January 27
Anjum Shabbir
20th August 2020
Human Rights

Liechtenstein commences ECtHR proceedings against Czech Republic for denial of its sovereignty in claims seeking restitution of property rights of its citizens

The government of Liechtenstein has lodged an Article 33 inter-state application to the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the Czech Republic has breached the rights of its citizens in property rights, by its classification of Liechtenstein citizens as persons of German nationality for the purposes of applying the Beneš Decrees of 1945. Those Decrees confiscated and expropriated property of those considered German-speaking accomplices of the Nazi occupation from Czechoslovak lands during the Second World War. Liechtenstein challenges the application of those Decrees, and sees this as a denial of its sovereignty, recalling that it has been a sovereign state since 1806.

Specifically, it alleges violations of:

  • Article 6 (right to a fair trial),
  • Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention,
  • Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention,
  • as well as of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with the other Articles.

The background to the dispute stretches to 1945, and includes:

  • classification of Liechtenstein citizens as persons of German nationality in Czech judgments and administrative measures that have been taken since 2014;
  • in more than two dozen other proceedings, a number of Liechtenstein citizens alleging they are unable to assert claims in connection with properties in the Czech Republic dating from before 1945, as Liechtenstein citizens are classified as German;
  • a recent ruling by the Czech Constitutional Court of 20 February 2020, in which Liechtenstein citizens were denied rights on the grounds that they had to be considered Germans with respect to the application of the Presidential Decrees of 1945.

The Government of Liechtenstein refers in this complaint in particular to two sets of proceedings concerning property including fields, forests and castles in the Czech Republic: (1) against the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation, and (2) 33 individual cases brought by Liechtenstein nationals, including the head of state, Prince Hans-Adam II.

This is one of 24 inter-state cases that have been filed since the European Convention of Human Rights entered into force in 1953, the most recent case having been filed by the Netherlands against Russia for the downing of flight MH17. Read Dolores Utrilla’s update on that case here. Other pending inter-state cases are between Georgia and Russia, Ukraine and Russia, and Slovenia and Croatia.

Access the ECtHR’s press release here.


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