Czechoslovakia Table of Contents
The 1961 Criminal Procedure Code states that a person will not be prosecuted for acts not established as crimes in law and will not be considered guilty until tried by competent authority. An accused may select his or her own attorney and, if in detention, may consult privately with counsel. During trial defendants may not be prohibited from making statements on all charges and on evidence brought against them; they may describe circumstances, exhibit evidence, and make motions in their defense. The code provides that the accused be informed of his rights at appropriate times during preliminary investigations, detention, and trial. Trials are conducted in the language of the defendant and in a manner suited to the person's educational background or ability to understand court proceedings. Only evidence submitted during the trial can be considered in determining the verdict and sentence.
Police are restricted by the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, but violations occur. In cases of search and seizure, for example, a warrant is required before police may enter a home. The only exceptions are emergency situations when an official cannot be found and when evidence may be lost or destroyed. Despite the provision, house searches have been conducted without warrants, and even though the practice declined during the 1970s and 1980s, people continued to complain that they did not feel secure in their own homes. Pretrial detention is another area where the code has been violated. Two months is the legal limit, but some cases have extended for six months and longer despite the law. For the protection of arrested persons, the code provides that they may be held for no longer than forty-eight hours, at which time a government prosecutor must make a decision concerning release or holding for investigation. However, according to reports from many who had been arrested on political charges, the forty-eight-hour limitation was frequently circumvented.
Another article of the Criminal Procedure Code that was violated with seeming impunity dealt with the conduct of trials. Although the code states that trials must be open, in many cases involving political charges courtrooms have been packed with spectators selected by the authorities, and in most cases foreign correspondents have been barred. Amnesty International reported that in 1976 a courtroom in which four young musicians were tried was literally filled with people invited by officials, leaving only ten spaces for the families, friends, and supporters of the defendants. In that case, the prosecutor also made changes in the case file without notifying defense lawyers, and the judge refused the defense lawyers' request for a postponement that would enable them to study the changes. The defense was also refused permission to call witnesses who had given testimony in the pretrial investigation. In a similar fashion, during the socalled Jazz Section trial in early 1987, the court did not allow the section's long-time counsel to participate or even to attend the trial.
Data as of August 1987