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Czech Republic: Commission Criticizes Citizenship Decision

Prague, 5 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Congress' Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe last night expressed "profound regret" at the Czech parliament's rejection this week of a proposed amendment to a law that would have eliminated Czech citizenship as a condition for property restitution claims.

The commission said parliament has missed an opportunity to resolve a long-standing and contentious issue between the Czech Republic and the U.S.

A statement signed by the commission's ranking Republican and Democratic members -- Christopher Smith and Steny Hoyer -- says these citizenship restrictions violate the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights.

The commission is calling on the Czech government "to move swiftly with alternative mechanisms" to restore property to those victims of fascism and communism who have been excluded solely due to their lack of Czech citizenship.

The congressional commission also said it is "alarmed" by recent statements by Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky questioning the legitimacy of having returned some 700 properties to the Catholic Church. In the commission's words, "the re-nationalization of these properties would send a troubling signal regarding the Czech government's commitment to private property rights and respect for religious liberties."