The Nobel Committee
The Norwegian Nobel Institute
Henrik Ibsens gate 51
Brussel, 26th of January 2011
Nomination of Michael Kocab for Nobel Peace Prize
Nomination Letter 2-10
Supporters of the Nomination 11-13
Support Statements 14-25
Press-releases and Articles 30-56
Hana Demeterova, Head of the civic association „Help a man“, Prague
mob.+420 773 529 309
Jana Ridvanova, journalist, Prague
mob. +420 736 242 320
Imran Ezheev, Chairman of the “Goodwill without borders”, Dusseldorf
mob.+49 176 7599 9477
"Human rights have no color and they are neither rightist, nor leftist."
The main impetus for a number of the human rights activists for supporting Michael Kocab´snomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, without sole regard to his merits in Czech political history, is his role in calling attention to the tragic situation of the inhabitants of Northern Caucasus and the treatment of refugees from this region in countries of the European Union.
Kocab, of course, isn't the only one who has pointed out the continuing human rights abuses on the territory of the Russian Federation, but he was the first high ranking European politician of the National Government on the field of human rights, whose political agenda started to be guided by the well-documented reports of human rights organizations and not only by the economic interests of the government that appointed him to his position.
Michael Kocab was born on July 28, 1954, into the family of Alfred Kocab, an evangelic pastor, dissident and co-founder of „Charter 77“(an informal Czechoslovak citizen's initiative criticizing political and state power for not regarding human and civil rights, which the CSSR agreed to follow by signing the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – The Helsinki Declaration) and his wife Daria, a psychologist.
In 1977, he founded the non-conformist rock band Pražský Výběr (Prague Selection), which was a thorn in the side of the socialist establishment right from the start. After graduating from the Prague Academy of Music (department of composition and organs), he wasn't accepted for studies at the Academy of Performing Arts due to his political unsuitability - he refused to join the Union of Socialist Youth or any other socialist organization, he did not serve with the national army, he refused to participate in elections manipulated by the socialist regime etc.
The Band that eroded the foundations of socialist culture.
He had his first serious conflict with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1980, when, during an official event attended by state officials, he voiced his reaction in public to collaboration by the highest representatives of the Protestant Church of the Czech Brethren by saying: “you’ve fallen so far, that you are serving the tyrant's idols ". For that, he earned a complaint for political provocation, which was delayed by an extensive amnesty given by President Husak on his reelection.
In 1981, there was a huge increase in the popularity of Prague Selection and its front man Michael Kocab, who, together with his colleagues, escalated the provocations against the former regime. For example, before a concert in the South Bohemian town of Kaplice, the trains with fans were stopped by members of the police and after the concert, the audience stormed the local police station.
The State security police focused on the band and the situation culminated in late 1982 with an unprecedented political and security raid against the band during a concert in Hradec Kralove. A media campaign against Prague Selection and alternative rock music at all followed. There was a general ban on the band’s activity and public musical activity of the band´s members (M. Kocab, M. Pavlicek. V. Cok, J. Hrubes), the emigration of the drummer J. Hrubes, and Kocab was warned, during one from the interrogation by State security police, be denied even social and health security, which contradicted the Socialist Constitution of the time.
Kocáb married an American dancer, Marsha Crews in March 1983 - the state authorities saw that as a definitive ideological statement. Three nice and gifted children, Natalie, Jessika and Miki, were the reward for not leaving the homeland, as his wife would constantly prompt him to do. But he exposed his family to permanent political slighting.
Another appearance of Kocab with Prague Selection took place 4 years later in 1988 when, during the band’s first appearance on Czechoslovak television, he strongly attacked the regime. During a widely followed live television broadcast, he said that "each nation has the government that it deserves. We should strive for further economic, cultural and spiritual renewal and especially for the restoration of lost civil rights and liberties". These words were spread across the republic at lightning speed and other restrictions followed immediately, but the communist regime weakened by perestroika had no further energy for an effective defense.
It completely missed the fact that in early 1989 the Barrandov Film studio started shooting, under the direction of Michael Kocab and Karel Smyczek, a strongly anti-establishment movie: "Praguers, they like it here", which was full of sneers at the policy of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia(e.g. the scene of Kocab's execution in the historical building of the former Gottwald mausoleum, the raid of communist police using water cannons against protesters, embarrassing communications between high ranking communists etc.)
At the same time (spring 1989) Kocab signed the “A few sentences” petition, which stood out against communist totalitarian despotism. With Michal Horacek, he founded the "Bridge" initiative, which managed (after the consultations with V. Havel), through complicated negotiations, to get a promise of "perestroika" from the Prime Minister of the communist government, Ladislav Adamec, that he would negotiate with the representatives of the opposition. By demanding an explanation of the statement that "each nation has the government that it deserves", Adamec opened a dialogue with Kocab and thus, for the first time, broke a communist taboo of “no negotiations with people from Havel's circle". This act destroyed the unity of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and Adamec himself came under criticism from the communist politburo.
On November 19, 1989, Kocab became one from a founding member of Civic Forum, a member of the coordinating center crisis staff of CF and organized, together with M. Horacek, all negotiations of CF with the Prime Minister and his cabinet. The Bridge initiative thus did dramatically help to speed up and especially to radicalize the process of political change in the state.
As early as the fourth week of November, the representatives of CF (V. Havel, M. Kocab, M. Horacek and others) sent an urgent letter to Mikhail Gorbachev, requesting the termination of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet forces. In the following days, Kocab was informed, that M. Gorbachev received the request, understood it and promised further negotiation on that matter. He also managed to get a promise by the Soviet emissaries that Soviet forces would not interfere with the internal affairs of Czechoslovakia. Kocab even managed to fend off attempts by the Soviet KGB to infiltrate CF.
On behalf of CF, Kocab was also responsible for negotiations with representatives of the Czechoslovak army. He went to Tabor together with Vaclav Klaus (present President of the Czech Republic), to discourage general Zacharias, the commander of the western military district, from using the Czechoslovak army to intervene against protesters (successfully). Next day, he met in the same case the Chief of General Staff of the Czechoslovak army, general Miroslav Vacek, and he subsequently negotiated Vacek´s official meeting with representatives of CF, during which the potential military intervention against the "velvet revolution" was finally eliminated.
Using the significant political influence, which Kocab gained in these deciding times, he managed with several people to put through Vaclav Havel as the sole candidate of CF for the duty of the first democratic president. He proposed and strongly insisted on Havel at a moment when CF hadn’t come to this discussion yet and when there was rather dominating support for a "sixty-eighter" Alexander Dubcek.
On December 28, 1989, Kocab was co-opted as a member of the Federal Assembly of CSFR in the so-called first group and the next day he took part in electing Havel as president.
WITHDRAWAL OF SOVIET OCCUPATION FORCES FROM CZECHOSLOVAKIA
In his first speeches during joint meetings of the House of Commons and the Chamber of Nations of the Federal Assembly in January, February and March 1990, Kocab repeatedly demanded an end to the Soviet occupation and declared the Treaty on the temporary stay of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia invalid. The Federal Assembly subsequently established the Commission to Supervise the Withdrawal of Soviet Forces from Czechoslovakia, in which he became a vicechairman.
In the first free elections in June 1990, M. Kocab was re-elected as a member of the Federal Assembly of CSFR (more than 54% personal preferences – the second after Dubcek), a member of the presidium of the House of People and of the Committee for Defense and Security, a committee of the Minister of Defence L. Dobrovsky that examined the past of generals of the Czechoslovak army, and the president of the renewed Commission to Supervise the Withdrawal of Soviet Forces from Czechoslovakia. He got to work fast, so that the term of "withdrawal" (June 30, 1991) was met without exception. In his effort, he was supported, without exaggeration, by all the people of Czechoslovakia.
In December 1990, shortly before the "gulf conflict", Kocab flew into Iraq as a member of the "Good Will Mission”, whose purpose was to negotiate the release and repatriation of detained Czechoslovak citizens, the so-called "human shields". The result of the complicated negotiations with the highest Iraqi representatives was the release of 38 people.
In mid-January 1991 he made an inspection trip to the Czech army anti-chemical unit stationed inThe Persian Gulf.
Shortly after midnight January 13, 1991, when Soviet troops supported by tanks brutally occupied radio and television buildings in Vilnius, Kocab arrived as a member of a Federal Assembly group at the barricaded Lithuanian parliament to support Vytautas Landsbergis in his national-liberation fight.
In 1991, he took part with A. Dubcek in a state visit to the USSR where he gave a speech in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, instead of A. Dubcek, on ending the bipolarity and withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Czechoslovakia. He had political talks with Eduard Shevardnadze, members of the foreign and defense-security committees of the Supreme Soviet and also met Boris Yeltsin.
On June 25, 1991, the protocol to end the stay of Soviet troops on the territory of Czechoslovakia was signed and in the evening there was a gala concert of Prague Selection with guest Frank Zappa to celebrate the occasion. On June 27, 1991, the "last Soviet soldier" left our republic - Chief Commander of the Central Group of Soviet Forces, general Vorobyov, who took a major part in the successful ending of the "withdrawal". Czechoslovakia was the first country among the former Soviet satellites, from which the Soviet troops finally withdrew. These events fulfilled the most important task in post-revolutionary Czechoslovak politics - ”the end of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet forces”.
That same year, Michael Kocab resigned as a Member of the Federal Assembly based on his previous promise that "With the last Soviet soldier leaving Czechoslovakia, I am leaving politics" and retired from active politics.
For the next ten years, he worked as an external adviser to President Vaclav Havel andorganized and hosted more than 80 five-hour meetings of the President of the Republic with representatives of political and public life on various topics, the common denominator of which were human rights. He also resumed a musical activity of the already legendary rock band Prague Selection.
He organized a U.S. tour in November 2004,that culminated in a concert in support of Cuban dissidents in Miami. The concert of Prague Selection was remotely greeted by George Bush, Václav Havel and Madelaine Albright. Representatives of many countries attended the concert, including many former political prisoners. "We will help with waking up the drowsing freedom on Cuba with a strong stage sound, so the dictator will stuff his hands into his ears up to his elbows. The dictator must be chased out of the playground, overthrown or at least sent into retirement", Kocab threatened the dictator Fidel Castro with a rock hurricane on the symbolical date of the 15th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall. The recorded concert was broadcast to Cuba by the exile TV station Martí.
MINISTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND NATIONAL MINORITIES
In 2009, at the beginning of the Czech EU presidency, Michael Kocab returned to political life in two consecutive governments as the Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities. With great enthusiasm, he set to further work. From a large number of specific actions, we would like to point out just a few examples in domestic and foreign policy:
In general, Minister Michael Kocab advocated a principle of an open, non-discriminating and cohesive society of active citizens, as well as the return of an ethical dimension into decision-making processes at all levels of public authority. Be it the building of a tolerant, multi-cultural society, solidarity with those in need, justice for all, a non-corrupt environment or the willingness to cope with the unfortunate legacy of a totalitarian past.
Concerning equal opportunities for women and men, he started an extensive social and political debate on the balanced representation of women and men in politics.
On the subject of protection of rights of national minorities, he expanded support of minority languages under the protection of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in the areas of education, research and bilingual signs.
For the integration of the Roma minority, he prepared, and in both governments pushed through, a Proposal for the creation and preservation of sacred places of the Roma Holocaust in Lety and in Hodonin near Kunstat.
Within the scope of the Czech EU presidency, Kocab presided over the EPSCO Council, which, for the first time in its history, on June 8, 2009, adopted a draft Council conclusion containing the Common principles of Roma Inclusion. This act managed to put forward the issues of Roma inclusion into the basic agendas of the EU 27.
In the area of combating extremism, Minister M. Kocab worked out a Declaration of all constitutional officials and parliamentary political parties on joint action against extremism and set up a unique Permanent Expert Panel against Racism and Violence (a Colloquium of the nation's intellectual elite on the prevention of increasing racism, extremism and terrorism and on intercultural and interreligious dialogue). He participated personally in contentious marches and prevented direct conflicts of extremist groups with Roma.
In the area ofhuman rights, Kocab managed, on June 17, 2009, to override the president's veto of the Anti-Discrimination Act in the Chamber of Deputies, the adoption of which was a condition of entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union. He also, as the only member of the government, didn't vote for the president's request for the Czech Republic to have an exception from the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, similar to exceptions negotiated by Great Britain and Poland. He pushed through a long-delayed suggestion, in which the government expressed regret over uncovered individual errors in the cases of female sterilization. This act of the government was acclaimed by many international organizations and organizations of Roma women. He presented the public with educational materials for the prevention of homophobic bullying and harassment in schools. He submitted an Action plan to the government for realizing a National strategy for preventing violence against children and in 2009 executed the "STOP violence against children" campaign. He submitted a suggestion for camera and surveillance systems for the approval of the government, which sets up rules for operating surveillance systems in such a way, as to minimize the interference with the privacy of individuals.
A separate chapter of Kocab's activity in the field of human rights is his engagement in the area of so-called "human rights disasters" in countries close to or more distant from Europe. In the post of Minister, he met leading human rights activists for talks: for example, His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madame Pillay, who acknowledged the "important role of the Office of the Minister for Human Rights and especially his personal commitment in promoting human rights principles and the integration of Roma."
In addition to supporting the current Tibetan Dalai Lama and the spiritual renewal and development movement Falun Gong, which is subjected to severe repression by the Chinese state officials, Kocab strongly criticized human rights violations in Cuba, Burma and Venezuela, which sent tart note to the Czech Republic. Above all, he concentrated on the situation of the Caucasian republics himself focused mainly on the situation of the Caucasian republics of the Russian Federation and prepared an initiative concerning asylum and migration policies regarding seekers of international asylum from the territory of Chechnya - the initiative is to ensure that they would be returned to the country of origin on a strictly voluntary basis.
In May 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution based on a report prepared by Mr. Dick Marty, which speaks of "currently the most serious and delicate situation in the Northern Caucasus (especially in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan) in terms of human rights protection and the rule of law in the whole geographic territory under coverage of the Council of Europe and European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms". The resolution stresses that, mainly in the Chechen Republic, the current authorities continue to feed "the climate of pervasive fear", the recurring disappearances of opponents of the government and of human rights activists “remain, in general, unpunished” and the judicial authorities "demonstratively remain indifferent to the crimes of the security forces". All this is happening in a climate of personalization of power which is "unacceptable for a democracy".
However, a number of European countries apply a very restrictive asylum policy to refugees from the Northern Caucasus.
The situation of refugees from the Northern Caucasus in Poland, which usually becomes the "first safe EU country" which the refugees manage to enter, is tragic, but due to the inhumane Dublin Treaty, which should not be allowed to exist in a democracy, they cannot leave the country until their asylum application process is resolved. They are forced to make an application only in Poland, although they would often want to apply for asylum in another European country. This leads to a situation in which the people cannot meet their relatives or friends waiting for asylum in another country for whole years, even if they are in a country that has a common border with Poland. Also in other parts of Europe, the immigration policy is unduly harsh against refugees from the Northern Caucasus, and reports of persecution of citizen from this area and also from other parts of Russia seem to go unnoticed. There have been cases, where families with children are forced to live in degrading refugee camp conditions under enormous stress for 7-8 years.
The Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Czech Ministry of the Interior started to reject asylum applications of Chechen refugees in 2009, stating that the situation in Chechnya has already "stabilized". In this regard, Michael Kocab was visited in May 2010, during his service as the Czech government's Commissioner for Human Rights, by Mrs. Svetlana Gannushkina, with a request not to allow the deportation of the Chechens. Mrs. Gannushkina, the chairperson of the the "Civic assistance" committee, a board member of "Memorial”, a member of the Russian Federation President's Council for support of civil society, institutions and human rights, and a member of a government commission on migration policy, appeals:
"The campaign to isolate Chechens from society was sometimes suppressed, then erupted again with great force, and that has been happening since the end of 1999 and continues to this day. We present a lot of those facts in the reports on the situation of Chechens in Russia, published yearly by the "Memorial" organization. I would like to stress, that the newest report is largely devoted to the terrible situation of Chechens in the prison system, that not many of them will be able leave alive.
Of course, the greatest pressure and persecution is exerted on those who had the slightest relation to the side opposing the federal forces: those who fought during the first or second campaign, family members of those fighting in illegal armed units, those suspected (often without reason) of supporting those groups.
I was in Chechnya from February 25 till March 1, 2010. I have to say, that I haven't seen this level of fear and suspicion for many years. The residents who lost everything after their houses were burned out by Kadyrov's men, after they were laid off work, living in desperate poverty, they are intimidated to such an extent, that some of those families didn't dare to come to us for material support…
Currently, the last statement of UNHCR is a text written at the beginning of 2008, when Chechnya was relatively quiet. UNHCR understands perfectly, that the situation is much worse, all bans regarding abductions, that were previously made by Ramzan Kadyrov, have been canceled. An example is the kidnapping of Zarema Gaysanova, an employee of Danish Refugee Council, on November 3, 2009. The operation, during which this happened, was led by Ramzan Kadyrov personally. He does not hide it, but cynically points out, that he is ready to welcome the investigators at any time. But the investigator of the case of Zarema's kidnapping neither invites him for questioning, nor goes to question him at home.
All residents of Chechnya must constantly and publicly admire not only the successes in the social-economic sphere in Chechnya, but also the person of its leader. A single, but not absolute warranty of safety, especially for young people, is to participate in Ramzan Kadyrov's bloody crimes, those that are now being concealed in Chechnya by the relatives of the victims, because they have nowhere to turn for help.
In such a situation, the deportation or extradition of ethnic Chechens to Russia is unacceptable and is against the 1951 UN Convention, as well as against the main provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms."
Subsequently, Michael Kocab managed to not only prevent the forced repatriation of several asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, but also to establish a precedent among European governments by passing a resolution of the Czech government's Council for Human Rights, which states that Chechens can be repatriated from the Czech Republic only on a voluntary basis. Thanks to the initiative of Michael Kocab, it was possible to redefine the Czech policy in this area, with the aim of extending it to other EU countries.
This intention was fully supported by Mrs. Heidi Hautala, the President of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament. The Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Mr. Bjorn Engesland , and his deputy, Mr. Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal wrote in their statement to Michael Kocab:
"NHC emphasizes, together with other human-rights organizations, that the forced return of Chechens into the Russian Federation cannot be generalized by the statement that it is possible to think of the alternative of internal relocation within Russia, which is possible, safe and acceptable.
In many cases, the Chechens could be relocated to Chechnya from other parts of Russia by force. Upon their return, they can also face suspicions that they were members or supporters of illegal rebel formations or that they supported the separatist Chechen government (Ichkeria)…
Moreover, we see that the situation in Chechnya and in the broader Northern Caucasus area has become worse in 2009-10 compared to previous years, which calls for better protection of Chechen asylum seekers.
NHC published a report in 2008, where it calls attention to the fact, that “the practices of violent disappearances are renewed using a regional system of torture, forced confessions and made-up court cases. The suspects are illegally detained, tortured, forced to confess to involvement with armed forces or similar crimes. The courts condemn these suspects to long sentences based on testimonies gained through torture.” In consequence of this, even if the years 2007-8 were promising regarding improvement of the worst facts (the number of "forced disappearances" was lower), the general critical situation of human rights and impunity after committing serious violent crimes remain in place…
Even though the federal authorities announced on March 16, 2009, that the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya is over, it had no effect on the use of torture and illegal detentions in counter-terrorism objectives…
Chechen asylum seekers must be accepted by European governments very differently. In some of the countries, protection was granted to large numbers, while other countries remained restrictive in providing any form of help or support.
In Norway, the policy changed in 2007, when the Norwegian Immigration Directorate (Utlendingsdirektiratet – UDI) decided to change its policy regarding Russian asylum seekers coming from theNorthern Caucasus, particularly Chechens. The reason was resolutions of several departments of Norwegian immigration authorities that stated, “in Russia, there is an alternative of internal relocation for the Chechens, that is possible, safe and acceptable, and in accordance with general recommendations of UNHCR" (June 22, 2007 – Letter from UDI).
NHC has taken a very critical attitude towards this change, arguing that such asylum decisions, depending on the possibility of internal relocation, may, in Norway and other European countries, result in violation of the UN Convention on Refugees from 1949. Enforcement of such decisions would result in surrendering the asylum seekers for prosecution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, manipulated prosecution and life-threatening situations, the NHC said.
Despite these arguments, the Norwegian authorities, in line with general European trends, started to adhere to a very restrictive policy. In the first five months of 2010, the migration departments dealt with 376 asylum applications of Russian citizens, mostly Chechens. Only 19 of them received protection in the first instance.
On the basis of the above mentioned, we consider your efforts, and the efforts of the Committee on the Rights of Aliens of the Government Council for Human Rights, to redefine the policy in this area as very important. The protection resulting from the Czech process will certainly be to the benefit of Chechens in the Czech Republic. However, it could also have a wider influence on directing the other EU countries towards policies more oriented towards protection.
…we hope that current debates and activities will lead to improvements in the asylum policy in the Czech Republic, and eventually in other EU countries. I can assure you that NHC will assist in these matters and provide you with any help and support necessary to introduce an asylum policy with regard to Chechens and other international protection seekers on a legal basis."
After retiring from government office in September 2010, Michael Kocab, among other things, appealed to the Government of the Slovak Republic, which, on request of the Russian Prosecutor's Office, was about to extradite Ali Ibragimov and Anzor Chentiev, two Chechen asylum seekers who had at that time been in Slovak custody for 4.5 years, to the Russian Federation. That happened because ECHR decided in September 2010 not to pursue their complaints and agreed with the decisions of the Slovak courts, that they can be extradited to the Russian Federation, because the Russian side guarantees them a fair trial. It was an unprecedented success in reversing a decision of ECHR: In November 2010, after a new appeal, it issued a provisional measure that the two Chechens cannot be extradited to the Russian Federation. The appeal by Mr. Kocab motivated the world's human rights activists to send more appeals to the Slovak government, and only because of that, the two refugees were not extradited before the new decision of ECHR.
That gives particular meaning to the events described below. After the Velvet Revolution, in 1989, Michael Kocab was responsible for parliamentary surveillance of the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Czechoslovakia. In this position, he took part in a state visit to Moscow, with the Chairman of the Federal Assembly of the Czech Republic. He spoke in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, met members of foreign and defense-security committees, and had discussions withForeign Minister Shevardnadze and others. As a result, after returning home to Milovice, where the headquarters of Soviet forces under the command of general Vorobyov was positioned, he was welcomed with unprecedented respect. Even then it was clear, that the Soviet Union would fall apart. Michael Kocab asked general Vorobyov and the other generals present to realize that according to the example of Czechoslovakia, a revolution can be done without bloodshed, and to think about that in relation to the upcoming events and the possibility of armed conflict within the USSR.
A few years later, Michael Kocab met the former Lieutenant General Vorobyov again at the Czech embassy in Moscow. He learned that at the beginning of the first Chechen war in 1994, the general was sent to lead the first attack on Grozny. However, when on the spot, he opened the folder with orders, closed it again and refused to take command of the military operation, saying that he would not participate in anything so brutal. Vorobyov made an unbelievable and for many completely incomprehensible decision. He refused to be in command of the Russian attack on Chechnya. He than lost his general's stars, while being only one year away from the highest Russian military rank – that of marshal. Only in 2010, at a Prague meeting between Michael Kocab and Chechen refugees, did the public, that could not understand what led such a high ranking Russian General to act in such a humane way, destroying his life-long career, learn the cause. It turned out, that the reason was a promise given by general Vorobyov to Michael Kocab before the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia.
In January 2011, Michael Kocab became the Deputy Head od Czech Helsinki Committee.
His lifelong attitude fully corresponds to the philosophy of the Nobel Peace Prize for international understanding, antimilitarism and humanity, therefore I would like to nominate him for this award.
Members of European Parliament (Belgium)
(in alphabetical order)
Representatives of the international community:
Ludmila Alexeeva (RF), Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, email@example.com
Nadezhda Banchik (USA), journalist, Amnesty International USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Bill Bowring (Great Britain), Barrister, Director of the LLM/MA in Human Rights School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Chair of the International Steering Committee of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), President of the European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), email@example.com
Vladimir Bukovsky (Great Britain), disident, writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Olga Ceitlina(RF), Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights, the lawyer of the network „Migration and Law“, email@example.com
Stanislav Dmitrievsky (RF), lawyer, „Russian-Chechen Friendship Society“, journalist, Amnesty International Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat laureate, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alla Dudaeva (Georgia), program author of the „First Caucasian“ TV Channel, email@example.com
Imran Ezheev (Germany), Chairman of the “Goodwill without borders”, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minkail Ezhiev (RF), Head of Human Rights Centre of the Chechen Republic, Grozny, email@example.com
ViktorFainberg (France), disident, firstname.lastname@example.org
Svetlana Gannushkina (RF), Chairwoman of the „Civic Assistance Committee“,
member of the Council for the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights under the President of Russia, email@example.com
Annemarie Gielen (Belgium), expert of the humanitarian organization „Pax Christie“ ,
Igor Kalyapin (RF), Chairman of the „Committee Against Torture“, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tatiana Lokshina(RF), Director of the „Demos Center“, Deputy Director of the „Human Rights Watch“ Moscow, email@example.com
Elena Maglevannaia (Finland), journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zargan Makhadzieva (RF), director of the human rights organization „Niiso“ (“Justice”),Grozny, email@example.com
Anzor Maskhadov (Norway), writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sergey Melnikoff, Ph.D. (USA), journalist, photoartist, email@example.com
Major generalIng. Svetozar Nadiovic (Slovakia), Head of the Management for the leaving of Soviet Army from Czechoslovakia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ludmila Klein-Ponesicky (Germany), paintress, email@example.com
Victoria Poupko (USA), Chairwoman of “Anna Politkovskaya Foundation” and “Association ofthe Jews from former Soviet Union”, firstname.lastname@example.org
Milan Ruzicka (USA), writer, email@example.com
Ing. Magomed Saitov,CSc. (Germany), human rights activist Magdeburk, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ekaterina Sokiryanskaia, Ph.D. (RF), Member of the Board „Memorial International“, email@example.com
Tom Stoppard (Great Britain) , playwright, Jacky@sleepershill.co.uk
Nina Tagankina (RF), Executive director of the Moscow Helsinki Group,
Mayrbek Taramov (Sweden), journalist, director of the “ Chechen Human Rights Center”, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. JUDr. Deni Teps, DrSc. (Belgium), Member of the Russian Academy of Juridical Scienceamovlad@seznam.cz
Artemy Troitsky (RF), music critic, journalist, university teacher, email@example.com
Johannes Wetzel (Německo), historik, writer, Ponesicky@aol.com
Representatives of the Czech community:
Mgr. Movladi Adayev, businessman, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mgr. Marek Cehovsky,Ph.D., lawyer, Prague, email@example.com
Doc. MUDr. Josef Chrastek, CSc., cardiologist, Marianske Lazne, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hana Demeterova, Chairwoman of the civic association “Help a man”, Prague, email@example.com
Ing. Milan Doupovec, businessman, Prostějov, Milan.Doupovec@seznam.cz
PhDr. Vera Dousova, Chairwoman of the civic association“Seven Rays”, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
MUDr. Olga Fiserova, Frydek-Mistek, email@example.com
MVDr. Josef Hajek, Hrusovany nad Jevisovkou, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vlasta Hajkova, professor, Brno, email@example.com
Ing. Karel Holomek, Chairman of the Society of Roma in Moravia, former Director of the International Roma Center attached to the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly, firstname.lastname@example.org
MUDr. Vaclav Holub, CSc., Endocrinological Institute, Prague, email@example.com
MUDr. Baudin Kadiev, CSc., professor of the Prague International University,
Mgr. Ondřej Klipa, Head of the Secretariat of the Government Council for National Minorities, firstname.lastname@example.org
Klaudius Kryspin, musician, Prague, email@example.com
Jan Misurec, journalist, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
MUDr. PhDr. Jan Ponesicky, Ph.D., psychoanalyst, member of the Academical Board of the Prague College of Psychosocial Studies, email@example.com
Marcela Prazakova, producer, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jindrih Pysko, designer, Havirov, email@example.com
Mgr. Jana Ridvanova, journalist, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Senkyrikova, Office for Human Rights of the Government of the Czech Republic,
Richard Sima, journalist, Ostrava, email@example.com
Kvetoslav Simek, journalist, Ostrava, firstname.lastname@example.org
PhDr. Jaroslav Sturma, Specialist in pediatric psychology at the Charles University, Chairman of the Czech-Moravian Psychological Society, Member of the scientific board of the Institute of Psychology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Member of the Committee for Child´s rights of the Government Council for Human Rights, email@example.com
Alena Ursínyová, European Volleyball´s Champion in 1955, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mgr. Petr Vaclavek, lawyer, Prague, email@example.com
Kristof Vancl, art designer, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
MUDr. Eva Vanickova, CSc., Chairwoman of the Committee for Child´s rights of the Government Council for Human Rights, Charles University, email@example.com
Czeslav Walek, Director of the Office for Human Rights of the Government of the Czech Republic, firstname.lastname@example.org
JUDr. Lucia Zachariasova, Gender Equality Unit, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, email@example.com
Civic Assistance Committee
The regional public charity organisation assisting refugees and displaced persons
Ul. Dolgorukovskaya, 33, 6 Moscow 127006 Russia
tel. (495) 251 5319; 8-499- 973 54 43, 8-499-973 5474
Moscow, January 6, 2011
To whom it may concern
I met Michael Kocab in May 2010, when I came to Prague to support my fellow countrymen seeking asylum in the Czech Republic.
Before that time the only thing I knew about him was that during the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Czechoslovakia, Michael Kocab was the president of the parliamentary commission to supervise this process. Each citizen of the Soviet Union that perceived the events of August 1968 as his personal tragedy and shame, remembers February 26, 1990. The agreement on the full withdrawal of Soviet forces from Czechoslovakia was signed that day. But the process of the withdrawal from the agreement wasn't easy; the negotiations with the Soviet soldiers were not easy for Michael Kocab – a young civilian. He managed to do that - that part of history should never be forgotten.
Meeting with Michael Kocab in May 2010 impressed me a lot. He reacted to the information and the documents about the situation of ethnic Chechens in Russia in a way uncommon for politicians, who usually protect themselves behind a shield of bureaucracy. It could be seen how painful and agonizingly shameful it is for him that persecuted people cannot find asylum and a guarantee of non-extradition in the Czech Republic or the European union. At that moment, Michael Kocab was the Commissioner for Human Rights and National minorities of the Czech government, which allowedhim to take immediate steps to change the situation not only in his country, but also to stimulate a wider understanding and acknowledgement of the situation by the world community. The most important thing for me was the fact that people who were in immediate real danger of being extradited got protection.
I think that Michael Kocab is one of those people, whose credit for establishing peace and democratic order in the international community cannot be denied. To award him the Nobel Peace Prize would be a good step that would help spread, among new generations, the thoughts, values and the kind of life, that were created through the hard work of humankind's best people that we now risk losing.
Chairwoman of the „Civic Assistance Committee“,
member of the Council for the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights under the President of Russia
To the Nobel Peace Prize Committee
I met Michael Kocab last year on November 5. We became members of the same panel, together with the poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya, during the 2nd Central European Forum in Bratislava. This forum was, like the last one in 2009, dedicated to the results of the 20th anniversary of the new Europe, born on the ruins of the "socialist block". Its organizers asked the invited intellectuals, some of them so called "thought leaders" on a national or even global level, to "cross their intellectual swords" and face the challenges of the era under the circumstances of economical crisis and dangerous "democracy fatigue".
But I have been shocked by a tragicomic paradox: none of the 20 speakers discussing human rights mentioned the fact that very close to their "forum" there were 2 Chechen refugees who had been suffering in Slovak prisons without trial or investigation for four and a half years. They suffer in anticipation of being handed over to Russian authorities. This extradition would take place with the consent of the Slovak authorities who officially opened this forum and even with that of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which epitomizes justice for most of the countries from which a majority of the panel members come. According to statistics for the extradition of Chechens, especially of those who formerly defended their country against invasion, one that - according to Vaclav Havel - bears "the character of genocide", which means torture or disappearance without a trace for them.
The only member of the Forum (apart from me and Natasha Gorbanevskaya) who demanded an immediate release of Ali Ibragimov and Anzor Chentiev was the former Minister for Human Rights of the Czech Republic, Michael Kocab. It was a very dissident act: one against all or one for all.
I don't want to diminish the achievements of many of the participants in the fight to save the two Chechen prisoners in Slovakia, but Michael Kocab's contribution may have been the decisive one. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg withdrew its decision, as did the Slovak government. Unfortunately, the fight is not yet over, the men are still held in Slovak prisons. But their hand-over to the Putin-Kadyrov regime is now out of the question.
Without the participation of Michael Kocab, the Bratislava Forum would go down in history as an "intellectual" feast during a plague epidemic, despite the gloss and jingling of crossed and perfectly intellectual swords. In any case, this tragicomic episode became a telling illustration of the same disorder of the 21st century, the treatment of which the assembly of honorable representatives was dedicated to.
I have read Michael Kocab's Curriculum Vitae and it surprised me how similar his life was to those of many of the people that are close and dear to me.
In all fields of activity which his rich and strong character led him to choose, he always defended human rights. Kocab's famous band, "Prague Selection" ringed like a freedom bell which aroused the consciousness and conscience of his contemporaries. A founding member of Civic Forum, Michael Kocab was beside Vaclav Havel, one of the leaders of the "velvet revolution". He completed its famous victory when he achieved the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Czechoslovakia.
As the Czech Minister for Human Rights, Michael Kocab bravely and uncompromisingly defended the individual and collective rights of people not only in his country, but also around the world, under the complicated conditions of our micro-epoch. The rights of women, the rights of ethnic minorities - especially the Roma, the rights of the Tibetan people, the rights of the religious movement Falun Gong, brutally persecuted by the Chinese authorities...
The list could go on, but me and my friends are especially moved by his protection of the Chechen refugees, representatives of a nation subjected to a genocide twice during a century, first by the Soviet, then by the post-Soviet regime. Thanks to Michael Kocab, the Czech Government Council for Human Rights approved a resolution that repatriation of Chechens from the Czech Republic is only possible with their consent. The Czech Republic became the center of the struggle to extend this principle to the whole European Union.
Michael Kocab protected and continues to protect human rights with all of its attendant principles, including the right for security. That is especially important now, when terrorism - once invited into the global political club because of mercantile reasons - became a real nightmare for humankind, reaching out with its bloody hands for nuclear weapons.
I think that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Michael Kocab would not only recognize his merits. It would increase the authority of the human rights movement, on whose influence world peace is often dependent. The movement has a particular need to be protected from the pressure of governments and political parties, as well as from the infiltration of forces that have nothing in common with human rights.
I can say, based on my long and bitter experience that, without the somniferous effect of Realpolitik and political correctness, many lives would be saved.
Awarding the prize to Michael Kocab would increase the prestige of the Nobel Committee, something which has been lacking over the last decade.
Our memories will never forget the presence of Andrei Sakharov side by side with the great peacemaker Yasser Arafat on the list of laureates.
I hope that the recent events in Moscow, December pogroms against non-Aryan persons, the shameful trials of Khodorkovsky-Lebedev and the continuing elimination of critics or opponents of the Medvedev-Putin regime, may help the Nobel Committee to make the right decision.
Strasbourg, January 13, 2011
Viktor Fainberg and Michael Kocab in Bratislava, November 2010
Recommendation to nominate Michael Kocab for the Nobel Peace Prize
I had the honour to closely cooperate with Michael Kocab for several months when he acted as Czech Minister for Human Rights and Minorities. His strong personality is very inspiring and any contact with him is an unforgettable experience and must without doubt leave its mark on everyone. I cannot but recall the words of one of Confucius’ popular young disciples, which even today play true when I think of Michael Kocab: “his three transformations are typical of true aristocracy of spirit – when you look upon him from afar he comes across as noble, if you come closer he comes across as amiable and when you listen to his words he comes across as decisive”.
In our society, Michael Kocab was a synonym for “big human rights issues”. For some he shone on their way for the first time, with others he climbed to the top but never did he even for a second doubt or degrade issues concerning children’s rights, which might have him even win his spurs with some. His in himself firmly integrated moral values never let him even for a moment during his political career neglect the most minute details of the human rights of children – the rights, as a matter of fact, of our future society. This, his moral virtue, ironically benefited children more than if he had broken political representation resistance and an act had been passed to establish an ombudsman for children in our society. Only now does our society reap the fruits of his work in the field of children’s rights. It is not fair that he who beats the path first should not stand in the spotlight. But it is for his importance and his inspiration of others that Michael Kocab should become an equal amongst equals and that is why I very seriously recommend his nomination.
He was one of the few who came to understand the texture of the fine hotbed of the causes of the violation, distortion and manipulation of human rights and the consequences of such violation, which in somebody’s eyes discredited him but which did not offend him but rather motivated him, giving him new inspiration to tackle human rights protection even the harder. He showed us what human rights are; he showed us how to look upon them and how to understand them in the interest of humanity and mankind, which ironically did not bring him any positive satisfaction as did his first role when he stood at the repatriation of Soviet soldiers from the then Czechoslovakia.
MUDr. Eva Vanickova, CSc.
Chairwoman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
of the Czech Government Council for Human Rights
Charles University – Third Medical Faculty
Prague, 17 January 2011
Recommendation to nominate Michaela Kocáb for the Nobel Peace Prize
I have been monitoring Michael Kocab’s activities for decades. During the Communist Era he fought against totalitarianism peacefully – through art, music and song. He and many others of the same belief, whom he inspired and led, significantly contributed to the peaceful overthrowing of this regime. He actively participated in the creation of a democratic society.
The name Michael Kocab is inherently connected with the repatriation of Soviet soldiers from then Czechoslovakia: Through tranquil negotiations he succeeded in beating a powerful army so that it returned to its own country.
I had the honour of getting to know him from close up when he was Minister for Human Rights and Minorities and later Government Commissioner for Human Rights; he tirelessly and without end campaigned for the rights of minorities and the weak. He succeeded in focusing society and those responsible on issues like the removal of children from families on social and material grounds. He significantly contributed to society changing its point of view on such issues and today his actions have resulted in a change in social practice. I value his ability to listen to all opinions, even to those that differ from his own, and his ability to deepen and cultivate these opinions through democratic discussions and to achieve again through peaceful means the search for and the finding of a consensus and a supporting solution that integrates views from all sides.
Given all these reasons I am convinced that Michael Kocab’s public activities during the various stages of the development of society and during all the phases of his life have permanently and significantly contributed and still do to the transformation of society from its changeover from a totalitarian model to a democratic one. He employs only peaceful means in the spirit of the idea of peace and the full implementation of this style of life in civic, political and humanitarian fields. I therefore regard him as being a person that meets all the criteria for being awarded the Noble Peace Prize and I recommend and support his nomination in this sense.
PhDr. Jaroslav Sturma
Psychologist, Member of the Government Committee for Child Rights
Support of Michael Kocab’s nomination to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
I had the opportunity to get to know Michael Kocab very well during joint efforts to perform the most important strategic task of the then Czechoslovakia right after the Velvet Revolution in 1989; achievement of the task guaranteed its conclusiveness.
The task was to repatriate the Soviet soldiers from the then Czechoslovakia and this was when his intense and vast knowledge of political and technical issues and his character showed in full. It is thanks to these qualities that we may state that Michael Kocab took the lion’s share in the successful completion of the repatriation of the Soviet soldiers from the then Czechoslovakia in the period of time from 26 February 1990 to 26 June 1991.
I already then had the opportunity to recognize his courage and intransigence in the fight against injustice in what regards the decisive areas of human society, be that at home or abroad.
His sense of humanity, justice, decency and correctness are intrinsic to him and continue to characterize him to this day. He fights tirelessly for those victimized or oppressed.
Michael Kocab’s actions predetermine him to be a dignified candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Brigadier General Ing. Svetozar Nadiovic,
Chief of the Office for the Withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Czechoslovakia during 1990 – 1991, Member of the General Dr. M. R. Stefanik Society Committee, Member of the Generals of the Slovak Republic Club Board
Michael Kocab is exceptionally perceptive of human rights issues
As chairman of a non-government Roma organization based in the Czech Republic I had the opportunity to closely monitor for several months the work done by Michael Kocab during his office of Minister for Human Rights and Minorities. I also worked with Michael Kocab when he acted as Government Commissioner for Human Rights as his advisor.
I highly regarded his exceptional perceptivity and sensitivity in his assertion of human rights, especially what regards those most victimized, and that not verbally, but through actually real attitudes and actions. I have not seen this ability in any of his preceding government commissioners or ministers.
Such attitudes were not at all common in the Czech Administration and are not common even today, after Michael Kocab vacated his office. Such attitudes were and are important in that they projected the trustworthiness that the Government Commissioner for Human Rights enjoyed from a civil society and this provided him on the one side with the informal support of the public at large and on the other side with the impossibility to reject actions identified in this way and programme actions in official circles. In consequence thereof, Michael Kocab was successful in the aforementioned positions. His work was effective and proved to constitute a precedence for several other people in non-government fields, proving that work can be successfully done in this way, notwithstanding publically placed obstacles. Michael Kocab takes full merit for this, without doubt; it cannot be erased and will once and for all show the way: “In all possible honesty and intensity, be that even againstthe flow!”
This is not an approach that in a modern severely institutionalized society would be accepted without the resistance of the authorities and requires only strong and persuasive personalities, which alone as such can contribute to the hoped-for change for the better.
Michael Kocab was and remains such a personality.
Ing. Karel Holomek,
Chairman of the Society of Roma in Moravia, former Director of the International Roma Center attached to the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly
I am writing to give my full support to efforts to nominate Michael Kocab for the Nobel Peace Prize. A noted dissident in Communist Czechoslovakia, Mr. Kocab has over the last two decades became a passionate advocate of human rights causes not only in his native country, but across Europe. He became a courageous voice of Europe's persecuted, including Chechen exiles, Roma minorities, women and children.
His causes were many, but most import, his work on behalf of the downtrodden has produced results. Few, if any of the tens of thousands of human rights activists across the globe can claim their intervention has led to policy changes. He can. His intervention ended the forced repatriation of Chechen minority from Czech Republic and his work in the Czech Government led to the enactment of legislation in support of Roma minorities and women. Among the tens of thousands of Chechen exiles he became a legend.
He is an unrelenting and effective advocate of basic human rights. The Nobel Peace Prize was intended for people like him.
Milan Ruzicka, writer
United States, Falls Church, Virginia
Помоги одному человеку Help a man
Support of the nomination of Mr. Michael Kocab for Nobel Peace Prize
First, I learned about the following DAMP [Department of Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of the Interior] decision which was made on April 17, 2009, regarding Chechen R.O.: "The Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, Department of Asylum and Migration Policy, decided in an administrative procedure which considered a request submitted by Mr. R.O. on March 11, 2009 to prolong his protective asylum, this way: THE REQUEST TO PROLONG PROTECTIVE ASYLUM IS REJECTED.
The above mentioned stated during an interview, that he requests the extension of protective asylum because he is not sure that he will be left in peace and be safe in his homeland... The above mentioned is still afraid that something will happen to him there. According to his own words, he is not sure that he will survive in the case that he is returned to his homeland... According to his statement, the present Chechen government persecutes those that left the country... The above mentioned also stated that he had known Chechens who voluntarily terminated their asylum proceedings in the CR and returned home, but have disappeared...
In consideration of that matter, the administrative authority... states, that the situation in Chechnya and especially in its capital Grozny, where the applicant comes from, has changed in particularly over the last 2 years. It has stabilized and the reconstruction of the country and especially of its capital has advanced considerably... The Chechen security forces have managed to provide security... His statement that those who fled Chechnya are persecuted by the Chechen government upon their return, is clearly disproved by the above information about the country of origin which shows, to the contrary, that the Chechen and Russian federal governments are very interested in the return of the Chechen refugees to their homeland. Projects aimed at supporting and reintegrating the refugees are generously subsidized by federal and local resources."
