Partly concurring Individual Opinion by Committee Member Justice Prafullachandra
Natwarlal Bhagwati

I agree with the Committee`s conclusion that the facts before it reveal a violation of articles 26 and 2 of the Covenant. However, I am persuaded that there is also a violation of article 14, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, which stipulates that all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals and be entitled to a fair and public hearing of their rights and obligations in a suit at law. As a prerequisite to have a fair and meaningful hearing of a claim, a person should be afforded full and equal access to public sources of information, including land registries and archives, so as to obtain the elements necessary to establish a claim.
The author has demonstrated that she was denied such equal access, and the State party has failed to explain or refute the author's allegations. Moreover, the protracted legal proceedings in this case, now lasting over the years, have not yet been completed. In the context of this particular case and in the light of previous Czech restitution cases already adjudicated by the Committee, the apparent reluctance of the Czech authorities and of the Czech courts to process restitution claims fairly and expeditiously also entails a violation of the spirit, if not the letter of article 14. It should also be remembered that, subsequent to the entry into force of the Optional Protocol for the Czech Republic, the State party has continued to apply Law No. 143/1947 (the law Schwarzenberg“) which targeted exclusively the property of the author's family. Such ad hominem legislation is incompatible with the Covenant, as a general denial of the right to equality. In the light of the above, I believe that the appropriate remedy should have been restitution and not just the opportunity of resubmitting a claim to the Czech courts.

In 1999 the Committee had declared this communication admissible, insofar as it might raise issues under articles 26 und 2 of the Covenant. I do not think that this necessarily precluded the Committee from making a finding of a violation of article 14, since the State party was aware of all elements of the communication and could have addressed the article 14 issues raised by the author. Of course, the Committee could have revised its admissibility decision so as to include the claims under article 14 of the Covenant, and requested relevant observations from the State party. This, however, would have further delayed disposition of a case which has been before the Courts of the State party since 1992 and before the Committee since 1997.

(Signed) Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati