasons? That one sounds a bit flimsy.

Some ministers had specific individual complaints about the idea. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, for instance, said victims of the 1968 invasion would receive 10 times the amount paid to Czech victims of the Holocaust, which he clearly believed wasn't fair. Meanwhile the Interior Minister, Standislav Gross, said some deaths and injuries could have been caused by people breaking the law - a rather curious argument given the spurious legality of the invasion itself.

Indeed. So is this the end of the road for those fighting for compensation?

No. The proposal has been rejected by the government, but it will still be discussed by parliament. We'll just have to wait and see whether it will receive a warmer reception among the country's MPs.

13-11-2003