I wrote an appeal to the regional court on behalf of R.O. and added 280 pages of press information, appeals of human rights activists from around the world about the situation in Chechnya and the situation of Chechens in Russia in general, a situation that is more than disastrous, regarding respect for human rights. I was more than confident that the court must annul the DAMP decision. Unfortunately, the court upheld the decision: "The Pilsen judge JUDr. Jana Dankova summed up her attitude in one sentence: "This judge does not accept as evidence the papers submitted by the plaintiff during the hearing, because, regarding the reason of the request to extend protective asylum, the materials collected by defendant could not influence the ruling in any significant way."
The last possibility was an appeal to the Supreme Court of the CR (which returned the case to the regional court one year and four months after the DAMP decision stating that the judge had made a mistake), but the level of my schizophrenia I sensed from this experience with the "humanity" of Czech officials regarding refugees reached such a level, that I turned, almost hysterically, to well-known human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina with a plea to fly to Prague as soon as possible and to try to talk to those responsible for this decision. There were two free days in her busy schedule during the May holidays that she planned to spend differently. She came.
I asked the Interior Minister at the time, Martin Pecina, to receive Mrs. Gannushkina. At first, his secretary announced enthusiastically that he will be very glad to meet her. Two day later she wrote that, unfortunately, he had no time. A day before the arrival of Mrs. Gannushkina, I went to see him on a pre-election campaign event for the Social Democratic party, of which he is a member. He told me that he cannot meet her because of protocol reasons, and that the Ministry of the Interior had advised him against it.
The Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael Kocab, adjusted his schedule and met Mrs. Gannushkina, R.O. and his mother in a Government office on Sunday at 11 o'clock. The mother of R.O. has been granted an asylum in CR and has experienced terrible months in fear for the fate of her sole son if he is deported to Russia by force.
He called me at 9.20PM. Apart from "this is impossible" and "terrible", the mainly essentially clear thing was that, after reading the documentation provided by Mrs. Gannushkina, he was shocked by the approach of our migration and other related officials.
Despite his busy schedule, he came to see a lecture by Mrs. Gannushkina at a university in Prague next day. In the following days, he started to take steps to save the refugees who were in danger of forced repatriation. He managed to save a lot of people despite heavy resistance, and to prevent despotism, at least in the cases he has learned about. One example is that of a Chechen woman, A.I., whose top blood pressure was 250-300 (value dangerous to life) for a few months. She was moved to a hospital from the asylum camp few weeks ago, only after his appeal. Unfortunately, nobody responsible was very interested. An ambulance took her to a hospital almost unconscious three times over a period of a few weeks, only to bring her back to the camp the next morning. In the end, after Kocab's intervention, she was admitted to a hospital for proper examination and her condition improved.
Most refugees are people that have lived through more horrors than the rest of us have ever seen in the movies. They are brave people that our so-called European democracy pushes to the edge of our society in the mistaken belief of its own superiority.
The actions of Michael Kocab are motivated by something other than those of most politicians - by conscience. To award him the Nobel Peace Prize would give others a serious example of a worthy life-long attitude.
Head of the civic association “Help a man”, Prague
P.S. Accordance with the decision of the Czech officers from April, 2009, the situation in Chechnya is “stabilized”. The photo of Ahmed Israpilov (the enemy of Chechen president Kadyrov), is from November, 2009.
We express our sincere gratitude to the well-known human rights activist Michael Kocab for his courageous and active civic attitude towards the protection of rights and liberties of refugees from Caucasus, including Chechens. The difficult situation faced by many exiled and persecuted Chechens was made easier thanks to Michael Kocab's efforts. In his public speeches, he appeals to governments and government agencies, including heads of states and prime ministers, to strictly enforce rules and principles of international humanitarian law, to not use double standards, to treat in a humane way people who are in difficult and often tragically hopeless situations for various reasons.
We, the undersigned, are persuaded that human rights activities at this level and extent deserve the highest international recognition. We resoundingly support the nomination of Michael Kocab for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Prof. JUDr. Deni Teps, DrSc.
Academician of the Russian Academy of Legal Science,
President of the World Chechen Congress
MUDr. Baudin Kadiev, CSc.
Professor, International Prague University
Mgr. Movladi Adayev, Prague
My name is Klaudius Kryspin and I am a professional musician. I met Michael in 1984 on both a professional and personal level. We have spent a lot of time together during the ensuing 25 years. I have always been fascinated by his highly democratic view of the world’s problems and I fully endorse it. The peoples of the whole world definitely have an opportunity to live side by side in harmony and peace and with an understanding of each other, no matter what the color of their skin might be or what their religion is. It is sufficient to realize that, in the end, diversity and variety make one beautiful whole. The true freedom of all of us...
“Hatred” is just a raving and useless search...on the other hand, we were born with ”love”.
I fully support the nomination of Michael Kocab for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In Prague 6.1.2011
I was only thirteen at the time but I will never forget the hope Michael Kocab evoked in our family when in 1988 he spoke out publicly about it being necessary to stand up for the return of lost civil rights and freedoms. A new day dawned on our family on that day.
Richard Sima, journalist
Operation “Bridge”: negotiations of communist Prime Minister with Civic Forum, 1989
AlexandrDubcek Vaclav Havel
Negotiations with the Big brother
Soviet Union Ambassador in Prague and last Soviet Minister of Foreign AffairsBoris Pankin (in the centre) leaved the diplomacy in protest against Russian invasion to Chechnya
Last soviet soldier General Vorobyov´s leaving the Czechoslovak territory. He refused to command the Russian attack on Chechnya later, because of that he lost general's rank.
General Nadiovic besides M.Kocab.
Boris Yeltsin, Moscow 1991 Vytautas Landsbergis, Vilnius 1991
Good Will Mission, Bagdad 1991
In the team of the President Vaclav Havel Permanent Expert Panel against Racism and
John Paul II. Dalai Lama
Meryl Streep Milos Forman Jane Fonda
Pink Floyd and Vaclav Havel Rolling Stones and Karel Schwarzenberg
Frank Zappa Paul Simon Michael Jackson
Prague Selection II, 2007
Press-releases and Articles
Press release: Alarming information about the situation in Chechnya
Michael Kocab met the member of Committee for Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Svetlana Gannushkina. Mrs. Gannushkina is a member of the leadership of Memorial society, working in the domain of protecting rights of Russian Federation inhabitants, especially in Northern Caucasus. Last year, Memorial received the European Parliament's Sakharov Price. They discussed the situation in Chechnya during the pro-Russian government of Ramzan Kadyrov and also the fates of Chechen refugees staying in the Czech republic.
Kocab, part of whose agenda is the protection of rights of foreigners, has previously intervened the Czech authorities on behalf of individual refugees from Norther Caucasus and monitors the relationship of the Czech authorities to these people. Therefore, he welcomed the opportunity to meet an important member of the human rights council, which reports directly to President Medvedev. The government commissioner considers the information provided by Mrs. Gannushkina to be very alarming. According to Svetlana Gannushkina, the situation in Chechnya is now worse then during the war. That's because the people have internalized the fear. Kocab added, "the situation would be radically improved only if the Russian Federation authorities rejected the Leninist ideology of revolutionary violence and terror, that doesn't consider murders as absolute evil, if they serve the ruling ideology."
In Prague, May 6, 2010
Kocab: We can not compel rejected Chechen asylum seekers to return
Author: Bari, Eurozpravy.cz, Mediafax
Prague - Rejected applicants for international protection from Chechnya should be returned to their country of origin on a strictly voluntary basis, said the government Commissioner for Human Rights Michael Kocab on Thursday. Government Council for Human Rights approved this proposal and the Government will also deal it in nearest future.
The Government Council for Human Rights adopted the initiative of the Committee on the Rights of Foreigners on the issues of international protection and return policies to the country of origin of Chechens today," said Kocab and explained, that the committee has resolved that the Chechens, who have been denied of international protection, should be returned on a voluntary basis only.
Kocab added, that the Committee proposes to be engaged the Ministries of Interior and Justice in the issue. "We can not exclude, that return could mean a danger or even death," explained Kocab the reason why the committee resorted to this requirement.
The initiative is currently pending the remark´s procedure, Kocab commented, and it will go to the Government then. "The complaint is processed together with the Committee against Torture," said Kocab and addend, that this committee will monitor the activities of the Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of Interior.
The question of Chechen refugees is a hot topic in the Czech Republic in recent months. The most famous medial case was probably the story of Georgian refugees of Chechen nationality Timur Borchashvili. The Ministry of Interior has decided to expel him from the country despite the obvious danger that threatened to Borchashvili. Senator Jaromir Stetina (non-party) was also heavily involved to the case. Borchashvili should continue to stay, according to unofficial information, in the Czech Republic.
Timur Borchashvili received asylum applicant card on July 21, 2010
Government Commissioner for Human Rights Michael Kocab and the Committee on the Rights of Foreigners is dealing with the status of applicants for international protection coming from the Caucasian republics of the Russian Federation. In June, Government Council for Human Rights passed a recommendation for the government to insure that the asylum applicants from the area of Chechnya or of Chechen origin be extradicted to Russian Federation based strictly on voluntary basis, because numerous documents prove that these applicants are in imminent danger of being tortured or killed after the deportation.
During dealing with the comments of departments, Kocab met the Director of Alien Police Service on July 13 and the representatives of Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of the Interior on July 20, 2010. Kocáb also discussed with Tomáš Haišman, the director of Department for Asylum and Migration policy [DAMP], those cases of North Caucasus refugees, who are suffering, according to non-governmental organizations, from reduction of their rights in facilities of alien police or during negotiations with Czech authorities. The Commissioner also appealed to the Director of DAMP to legalize at an early date the stay of Timur Borchashvili, political refugee of Georgian origin well-known to media. During the meeting, the Director of the Department of the Asylum and Migration Policy promised an activity of his office during resolving other similar cases of people staying here in this way and also expressed understanding of their fears, that use to result in behavior suspicious to the immigration officers and prolonging the procedure of granting the asylum.
"I am happy with the outcome of our meeting and expect that the Ministry of the Interior and police will approach these people with bigger empathy. I also thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg and senators who supported our initiative. In case someone is seriously ill or has relatives with protection all over the Europe, his asylum proceedings shouldn't take several years. Such delays, I believe, will no longer occur, especially when it comes to people who have lost their homeland,“ Kocáb said after the meeting.
In Prague, July 23, 2010.
…For many, you became unwelcome because of your involvement in the issue of returning Chechen refugees to Russian Federation. Can you comment on that?
Kocab: Yes, we drew attention to the fact, that the regime of the Moscow-supported Chechen President Kadyrov represents a crude dictatorship on par with Stalinist Russia. That means that if Czech Republic returns a Chechen political asylum seeker to his homeland, usually, he is in imminent danger of torture, even death. With the support of Minister Schwarzenberg we were able to push through that these asylum seekers will be returned from Czech Republic strictly on voluntary basis. But the fact, that I neglected the possible threat to economic relations with Russian Federation in the interest of protecting human rights, didn't suit many.
…I know about you, that you helped to gain asylum for one Chechen, who, during the war, helped foreign journalist that documented for the world the use of banned chemical and biological weapons in Chechnya, and who the Czech Republic was about to return to the hands of Kadyrov.
Kocab: Well, yes, what do you do, when a person comes to you asking for help? But because of this help to individuals, this was not the only case, I was often criticized.
Slovakia postpones extradition of two Chechen men pending European court verdict
24 november 2010
Bratislava - They have been waiting in a Slovak prison for four years, saying that if Slovakia extradites them to Russia, they will be tortured there. The European Court of Human Rights is expected to decide on two Chechen nationals, Anzor Chentiev and Ali Ibragimov, tomorrow. For the time being, Strasbourg has only issued an injunction that they should not be extradited.
Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union [SDKU]) cannot give her approval of their extradition until that date, even though Strasbourg assessed their complaint as ungrounded and thus agreed to their extradition to Russia in mid-September.
Zitnanska did not say yesterday how she would proceed. "The minister has not yet decided on the extradition of these people to Russia and is considering a further course of action," said Justice Ministry spokesman Peter Bubla.
Moscow has accused the two men of banditry and an attempt to assassinate Interior Ministry officials. As they turned to the European Court, they managed to gain time.
Although Strasbourg decided in mid-September that Slovakia could extradite them, it later told the Slovak authorities to wait until they heard the testimony of an unsuccessful Chechen asylum applicant who was allegedly tortured in Russia after he was extradited from Slovakia.
Many human rights activists have begun to appeal to the Slovak Government in the name of Chentiev and Ibragimov. Russian dissident Viktor Fainberg has made himself heard, as well as Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala, who heads the sub-committee for human rights. Belgian MEPs Bart Staes and Frieda Brepoels joined in as well.
Michael Kocab, former Czech minister for human rights, wrote to Prime Minister Iveta Radicova and met with several members of the government. He suggests that the two Chechens should be granted humanitarian asylum.
New Witness of Torture
In the meantime, the defence of Chentiev and Ibragimov has been taken over by human rights activists Hana Demeterova from the Czech nongovernmental organization Help One Person and Imran Ezhiev, asylum seeker in Germany and adviser to Belgian MEP Bart Staes, instead of Martin Skamla.
They asked Strasbourg a week ago to issue an injunction and temporarily ban Slovakia from extraditing the two Chechens to Russia.
The Chechens based their new complaint on not being provided an effective defence. They claim that Skamla did not work effectively and failed to submit a large amount of important evidence proving that they would face torture and ill treatment in Russia.
They claim that Skamla failed to submit the testimony of a former refugee from Chechnya who had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Slovakia in the past. After he was extradited, he was reportedly tortured in a Russian prison.
The European Court admitted to this fact in its original decision, where it wrote that the complainants wanted to submit a written statement of this refugee along with relevant medical reports. "No such documents have been submitted," said Strasbourg.
Chentiev and Ibragimov are also complaining about Skamla asking for money from them for his services, even though he was originally supposed to work pro bono.
According to Chentiev and Ibragimov, he asked their relatives to send him 500 and 200 euros, respectively. The money was allegedly sent to him on their behalf for their representation in Strasbourg by their friend, an asylum seeker from France.
Skamla refused to comment on all these accusations. "The European Court is still dealing with the new complaint. I am bound by the confidentiality obligation and would not like to make any comment that could possibly harm Messrs Chentiev and Ibragimov," said the attorney, adding that he would make a comment without problems after the final verdict was issued.
The Russian Prosecutor's Office charged Chentiev and Ibragimov with banditry and an attempt to assassinate officials of the Interior Ministry in Groznyy in 2001. They both claim that this is a fabricated accusation based on the testimony of a tortured witness.
Bron: BBC Monitoring European
July 22, 2010
Michael Kocab met the representatives of the Falun Gong
On June 22, 2010, the Czech Government Commissioner for Human Rights Michael Kocab received the practitioner of meditation method Falun Gong, Mr. Chung-Chang Liu. Together with other practitioners of Falun Gong, Mr. Liu and his family are victims of ten year long persecution by the Chinese government. Liu was forced to leave his homeland. Today, he lives in Netherlands and seeks support for actions condemning the terror of the Chinese state against the practitioners of Falun Gong.
Until 1999, Falun Gong was tolerated by the Chinese communists. Many of them also practiced it. Apart from the philosophical foundations of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance, Falun Gong is also a set of physical exercises keeping people in good shape, and thus sparing the communist regime the costs of health care. Then, when the number of its supporters approached 100 million members, the regime started to aggressively combat the movement. On July 22, 1999, a violent campaign against Falun Gong beginned. According to information available to us, there have been 3383 people tortured to death and hundred thousands are imprisoned in labor camps. Body organs were removed from many and they are being violated further.
During his meeting with the commissioner and director of the department for human rights, Czeslaw Walek, Mr. Liu described his story full of most brutal violence and humiliation by the guards in prison, where he spent 7 years, as well as by the inmates, who were, in certain cases, asked by the guards to torture the practitioners Falun Gong.
Since his visit, Michael Kocab received a resolution from the U.S. Congress against the brutal actions taken against Falun Gong, draft of declaration for the European parliament condemning combating of this movement and also acknowledgments for the Czech and Slovak governments, that they are capable of open and critical international reflections on the tyranny in People's Republic of China. „In China it is still possible today, that due the decisions of the state leaders, hundred thousands of people are thrown into the hell of killing, imprisonment, torture and forced labor. Our own experience of recent history bind us to point out these human rights disasters and to exert pressure on the relevant governments to stop the persecution“ Michael Kocab said.
Czech Ministers' attitude towards human rights violations in Venezuela
The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities of the Government of the Czech Republic, Michael Kocab, met Venezuelan activists fighting for human rights in their country. He met with advocates of unfairly tried, Mrs. Tamara Suchu, Mrs. Nadja Taide Olarte, Mr. Jan Ruml and other concerned people. The delegation expressed its concern about constant violations of human rights, to which the Venezuelan citizens are subjected in their own country, especially those, who are profiled as "opposition" to the government of the President Hugo Chavez. These people are persecuted in all possible ways, both in their own homes, as well as in their workplaces. The cases of imprisoned, detained and persecuted people are common and very diverse, all bear common signs of bias and total lack of legal impartiality. The political prisoners are generally placed under illegal and arbitrary detention, the principle of presumption of innocence is not observed. In the trials themselves, there are serious omissions, the judiciary lacks efficiency and impartiality, which leads to serious disruptions of the physical integrity of the detainees, threats to their honor and their dignity.
Minister Kocab, as a member of the Government of the Czech Republic, calls upon the international community to set its attention to this dire situation and to condemn it publicly. Thus, they will express their solidarity with all, who are forced to face these extremely difficult conditions, especially the victims of persecution among students, journalists, businessmen, soldiers and human rights activists.
In this context, Kocab's attention was called to the case of student leader Nixon Moreno, who was hiding in the Apostolic nunciature in Caracas, where he waited for assignment of political asylum in Vatican. On March 8, 2009, he left the seat of the nunciature in fears for his safety and his whereabouts are not yet known. Second alarming incident is the case of businessman Eligio Cedeño, who is illegally detained for two years and one month, without a proper judgement being delivered on him. His case as well as cases of many other political prisoners, passed to Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal, are in some sort of judicial vacuum, where they are arbitrarily denied justice and their lives are in many cases in direct danger.
„The attention and solidarity of the international community can provide them with at least moral support and perhaps even a partial protection,“ Kocab said.
Prague, March 23, 2009
Mr. Miroslav Vlcek, Ing.
Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies
of the Parliament of the Czech Republic
Dear Mr. Chairman,
on March 16, 2009, I received, as the Charge d'Affaires a.i. of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a request and instruction from the Minister of the Interior of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to investigate an incident, which happened by publishing declaration of the Czech Republic Government Minister for Human Rights Kocab, Minister in demission, called Ministers' attitude towards human rights violations, hereinafter the Attitude…
I emphasize, that my country has been accused in the worst way possible by a government representative of other country, without any evidence supporting the accusations contained in the Attitude. Nobody will dictate Venezuela, how to deal with criminal elements, and Venezuela will not allow anybody to influence the court proceedings.
This attack on sovereign state will not be left without response, and I, as an official representative of Venezuela in Czech Republic, ask you to deny the statements contained in the Attitude and to cooperate in uncovering the so-called „advocates“, who have influenced and deceived you by untrue information.
Representatives of Czech industry, social organizations, political parties etc. have been familiarized with the above Attitude.
I strongly believe, that based on my letter, you will take appropriate steps leading to amendment of the catastrophe, that you caused by publishing the Attitude.
Victor Julian Hernandez Leon
Charge d'Affaires a.i.
Press release: Attitude towards the case of Le Kim Thanh
The minister Michael Kocab will turn to the Minister of the Interior with the request to review the case of Mr. Le Kim Thanh during Monday's meeting of the government.
Mr. Le Kim Thanh (1983) comes from a poor rural area located in central Vietnam. He has completed secondary education with baccalaureate, finished compulsory military service. Given the fact that he has two younger siblings, the parents are seniors and they all lived in very poor circumstances, he felt responsible for providing help to his family and decided to work abroad. Employment agency Vietvanda, s.r.o. helped him to get work visa into Czech republic. He had to pay 6,000 U.S. dollars to get this employment opportunity, passport and plane ticket.
After being issued work visa and license from the Labor Office, he flew in Czech republic in February 2008 and started working in Kraliky. However, the job did not meet the promises, the wage was well below the minimum wage. When searching for a new job, he turned to the employment agency Vietvanda again, and they helped them find a different employer in Plzen. But not even here did the working conditions match those declared by the company. Therefore, the Vietvanda agency contacted employment agency M.B.T.C. s.r.o., which employed him and other 4 persons at Automotive-Petex s.r.o. company in Hostinne v Podkrkonosi as workmen helping molding rubber mats.
The five persons got to work on Friday, June 13, 2008. The employer promised to deal with all the legal technicalities himself. But the M.B.T.C.s.r.o. agency asked the Labor Office in Trutnov for work permit the following Tuesday, June 17, the Labor Office allowed the employment and the decision was legally valid on July 7, 2008. Mr. Le Kim Thanh was happy in the new job and started to pay off the debt in Vietnam.
But the fact that the Vietnamese workers unwittingly started to work before being issued work permit caused that, at first, the M.B.T.C.s.r.o agency was fined CZK 30,000 by the Labor Office. On October 1, 2008, the alien police in Trutnov administratively expelled the five foreigners for 1 year due illegal work, with the obligation to leave the country within 15 days. The Vietnamese workers appealed to the Directorate of Alien Police Service in Prague which lowered the length of the renvoi to 3 months, but confirmed the obligation to leave Czech republic. The decision of the Appellate Body was delivered to Mr. Le Kim Thanh, as the first member of the group, on December 23, 2008. Due to chaos during Christmas and due to sickness of Mr. Le Kim Thanh, the 10 day period for filing a court action was missed (standard time for administrative complaint is 2 months, but the alien act is an exception); the other Vietnamese workers manged to file the complaint in time and thus managed to postpone the feasibility of the decision of administrative renvoi. As a result of his continuing sickness and due to his total helplessness, Mr. Le Kim Thanh didn't leave the country within 15 days, stayed at the boarding house and with the help of Vietvanda agency traveled to Prague a few times to see a doctor.
On Tuesday, January 27, , 2009, Trutnov Alien Police came to seize the whole group of five Vietnamese, with dogs and with staff of TV Nova, which, on the same day, included a report of the police raid in their afternoon news. The foreigners were transported to Hradec Kralove, where their legal representative managed to prove that four of them filed a complaint, which postponed the feasibility of the decision. These four were then released at night. However, Mr. Le Kim Thanh got a new renvoi with the length of 5 years and was moved to detention camp for foreigners in Bela-Jezova, where he can be detained for up to 6 moths. Mr. Le Kim Thanh is trying to apply for international protection/asylum, but the Police and the Ministry of the Interior refuse to acknowledge his request and there is a real danger, that any day, he can be deported to Vietnam by plane. Mr. Le Kim Thanh is in vary bad psychological state, had a fever at the time of his apprehension and does not accept food since. During an interview with his legal representative, Mgr. Pavel Cizinsky, on Saturday, January 31, 2009, he stated that he would rather end his life than going back to Vietnam.
According to the Minister for Human Rights Michael Kocab, it is necessary to see the case of Mr. Le Kim Than in wider context. The punishment delivered by Czech authorities does not take into account the legal assessment of the case in the homeland of Le Kim Thanh. Vietnam severely persecutes unsuccessful guest workers, who have been deported. The persecution would also affect his family. Given the fact that Mr. Le Kim Thanh had worked based on agency permit, the Minister for Human Rights thinks it is necessary to review the whole case, especially the degree of blame of this person. On Monday, he will officially turn to the Minister of the Interior.
The minister Kocab states in the letter: "The return of Mr. Le Kim Thanh would have negative consequences on the possibility of his younger siblings to get an education and could also adversely effect the health of his parents. Compared to that, the social seriousness of the offense committed by Mr. Le Kim Thanh does not seem to be serious enough to justify the decision of expulsion."
In Prague, May 26, 2009
…"The strict approach of the state administration may, at the time when tens of thousands of people are worried about their employment, increase people's alertness against foreigners living and working in the Czech republic. But these days, there's enough of bad mood and bad news. The Czech society should be liberal and considerate, it will need the foreign workers once again," the minister Kocab added.
"...Given the fact that Mr. Le Kim Thanh worked based on agency permit, the Minister for Human Rights thinks it is necessary to review the whole case, especially the degree of blame of this person, and to refrain from harsh judgements in front of public scared by rising unemployment."
In Prague, February 26, 2009
30 April 2009, Czech Republic
Ex-KKK head's lecture cancelled
A lecture by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, that was planned to take place at a university in the Czech Republic has been cancelled by the institution. Mr Duke was visiting the country to promote a translation of his book My Awakening, Associated Press reported. He was due to give the lecture at Prague's Charles University to students taking a course on extremism, but the university cancelled the event after reportedly learning that neo-Nazis were planning to gatecrash it. Michael Kocab, Minister for Human Rights and Minorities in the outgoing Czech Government, described Mr Duke's visit as "alarming".
The Minister Kocab´s view on the appearance of Mr.Wilders in the Senate of Czech Republic
With regard to publicly presented opinions and attitudes of Mr. Wilders, I think that his speech might lead to incitement of religious respectively racial hatred. Article 20 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, that " Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law. ...
In a democracy, the freedom of speech and expression must not be restricted, yet it also has to be governed, apart from the legal limitations, by the ethics and morals of the society, which provides the freedom of religion to all without distinction. Therefore I welcome the decision of the Chairman of the Senate, Mr. Premysl Sobotka, to cancel the planned appearance of this person."
In Prague, November 20, 2009
November 23, 2009
Atthe suggestion of the Minister for Human RightsMichaelKocab, the Government of the Czech Republic expressed a regret over sterilizations ofwomen carried out in violation of the law.
By his suggestion, minister Kocáb informed the government about the existence of the problem of sterilization carried out in violation of the law. He suggested some measures, that should shed light on the practice of illegal sterilization and prevent recurrence of similar cases. The government expresseditsregretforidentifiedindividualerrors, thatoccurredduringpaststerilizationsin violation of the Ministry of Health's directive on sterilization.
From minister Kocáb's suggestion:
The practice of illegal sterilization can be divided into two periods. Before 1989, the state authorities abused strong social policies to force or support eugenic goals of improving "the quality of population", which was also reflected by pressure of social and legal authorities of the state to sterilize Roma women. The practice wasn't centrally controlled, but was tolerated and encouraged. After 1989 and during the time of independent Czech Republic, the state authorities already had enoughinformation to prevent the continuing practice of not following the rules set for sterilization and requirements for patient's informed consent in general.
Thus one ofthe most sensitivehuman rightswasviolatedin dozens ofcases, whereasthe state wasn't able to react adequately and effectively prevent these violations of the law.
The speech of the Government Commissioner for Human Rights Michael Kocab in Lety near Pisek, June 20, 2010
On May 4, 2009, the government approved a proposed solution of realization of sacred places in Lety near Pisek and in Hodonin near Kunstat, which I submitted together with then Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Ondřej Liska. The decision of the Government of the Czech Republic to honor with dignity the memory of Roma victims of the Holocaust is among the most important gestures of solidarity with Roma, which we have managed to achieve. In addition to efforts to recall the marginalized part of our history, the decision to pay off this debt was also sparked by increased atmosphere of ethnic tension, which apparently culminated by arson attack in Vitkov last spring.
...Europe was and is open to otherness, therefore we feel very sad, when we hear that the "project" of open and multicultural Europe is failing. We take it that this idea cannot fail, because it is a reality that we live together. On the contrary, the idea that minorities and groups can live side by side without knowing each other and without open acceptance is merely and ideological rhetoric.
...The ancient Jews had a habit of symbolically loading their sins on the back of a goat that would then be driven out into the desert. Similarly, in the twentieth century, the societies often supported governments in search of and in eradicating of collective evil to consolidate national or class identities. We should find a strength to bear our sins but also our merits. Everybody can make mistakes, but different cultures must find ways to learn to live together and even appreciate the benefits associated with different cultures. The process of disintegration would only lead to search for other and another party guilty of our own problems. And such tendencies culminated in genocide, that we are bringing back to memory at this place."
Roma camp in Lety near Pisek: Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS and Chief of German Police ordered on December 8, 1938, to "combat the gypsy nuisance from racial standpoint"."Work-shy people that have reached eighteen years of age and cannot prove having proper means of subsistence"were supposed to be moved to punitive labor camps. In total, 1309 persons underwent internation in this camp, of whom 326 did not survive the internment. Another quarter have been released or escaped (reputedly, it was possible get released for the price of 20,000 Protectorate Crowns). More than 100 attempts of escape were recorded, out of which about half were successful. Other prisoners were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp, two mass transports were carried out. Remaining prisoners were moved to "gypsy camp" in Hodonin near Kunstat or to collection camps in Prague and Pardubice. Only a small portion was released.
Interview with Michael Kocab: Decade of Roma Inclusion under the Czech baton
Prague, 6.7.2010, (Romano Vod'i)
The Czech Republic will be taking up the presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion at the same time as the government is closing its Human Rights and Minorities Ministry. What does the country plan for the presidency? Jarmila Balazova has interviewed Czech Human Rights Commissioner Michael Kocab for Romano voďi magazine.
The Czech Republic is taking up the presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion. What obligations and opportunities to contribute to addressing various priorities does that entail?
The obligations are enormous given that we are chairing a group of 12 states that have demonstrated their political will to address Roma inclusion. It is not a simple task to present the topic of Roma inclusion, including our particular priorities, in such a way that the representatives of all 12 countries come on board.
I believe the priority of implementing national policy at local level presents certain opportunities. We also have the opportunity to raise awareness in this country about positive programs for Roma inclusion and the results of a World Bank study, “The Cost of Exclusion”, which will be presented here in September. The study covers eight countries and its findings will show how much it will cost us in the future if we don’t invest into the social inclusion of the Roma today.
The cooperation already in place with various national and international organizations is another opportunity. Due to a lack of financing, we have had to arrange for most of the presidency’s activities to be undertaken in cooperation with others. This has promoted not just cooperation between ministries, but also between organizations such as the Foundation for Civil Society Development, the Roma Education Fund, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, etc.
How do you rate this initiative and the course of the Czech Republic’s participation in it to date?
For the time being it does not seem to be an initiative of distinction. That may be because the Czech national activities are in and of themselves rather distinguished and we are the ones able to offer various examples of good practice to the other Decade member states. However, it is important to note that without the Decade we would not have been able to successfully advocate during the Czech EU presidency for the Common Basic Principles on Roma Inclusion to be included in the EPSCO Council’s conclusions. These principles continue to be used in work at EU level.
That effort meant we succeeded in opening up the Roma issue up with larger, traditional EU democracies as a set of questions which the states of Central and Eastern Europe have been seriously concerned with. We have developed a specific approach regarding members of this ethnicity, significantly influenced by their participation in these programs. We know that states to the west of us, with perhaps the exception of Spain, approach problems related to the Roma and Travellers exclusively as social issues, as issues of social assistance and necessity. They are only now starting to concern themselves, albeit diffidently, with the serious study of questions related to the Roma minority and Roma culture.
This initiative is completely dependent on the approach and policies of the governments of the individual countries. How might the new Czech government and the Czech presidency influence it?
The materials are approved and the financing has been allocated. It depends on whether there will be any personnel changes. However, the visibility of this initiative will depend on the Human Rights Minister or Human Rights Commissioner, whichever has the presidency on its plate.
That relates to the Human Rights Minister post. Nonprofits called for it to be preserved and it was abolished nonetheless. It was first established in 2007 by the second Topolánek cabinet. Had it been preserved, how would that have influenced the Czech presidency of the Decade and the fulfillment of our priorities?
If the ministry had been strongly staffed we could have counted on it being easier to fulfill our priorities and, of course, with more media coverage for the initiative… Otherwise it will be completely the opposite, there is a fundamental difference between an international initiative being coordinated by a cabinet member, a minister, preferably one with a bona fide ministry, or merely by a government-appointed “commissioner”.
However, even if the activities are not coordinated by a cabinet member, I don’t believe the outcome for the fulfillment of the priorities will be too negative. The Decade Committee of the Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs has done its best both to strengthen the role of international organizations and other member states in financially supporting the organization of the presidency’s activities. Thanks to the widespread involvement of the Roma, their NGOs, various individuals and the expert public in this process, I am not worried about the fate of the presidency’s priorities.
Jarmila Balazova, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
On December 8, 2009, the Minister approved by her signature the purchase of the area, where hundreds of Czech Roma suffered during the protectorate before being deported to extermination camps in the east. The purchase of the Zalov center is a part of the project aimed at the restoration of sacred places associated with the Roma Holocaust, that was elaborated by Minister Michael Kocab...
"It is necessary to bear in mind, that even though the Second World War ended 65 years ago, there are still tendencies showing up in the society that downplay the tragedy of the genocide of Roma and Jews, or even do not recognize the tragedy. It is necessary to come out against these tendencies and show a good will to commemorate the victims with dignity. The restoration of the sacred places will also be stimulus for thousands of Roma, who are often essentially associated only with certain negative phenomena. "
In Prague, December 9, 2009
Today, the Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocab met OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek. Both politicians agreed that we now face an unprecedented challenge on local, state and European level. Answering the Commissioners question regarding minister Kocab's view on the position of policy of equal treatment and human rights in the time of crisis, the minister said: "it is necessary to repeat loudly and in public, that the issue of human rights is getting at the forefront of attention, because we have to overcome the bolshevik perception of the world that potatoes and corn are at the first place and only then come the people and quality of their life."
In Prague, February 26, 2009
Human rights are at the first place
„We are all obliged to contribute to the protection against discrimination within the whole society. Whatever seems to be a minority discrimination today can turn against all tomorrow. We are obliged to seek socially friendly environment for all people – even those that got, not always by their fault, into a situation of material scarcity, that they do not see a way out of. Of course, it is not possible to side the defaulters. But even "decent" people may, due to the economical crisis, find themselves on the margin of the society. And if the so-called zero tolerance principle gets entrenched in our society, municipalities can hit even them with unprecedented hardness. This transposition would not appear in our recent history for the first time. Voskovec and Werich in the thirties have already used hundreds of years old Francois Villon quote "Poverty people into villains turns; Because of hunger wolves leave the woods." Social exclusion leads to exclusion from the law, communication, education and economy. If the state and local authorities are not active, the problem will only grow.“
In Prague, March 26, 2009
"We must increase women's representation in politics ... The main argument for greater representation of women in politics are the different life experiences of women. Women have different insight of life priorities. They can bring a whole new spirit to politics. Male-controlled politics is technocratic, dominated by fights of individuals, who, in many cases, strive primarily for prestige and power. Negotiations led by women are, on the contrary, pragmatically oriented, quickly coming to a consensus and solution, which can lead to improvement of a specific life situation or elimination of a social problem. „Women also bring entirely new topics into politics, they focus on different areas of life of society. They also see purely „male subjects“, such as transportation, trade or energetics primarily with regard to the quality of life. During decision making they consider less the immediate impact on gross domestic product, but they promote life improvement...
Traditional barriers for women in politics are also, among others, social prejudices and the fact that they take over large part of care of families.
"170 men and just 30 women in the Chamber of Deputies decide about budget, investments into transportation, education and health care, culture and human rights. That results in an increased amount of heated football fields and other playgrounds. Meanwhile, shelters are being closed and the number of low-floor trams in the cities is not increasing significantly," minister Michael Kocab said.
In Prague, February 13, 2009
Government launches STOP violence against children campaign
Minister Kocab commented the campaign: "Children are one of the most important and beautiful reasons of our lives. I say, that they are the real VIPs. We lay our hopes, dreams and unfulfilled wishes on our children. Even the poorest of the families have a real wealth in their children. Even if our campaign prevented only a single case of violence against an innocent child, it was worth it."
In Prague, May 6, 2009
"I appreciate the very important work of the Czech government in protecting and promoting human rights, the important role of the Office of the Minister for Human Rights and especially his personal commitment to promote human rights principles and integration of Roma."
Navanethen Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
"I appreciate the actions of Minister Kocab in this government, he made an earnest agenda out of human rights questions in a situation when these issues are really gaining importance, as well as the fight against extremism. Michael Kocab was a minister, who was able to show sound judgement and good political instinct especially when it came to the point during government meetings, I also really appreciate that."
Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of Czech Republic
"On behalf of an international agency associating 2.8 million people from around the world, we would like to appreciate your actions that you have done on the post of Minister for Human Rights of the Czech Republic. You tried to give appropriate substance to a function, that is not yet much established, and you have addressed the broad agenda. We consider essential your condemnation of right-wing extremism, pursuit of racial desegregation of Czech society and enforcing of anti-discrimination law."
Dasha van der Horst, director of Amnesty International Czech Republic
From the letter of Hongchang Liou to the Commissioner for Human Rights, August 2010:
"My family and hundreds of millions of people practicing Falun Gong are very grateful for your honest support and enthusiastic help. Awareness of your action in the interest of justice and of the attitude of Czech Republic regarding protection of international law is spreading throughout the world. You and the dear citizens of the Czech Republic have achieved a victory on the world scene, that will go down in history of the world and China.
A statement, that you have published after our conversation, has been translated into Chinese and is being spread throughout the world using media managed by people practicing Falun Gong. Using software overcoming Internet blockage, the statement is also spread on the territory of China. Hundreds of millions of people practicing Falun Gong in China are now spreading this statement everywhere with joy, informing others about your work in favor of protecting the safety of our lives, guarantee of our lives and in favor of stopping the killing.
The people in China practicing Falun Gong now devote all their efforts to dissolve the Communist Party of China. Thus 78,819,650 Chinese have already left this communist totalitarian organization. Soon, this party of evil will have no members and then a new China will come into existence, one, in which freedom and human rights will be observed. The Chinese people and the government of China will then never forget that you and the citizens of the Czech Republic provided us with support and help during the toughest period.
On behalf of hundreds of millions people practicing Falun Gong, I would like to express our sincere gratitude. We hope, that you will keep your righteous thoughts and kind heart, and we will always appreciate your future help and support of our rights resulting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
"Although I am struggling with a self-destructing addiction to smoking for a long time myself, I admit time has come to set a clear set of legal rules to better protect coming generation from alcohol and tobacco and to allow them a better start in life," minister Kocab said.
In Prague, August 21, 2009
The Observer, Sunday 6 September 2009
With Havel elected as the new president of democratic Czechoslovakia in December 1989, events took an extraordinary turn. Frank Zappa – after whose song the Plastic People were named – was invited to join the government. The then 49-year-old rock star had been approached shortly before the revolution by Michael Kocab, keyboard player with another band, Prague Selection, who had been less harassed than the Plastics. Zappa admired a piece Kocab had composed called Odysseus and when Kocab became a leader of Havel's Civic Forum party and adviser to the president, Zappa accepted his invitation to visit Prague and meet Havel.
In Barry Miles's book, Zappa says: "It was unbelievable. Never in my 25 years in the rock'n'roll business have I gotten off an aeroplane and seen anything like this. They were totally unprepared for the situation, there was no security, but the people were just wonderful" – all 5,000 of them.
By Vaclav Havel and Richard Avedon
The New Yorker, December 20, 1993
FRANK ZAPPA was one of the gods of the Czech underground during the nineteen-seventies and eighties. It was an era of complete isolation. Local rock musicians and audiences were hounded by the police, and for those who refused to be swept aside by persecution—who tried to remain true to a culture of their own—Western rock was far more than just a form of music. At that time, Frank Zappa hung somewhere high up in the heavens, a star as inaccessible as the many others whose influence was felt in the local scene, like the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart. I never dreamed that I might meet him one day, but shortly after the revolution, when I was already President, Zappa turned up in Prague. He arrived during a period still vibrant with revolutionary energy. He jammed with local musicians and paid me a visit in the Castle, and we went out drinking together. He was the first rock celebrity I had ever met, and, to my great delight, he was a normal human being, with whom I could carry on a normal conversation. He was eager to learn everything he could about the radical changes taking place in the countries of the former Soviet bloc. He was curious about what this sudden collapse of a bipolar world might bring. He wanted to know what we thought about the future position of the Soviet Union in world politics, and he probed us about the negative as well as the positive aspects of the “velvet” course we had set for ourselves.
What fascinated and excited him was the idea that the artist had a role to play in active politics. He gave serious thought to offering unofficial assistance to our country, in both cultural and economic spheres, and I learned later that he had discussed the matter in detail with several ministers. Perhaps his illness prevented him from taking on this kind of work, but his sincere concern for our country made a deep impression un me. So did his appearance with Michael Kocab and his band, Prague Select, at a gala concert in June of 1991 to celebrate the final departure of the Soviet troups from Czechoslovakia after an occupation of almost twenty-three years. He was seriously ill at the time, but he took part all the same. It was one of his last appearances as a rock musician.
I thought of Frank Zappa as a friend. Meeting him was like entering a different world from the one I live in as President. Whenever I feel like escaping from that world—in my mind, at least—I think of him.
(Translated from the Czech, by Paul Wilson)
Czechoslovaks Deal Over Who Will Rule
December 09, 1989, Paula Butturini, Chicago Tribune
PRAGUE, CZECHOSLOVAKIA — One day after the resignation of Communist Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec, leaders of Czechoslovakia`s beleaguered Communist Party and its burgeoning opposition movement opened crisis negotiations expected to speedily and radically trim the party`s 41-year hold on power.
If the opposition gets its way, the negotiations would not only thrust the Communists into a minority Cabinet role for the first time since 1948, but also result in a new prime minister, a new president and a new character for the entire federal administration and bureaucracy, said Michael Kocab, a leading member of the negotiating team for the opposition Civic Forum.
Kocab described the first round of Friday`s negotiations as ``very constructive`` but said final agreement was not likely before Sunday, when the new government could be sworn in.
Vaclav Havel's address to the US Congress, 21 February 1990
Dear Mr. President, dear Senators and Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen:
The last time they arrested me, on October 27 of last year, I didn't know whether it was for two days or two years. Exactly one month later, when the rock musician Michael Kocab told me that I would be probably proposed as a presidential candidate, I thought it was one of his usual jokes.
On the 10th of December, 1989, when my actor friend, Jiri Bartoska, in the name of the Civic Forum, nominated me as a candidate for the office of president of the republic, I thought it was out of the question that the parliament we have inherited from the previous regime would elect me.
Nineteen days later, when I was unanimously elected president of my country, I had no idea that, in two months, I would be speaking in front of this famous and powerful assembly and that what I say would be heard by millions of people who have never heard of me and that hundreds of politicians and political scientists would study every word that I say…
Pullout Of The 'Barbarians'
Picture a fairy-tale castle, perched above a sparkling river. Now take a tour. Coal fills the picture gallery. The library is a basketball court. The chapel, its priceless frescoes painted over, has become a shower room. Toilets empty directly into the cellars, where the raw sewage is five feet deep. This is the sorry legacy of the Soviet Army in Decin, a 14th-century citadel of Bohemian kings in northwest Czechoslovakia. For more than 20 years, Soviet troops used the ancient redoubt as their headquarters, barracks and occasional shooting gallery. The result is devastation. "They destroyed it like barbarians," says Zdenek Kropacek, mayor of the town from which Decin Castle takes its name.
Soviet forces, once 75,000 strong, will complete their withdrawal from Czechoslovakia by the end of this month. They have left a ghastly mess behind them in rundown bunkers, barracks, airstrips, offices and ammunition dumps. To add insult to injury, the Soviets want their former hosts to pay for these "investments" in the local infrastructure. The Soviets are asking hundreds of thousands of dollars for airfields that the Czechoslovaks want only to return to farmland. They have put a price of $1 million--in hard currency, please-on a damp, cramped concrete apartment block outside Prague. Windows and doors are smashed and fixtures, from light sockets to kitchen sinks, have been stripped and sent back to Moscow. The Soviets also want $170 million for 3,000 other buildings, scattered among 160 bases.
The Czechoslovaks have drawn up some bills of their own. "We say they should pay us for all the damage they have done," says Michael Kocab, head of the parliamentary commission overseeing the Soviet withdrawal. He reckons Moscow should pay $100 million for destruction of local property. "That doesn't include the cost of communism itself," he adds. He also calculates that the Soviets have done $70 million worth of environmental damage by indiscriminate dumping of fuel and hazardous wastes. At Milovice, headquarters of Soviet forces in Czechoslovakia, tests show a six-foot-thick layer of spilled jet fuel floating below ground, just above the water table. In low-lying areas, it's possible to dig a shallow hole in the ground and ignite a fire that might burn for hours.
The Soviets are not leaving gracefully. In Frenstat, a town of 10,000 on the Polish border, local authorities ordered them to "clean up" before pulling out. Instead, the Soviets burned many of their barracks to the ground; tanks appear to have flattened others. Troops looted the town, locals say, emptying the shops of everything from toothpaste to toilet paper and walking off with geese and chickens.
The Czechoslovaks don't really expect the Soviets to pay for the damage they have done. Prague is angling for a break even settlement in which each side's demands cancel out those of the other and little, if any, money actually changes hands. The Soviets leave behind serious problems, to be sure. But the environmental damage they caused is minuscule compared with the pollution from Czechoslovakia's own industries. Even if the cleanup of Moscow's mess turns out to be costly and time-consuming, most people think it's a price worth paying. The Soviet Army is going home, and that's what matters most.
Soviet nuclear arsenal in Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia was the last communist country of Central and Eastern Europe to host Soviet troops during the Cold War. They arrived in 1968 as “brotherly assistance” to help keep the communist hardliners in power, and they stayed until the fall of communism 19 years later. One of the top secrets of the military command was the fact that the Soviets deployed nuclear warheads on Czechoslovak territory.
A few days ago, the last Czechoslovak communist Chief of General Staff and the first democratic defence minister, General Miroslav Vacek confirmed that the Soviet Union did have nuclear weapons positioned in Czechoslovakia.
“Of course they were here. The Soviet Army had nuclear weapons in several storage facilities in Czechoslovakia, but the Czechoslovak army did not own them. The storage facilities were built in 1969. I don’t know when exactly nuclear weapons were brought here but it was certainly some time in the 1970s, at the latest.”
The issue whether or not Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia were armed with nuclear weapons was top secret throughout the communist era. An open debate on the issue only started after the 1989 revolution but there was a lack of evidence, one way or another. Even today, the Russian embassy in Prague is refusing to formally confirm the missiles’ existence. Vladimir Fedorov is the embassy’s spokesman.
“As far as Mr Vacek’s statement is concerned, there is good reason to believe that there have never been nuclear weapons on Czech soil.”
Petr Lunak is the author of “Planning the Unthinkable: Czechoslovak War Plans 1950 – 1990”. I asked him if he thought General Vacek was right.
“What surprises me is that General Vacek has come out with this statement because he was until recently vociferously denying the fact that nuclear warhead could have been deployed on Czech territory. In fact, I published a book last year which, among other things, contains a Czechoslovak-Soviet treaty from 1965 that sets the ground for the construction of three nuclear storage facilities for Soviet nuclear war heads. We don’t have any hard evidence that nuclear warheads were actually deployed on Czech territory but we have every reason to believe that they were.”
Michael Kocab is a rock musician whose band, Prague Selection, was banned in the 1980s. After the revolution he became an MP and masterminded the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. He took me to Běela pod Bezdezem, a former Soviet military base and one of the storage facilities for nuclear warheads.
“When I was head of the Parliamentary commission for the withdrawal of Soviet troops, at one point I received a message that somewhere between Bělá pod Bezdězem and Kurivody, near the refugee camp that is here today, there was a bunker where nuclear warheads were allegedly stored. So I got together the army people responsible for the withdrawal and we came here, with an anti-explosive squad, the military police and the Russians were here as well of course. There were quite a few of us here. I think the current Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova might have been here as well. When we got here we discovered a bunker; after some complications I finally managed to get inside. I am 99.9 percent certain that it was a bunker for nuclear warheads.”
Michael Kocab and his team visited the site in the autumn of 1990, after the warheads had been removed. Revisiting the former Soviet military base, Mr Kocab took me to a derelict bunker overlooking what once was one of the highest security areas in the country.
“I believe that we are now standing in the launch control room because we are looking at something we both agree might have been a launching pad. It looks like some kind of a small flat plateau with stairs going to the top of it and with gun posts all around it. We are now some 100 to 200 metres from the site where the bunker stood. I think it has been covered up with soil. They must have done it shortly after our visit because they didn’t like us being here at all. But if we searched the whole area here I believe we would find all the other launching pads. I was here with some 30 or 40 other people and they all witnessed what we saw.”
The Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia were part of the Central Group of Soviet Forces with potentially defensive and offensive tasks. The last commander of the Soviet forces stationed in Czechoslovakia was General Eduard Vorobyov. On the phone from Moscow, General Vorobyov says he openly talked about nuclear weapons in Czechoslovakia right after the fall of communism.
“I was asked the same question at the first press conference in 1989 on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. The answer was affirmative. We did indeed have nuclear weapons in the rocket brigades as part of the Central Group of Soviet Forces that I commanded. During the Cold War, and especially on the frontier with the NATO block, it would be illogical to have nuclear carriers without nuclear ammunition.”
The Czechoslovak army did not have the warheads at its disposal as they would only be released in the event of an armed conflict with the West. They were under the direct command of Moscow headquarters, and were removed very soon after the Warsaw Pact started to collapse in late 1989. General Vorobyov again.
“At the time of the press conference I was talking about, in 1989, all nuclear ammunition had already been removed from Czechoslovak territory – without the participation of the Central Group of Soviet Forces. I was only told that there were no longer any nuclear weapons in Czechoslovakia. Journalists at the press conference also asked me whether chemical weapons were stored in Czechoslovakia, and I said that no chemical weapons whatsoever were positioned there.”
Gradually, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. For definite proof of a Soviet nuclear arsenal in Czechoslovakia though, we will have to wait for Russian military archives to open up.
…One of the coolest undertakings I have ever done, and not just for my job, was an excursion with Michael Kocab to a former Soviet base in central Bohemia in search of Cold-War-era silos for nuclear missiles. Mr Kocab was the head of the post-1989 Czechoslovak parliamentary commission in charge of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Before this illustrious assignment, he was also the leader of a famous rock band, Prague Selection. The band might not be very well-known abroad, but for anyone who grew up in 1980s Czechoslovakia, Michael Kocab is and always will be a rock star. Driving with him to the base was an extraordinary experience. People recognized him wherever we went and he was very good at handling members of the public – actually, deep-down enjoying the experience. However, he was surprised that his face alone would not get him past the police checkpoint into a refugee camp that is now on the site of the former base.
Legendary underground band- Prague Selection- celebrates 25th anniversary
24-03-2005, Nikola Brabenec
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of legendary underground band- Prazsky Vyber. During the mid 1980s the band was blacklisted by the communist regime and became a symbol of resistance. Following the Velvet Revolution front man Michael Kocab acted as one of Vaclav Havel's main advisors and oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops. To celebrate the anniversary, Czech television has just released a documentary film which tracks the bands history and makes use a of a wide range archive material.
Prazsky Vyber Generally, the members of the Prazsky Vyber (Prague Selection) felt that the film was a good reflection of their history. One of the most fascinating parts of the film was watching Michael Kocab's development from musician to politician to businessman and then back to musician again. I asked him if these different roles could be compatible:
"The world of politics and the world of art seem quite compatible to me. It both cases, you are working for others, as a musician you compose for them and as a politician you try to improve people's lives. In both cases you can take advantage of it but you don't have to if you don't want to. You can stay clean. Havel was a good example.
However, the world of business is not compatible with music or politics. It disrupts the system of altruism. I mean, I know in politics people are often not altruistic but at least that is the original intent."
A few times in the film, band members complained that the communist regime stopped them from performing just when they were reaching their creative peak. Drummer Klaudius Kryspin recently re-emigrated from Australia to play with the band again…
September 6, 2006: Written on flight from Milan, Italy to New York City:
Yesterday I got up at 3 AM after four hours' sleep. The goal was to write a poem worthy of one of Kocab's incredible compositions. Having scored soundtracks for more than 300 movies, he's very good at writing music that creates specific moods, invoking strong emotions.
The one piece - I heard many - I had chosen to work with has a majesty and grandeur that attracted my creativity. On this particular morning it was not to be. I got one line and a title and felt more like exploring guitar playing. Sometimes I think it's better to simply move on when inspiration isn't flowing.
… On this particular morning I was to be at Michael Kocab's Shoebox Studio at 7 AM, so no Café Savoy for me. Michael had been up all night, as is his norm, and played me the mix he had made of Petra. I was standing behind him, listening to the big Tannoy monitors, so he didn't see me crying. This man, Czech's most respected musician - Vaclav Havel's helper in ousting Communism from then-Czechoslovakia - had seen something in me and had helped a little song written to my Norwegian cousin's mother become a magnificent statement of human compassion!
He then turned the studio over to me, as he needed to go home and sleep. His bedroom has soundproof panels that lower over his windows so he can sleep during the day in dark silence. Having been a ProTools devotee since 1989, I saw some things in his mix that would suit me better with just little tweak here, a little change there. It didn't take much to make it presentable to the world.
This didn't really take very long so I sat down and wrote a song, Tik Tok. Took about 15 minutes. It's odd creating art, because you do it in a spirit of unthinking, uncaring fun and one never knows how people will react to it.
This trip to Czech Republic was necessitated by an invitation from Kocab to perform live on TV with him. This show was special because the bulk of it was spent with conversations between Kocab, Bolek Polivka and Vaclav and Dagmar Havel.
Dagmar - Dasha to many - and Bolek attended acting school at the same time in Brno and went on to become respectively the most respected and popular actress and actor/TV personality in the country.
Kocab had been in politics for ten years and had been very close to Havel, an international hero. Quite a lineup for a Czech TV show!
We set up in the public part of the restaurant in the hotel on Polivka's horse ranch, a grand affair not far from Brno. Regarded as king of the area where the ranch resides, Bolek's manner validates that popular assessment.
His horse ranch commands a beautiful view of rolling hills. Besides both public and private restaurants, there is a wonderful hotel on the property where the public, as well as guests involved in diverse projects stay. Being very popular for his comedic roles on TV and in movies, Bolek has acquired many amazing gifts and rare finds that give his hotel a sense of childlike, creative, sophisticated fun.
An invitation-only crowd of about eighty filled the restaurant, along with all the cameras and crew. A small stage had been brought in upon which the subjects of all this focus would reside.
Michael had recorded backing tracks for our accompaniment during the show. We did a sound check, got all the levels balanced and were satisfied the performances would run hitch-free.
Just before show time, all the talent was gathered in the private restaurant and we talked, had drinks and did the little things performers do just prior to a performance. For me, that is stretch out, concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply and keep a very focused mental point.
After warming up the audience for about five minutes, Bolek introduced us one by one, "From Seattle, Roger Fisher! Michael Kocab! Dagmar Havel!" And then some preliminary buildup, "Vaclav Havel!" It was very obvious the intense adoration and respect for this international hero! The audience response was lovingly enthusiastic.
I took a seat just off stage. The others sat around a table and began conversations that included many never-heard-before stories of personal occurrences between Michael and Vaclav during their tenure as Communism-ousters.
It was an odd situation for me. Not knowing what they were saying, I felt it necessary to laugh when everybody else laughed, smile at the appropriate times.
Then the moment came for me to perform Petra. I wasn't nervous. I've been in this business a long time and know how to keep focus and not go to that dangerous place where adrenalin builds up and creates an "anything can happen" feeling. The pressure was intense.
The song started and I jump in right after, as expected. The playing and singing are going along just fine...the cd stops playing! I smile at the audience and shrug, knowing we can retake it. It starts again...same place, it quits. I give a gentle shout back to the engineer, "Vlasy on disc!" Vlasy means hair. Whatever he did, the third time was charming and I felt good about the performance. Then we did one of Kocab's songs and I got to enjoy myself simply playing guitar. That felt real good!
October 5, 2006: Written in Czech Republic:
… Now 4 PM. I'm sitting in the balcony of an incredibly beautiful building which boasts the second oldest roof in Europe. This church exists because of the efforts of Dagmar and Vaclav Havel's foundation, which raised money to restore it. The room must be 80 feet from floor to ceiling. There are numerous tall windows peaking with gothic arches. The walls are an amazing combination of faded frescoes, one atop the other, painted in the 14th and 15 centuries. I'm seated beside my friend, Michael Kocab, organizer of the event. To my left is Vaclav's brother. Vaclav is seated 30 feet down and 40 feet in front of our privileged view, next to wife Dagmar. Behind them, producing a wonderfully resonating sound is a 27-piece string orchestra. This is the second of two of Vaclav Havel's birthday party celebrations.
… Around 10 PM. It's great being a musician, getting opportunities to do things like sitting here with Kocab's manager, Ales, watching the best band in this country rehearse.
Shoebox Studio sports an amazing ceiling light that, with the touch of a button, lowers down to the floor and becomes a round conference table. It was around this table in the late '80's where many of the plans were laid to oust Communism in 1989. Kocab was Havel's right hand man and both are national heroes.
Let's go there, I don't know where...
Mimon army base in the times of peak capacity was among the biggest army bases in the Czech Republic and it suddenly became abandoned with the leaving of the Soviet army back home. When this happened in 1992, a song by Michael Kocab with Prazsky Vyber (the CD is called Adieu Soviet Army) was singing for them on their way out.
The Czech composer, instrumentalist and singer Michael Kocab has been an important figure in modern Czech music since the end of the 1970s. He studied at the Prague conservatory (studying organ with Jiri Ropek and composition with Ilja Hurnik). He was already artistically active during his studies with Prague big band Milana Svobody and Jiri Stivin.
He subsequently founded his own group, Pražský výběr, which helped determine the evolutionary line of Czech rock in the 1980s. After a jazz-rock period, he got to know guitarist Michal Pavlicek ,and together they steered the band toward modern waters. The band recorded the album Straka v hrsti (A Magpie in the Hand) in 1982, but the record was forbidden to be released (it came out six years later).
After resuming activities, the group then enjoyed their most celebrated years, selling out sports halls and recording new records. A joint recording with Michal Pavlíček followed (the album Černé světlo (Black Light)), as did a solo record (Povídali, že mu hráli (They Said They Played For Him)) and film (Pražákům, těm je tu hej (The Praguers Have It Good)).
Michael Kocab’s transformation from musician to politician began in the summer of 1989 at the Děčínská kotva music festival, when he said that “Every nation has the government it deserves” in a live television broadcast. Afterward, he founded the Most (Bridge) initiative with lyricist Michal Horacek, and was involved in direct negotiations between representatives of the Communist Party and the Civic Forum in November 1989. Kocab was subsequently a member of the federal Parliament for nearly two years. As chairman of a parliamentary committee, he primarily devoted himself to the removal of Soviet troops.
After this was fully executed, he gave up his parliamentary mandate and organized a concert for the occasion. Prague Selection played at this event, and were joined by Kocab’s friend Frank Zappa. When Vaclav Havel became president, he brought Michael Kocab to the castle with him as an unpaid external adviser.
In the 1990's, Prague Selection got back together several times. They recorded an album, played a few concerts and then went their separate ways again. In his most recent solo outing, Michael Kocab released the album Za kyslík (For Oxygen), which combines his New Wave roots with dance impulses.
Minister of Rock
By Anna Porter
Maclean’s, December 15, 2009
Czech Michael Kocab is part revolutionary, part pop star
Michael Kocab, the Czech Republic’s minister for minorities and human rights, has not enjoyed a good year. It should have been: 2009, after all, has been a time of celebration, marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that toppled the Communist regime—a revolution in which Kocab, as a dissident and famous rock musician, played a leading role. Instead, he has been dealing with some of his country’s uglier elements. Far-right extremists have been parading through towns with signiﬁcant Roma populations; someone threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of a Roma family home in Vitkov, near the Moravian-Silesian border, injuring three people. David Duke, the infamous former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, was invited to give a speech in the Czech Republic in April about the superiority of whites over all others (he was arrested and expelled). The Czech translation of his dreadful book, My Awakening, was published by Prague’s Kontingent Press.
There have been neo-Nazi gatherings, including one where participants marched through the small town of Usti nad Labem to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth. As the financial crisis has deepened, the ultra-nationalists have attracted more of the young, who share a sense of frustration and anger. And even as Czechs celebrate 20 years of democracy, the times are reminiscent of a darker side two decades ago, when discontent followed the new government’s stiff economic measures and the Roma became the scapegoats, with one 17-year-old Roma boy killed in the town of Pisek, and Usti nad Labem eventually erecting a wall between its Roma and non-Roma populations.
Even the Czech liberal press has become critical of the Roma, who receive taxpayer-funded benefits, blaming them for using their “excessive free time,” in the words of one commentator, to commit petty crimes and irritate their neighbours. Emigrating to Canada may have seemed like a happy solution to some Roma, but earlier this year a sharp rise in the number of Roma seeking asylum prompted the Canadian government to impose visa requirements on Czech citizens. Kocab, meanwhile, has blamed local governments for failing to support their Roma, but has also accused his fellow federal politicians of marginalizing the minority. In parliament in June, he presented a declaration against all forms of extremism, signed by the leaders of all parties, the chairs of both the lower and upper houses, and ex-president Vaclav Havel.
Kocab’s office is in Straka’s Academy, the seat of the Czech government, a massive baroque building stretching along the River Vltava in the centre of Prague. In its formal entrance foyer there is a marble statue of a young girl; she is larger than life-size and completely naked, which may account for the fact that she seems somewhat uncomfortable. The minister seems equally uncomfortable in his vast office on the second floor. Still a musician, he is in his mid-50s, tall and loose-limbed, wearing slim-cut blue jeans and a black jacket over a black T-shirt.
Until 1982, when his rock band, Prazsky Vyber (“Prague selection,” a humorous reference to a cheap Czech wine), was forbidden to perform or record because authorities deemed their attitude “non-socialist,” Kocab had paid scant attention to politics.
Censorship changed that. When the band returned with a live televised show in 1989, he had the opportunity to speak his mind from the stage. “Every nation gets the government it deserves,” Kocab told the audience. “This nation is at a crossroads. We are more than ever responsible for what happens now.”
That speech had an effect on many, perhaps even Ladislav Adamec, the last Communist prime minister of Czechoslovakia. In November 1989, at the beginning of what came to be known as the Velvet Revolution, Kocab, by then a high-profile member of Havel’s Civic Forum coalition, was summoned to the government offices for negotiations. He would enter through a side door, to be led upstairs by one of the prime minister’s trusted men. Nothing had been decided yet. But “we were talking about the handover of government,” Kocab says. “He still thought there was going to be a role for him. That we would devise something like the Polish round table, that there would be a gradual transition.” There would not be, of course, but here was Kocab, conversing with the head of one of the most repressive regimes in the Soviet bloc, negotiating for democracy at a time when “the hard-liners were still urging military action against us.”
Kocab also assumed the task of dealing with the army. He remembers going to army headquarters with Vaclav Klaus, currently the Czech president, to have a tense but cordial meeting with chief of general staff Gen. Miroslav Vacek. The general agreed that troops would not fire on Czech civilians if the leaders of Civic Forum ensured there would be no mob attacks against soldiers.
Given the long years of suppression and the brutal beating of students just days before in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, this was a tough demand, but Havel’s extraordinary credibility ensured a non-violent revolution.
When did Kocab realize that the old regime had ended—that they had won? He tells me the story of his 1990 visit to the Kremlin, as the member of parliament charged with engineering the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia, accompanied by Alexander Dubcek, hero of the 1968 Prague Spring, then the speaker of the Czechoslovak parliament. All the way to Moscow, Dubcek, understandably nervous, worked on his speech to the Supreme Soviet. The last time he had been in the Kremlin was in August 1968, after Soviet tanks had crushed his reform movement, and he was called on the carpet by the Politburo for his liberal ideas. Soon afterwards, he lost his position as first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist party’s central committee, and sent into political exile.
Dubcek had been preparing this speech for weeks, but he felt it was still not perfect. This was probably the only time that a Slovak would have the opportunity for such a speech, and for this Slovak, who had briefly defied the Soviet Union with his ideals of Communism “with a human face,” it was a historic moment. Alas, when the moment arrived, Dubcek was nowhere to be found.
“We stood at the entrance to that vast hall—we had all seen it on our TV screens so many times, the very heart of the Soviet empire—and we waited,” Kocab recalls. “I went down the hall, opening doors, looking into every toilet cubicle, taking my time, still hoping he would turn up. He didn’t.” Eventually, the Soviet hosts urged Kocab to speak instead. “Suddenly and inevitably,” he says, “I was standing at the podium where Stalin had once stood, murdering history.”
Kocab’s first word was “Hello.” A sea of severe, immobile faces looked up at him. He imagined every one of them as a hostile, disapproving Leonid Brezhnev. Then he tried a few tentative sentences and a joke. The interpreter was so terrible that a few of the stone-faced men started to smile. Thus encouraged, Kocab tried another joke, and the room erupted into laughter.
At the time there were some 200,000 Soviet soldiers in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. One of their top secret facilities stored nuclear warheads on Czechoslovakian territory. Shortly thereafter, the facilities had been dismantled and the soldiers had gone home.
At the time of the Moscow trip, Kocab had been involved with a movie about his band at the state-owned film studios in Prague’s Barrandov buildings, which had once belonged to the Havel family (and would again). Today, the members of the band have changed, the video quality has improved, the venues are more professional as are the recordings, but the sound is the same. They still fill theatres and bring huge audiences to their feet. Indeed, the minister recently returned from a sold-out gig in Bratislava, now the capital of an independent Slovakia. He shows a video of the band and one of its lead singers: Michael Kocab, in white wig, black T-shirt, white gloves and trademark dark glasses. He is prancing about the stage, waving his naked arms (are those real or instant tattoos on his upper arms?), shouting into the mike as the music thuds and the audience has risen to its feet, screaming the words along with the minister of minorities and human rights.
Kocab says there is sometimes a crossover between the two halves of his life. When earlier this year he asked parliament to vote for a Roma Holocaust memorial, his colleagues reminded him that there was an economic crisis, that this was a time for cutbacks, not for new projects that would cost 120 million koruna ($7.3 million). In response, Kocab sang them a song about a man who has lost his memory, and all he can remember is one song.
It worked. In May, the government agreed to fund the creation of a memorial at the site of the notorious Lety concentration camp. It’s expected to open next year. Kocab, who does not like the “game of politics,” says he took his portfolio because he believes strongly in human rights. Perhaps a reminder of the horrors the Roma experienced in the past will force some Czechs to re-examine their current prejudices—and advance Kocab’s cause.
… КАК МЫ ВХОДИЛИ В ЧССР И КАК УХОДИЛИ ИЗ ЕВРОПЫ
Сразу оговоримся: все, что произошло в 1968 году в Чехословакии, — подлость и предательство одного государства по отношению к другому. Исполнители высочайшей злой воли — солдаты и офицеры Советской армии. Наше государство всегда обладало уникальным свойством делать заложниками своих граждан, отдавая им преступные приказы. Солдаты считали, что были правы, что они выполняли долг перед властью. Это только в военной присяге написано, что перед Родиной. Но Родине не нужны ни оккупация Чехословакии, ни война в Афганистане, ни бойня в Чечне.
Из этого порочного круга нам не выбраться, если власть будет и дальше отдавать преступные приказы. А исполнители всегда найдутся. Поэтому «некруглая» 36-я годовщина оккупации Чехословакии — повод напомнить не просто о прошлом, но и о нашей ответственности перед будущим.
… Длившийся 16 месяцев вывод советских войск проходил без цветов и прощальных духовых оркестров. «Мы не отмечали их прихода, не будем отмечать и уход», — сказал мне Милослав Мюллер, староста местечка Миловице, откуда отправился к чехословацко-советской границе тот самый эшелон.
Начиная с февраля 1990 года, когда министры иностранных дел Динстбир и Шеварднадзе подписали в Москве соответствующее соглашение, по июнь 91-го Чехословакию покинули 113 тысяч 421 человек, включая солдат, офицеров, членов их семей и вольноопределяющихся. Кроме того, были вывезены почти 95 тысяч тонн боеприпасов, 1220 танков, 2505 боевых машин пехоты и другая техника, для чего понадобились 33 тысячи вагонов. Если их сцепить, то получится состав длиной в 465 километров. Да вдобавок на своих крыльях улетела целая воздушная армия.
Взаимодействие между командованием Центральной группы войск в ЧСФР и чехословацкими официальными представителями было деловым и спокойным. Председатель специальной парламентской комиссии по надзору за выводом огромной армейской группировки Михаэл Коцаб (известный в прошлом рок-музыкант) не скупился на похвалы в адрес командующего ЦГВ генерал-полковника Эдуарда Воробьева, а тот, в свою очередь, высоко оценил работу комиссии. Генерал последним покинул Чехословакию 28 июня.
Я помню, как Эдуард Воробьев с букетом цветов поднялся по трапу транспортного Ан-24, развернулся, приложил руку к козырьку генеральской фуражки и скрылся в утробе самолета. Сверкание фотовспышек было ему прощальным салютом на военном аэродроме Кбелы. А незадолго до этого он скрепил своей подписью протокол о завершении вывода войск. К подписанию документа, который содержит всего 150 слов, чехи и словаки шли 8343 дня…
Виталий ЯРОШЕВСКИЙ, Прага — Москва
Шимов Ярослав , 18.8.2008
Сорок лет назад, 21 августа 1968 года, советские танки вошли в Прагу. Пражская весна и социализм с человеческим лицом закончились. Чехия помнит события сорокалетней давности. Главное историческое наследие Августа — традиция солидарности. Каким эхом отзывается сегодня в Чехии вторжение-68 — изучал The New Times…
Дополнительным фактором в дискуссии о ПРО стала реакция России на чешскоамериканские планы. В июле, сразу после того как Райс и Шварценберг подписали соглашение о радаре, на несколько дней неожиданно снизились объемы российской нефти, поставляемой в Чехию по нефтепроводу «Дружба». Российская сторона заявила, что речь идет о сугубо технических проблемах, но в Праге немедленно появились высказывания о том, что речь идет о политической демонстрации Москвы, вызванной «радарным» договором. Это в какой-то мере тоже эхо событий 40-летней давности: каждое резкое движение со стороны России трактуется многими в Чехии, да и в других странах Восточной Европы как попытка Москвы восстановить свое влияние в регионе. (Нынешний конфликт между Россией и Грузией наверняка лишь усилит эти настроения.)
Характерна в этом отношении реакция известного чешского музыканта Михаэля Коцаба, ныне баллотирующегося в верхнюю палату парламента от партии «зеленых»: «Раньше я был против строительства радара. Но чем резче становилась реакция русских на возможное появление ПРО у нас и в Польше, тем сильнее я склонялся в пользу этих планов. Радар здесь будет символом того, что мы окончательно и бесповоротно ушли из сферы русского влияния». Характерно, что именно Михаэль Коцаб был одним из ведущих членов комиссии, которая в 1991 году вела переговоры с советской стороной об условиях вывода войск СССР из Чехословакии. Тех самых войск, которые появились там 40 лет назад.
Чехословакия-1968: "Беги домой, Иван, тебя ждет Наташа..."
«Беги домой, Иван, тебя ждет Наташа. Беги домой, Иван, здесь тебя девушки не любят. Беги домой, Иван, тебя ждет Наташа. Беги домой, Иван, и больше не возвращайся...» Это слова песни, которую после оккупации Чехословакии в августе 1968 года написал Яромир Вомачка (Jaromír Vomáčka).
Эти слова выражают желание нации, чувствовавшей себя униженной после оккупации и желавшей, чтобы русские солдаты ушли из страны.
Но Иван ушел не скоро. Только двадцать лет назад 26 февраля 1990 года в Москве было подписано соглашение, закрепившее вывод войск Советской армии из тогда уже свободной послереволюционной Чехословакии.
Так был заключен один из самых важных в чешской истории международных договоров. Это было символичное завершение ноябрьской революции и обретение суверенитета (хотя «последний Иван» уехал 30-го июня 1991 года).
Приведем некоторые цифры, чтобы было понятно, насколько огромная пиявка присосалась к нашей стране. В начале вывода войск здесь было 73 500 советских солдат и офицеров, плюс члены из семей. Еще 1220 танков, 2 505 боевых машин пехоты и бронетранспортеров, 1 218 пушек, 77 самолетов и 146 боевых вертолетов. Частью вооружений были ракеты ближнего и среднего радиуса действия класса "земля-земля", от 50 до 60 штук. Говорили, что у оккупантов здесь были и ядерные боеголовки.
Однако часть советских политиков в Москве даже после подписания договора не смирилась с выводом войск, потому что солдаты в это же время должны были уйти и из ГДР и Венгрии.
Как вспоминает Михаил Коцаб (Michael Kocáb), бывший тогда председателем парламентской комиссии по контролю за выводом войск, в конце 1990 года в Прагу приехала делегация депутатов Верховного Совета СССР и попросила немедленно приостановить вывод войск и продлить его сроки на пять лет. «Для нас, вновь получивших свободу более чем через 40 лет, это было неприемлемо. Я ценю то, что командующий группой войск в Чехословакии генерал Эдуард Воробьев воспротивился этому политическому давлению и на встрече заявил, что он будет соблюдать договор», - сказал Коцаб MF DNES.