Credit: Freepik

Constitutional Court Rejects Liechtenstein Lawsuit Questioning Confiscation

The Czech Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint filed by the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation and Prince Hans-Adam II concerning their claim on land on the south-east outskirts of Prague, now owned by the Czech state, the court announced today.

The case is one of many disputes over the Liechtenstein family’s former property in the Czech Republic.

“The Constitutional Court summarises that it has no reason to deviate from its long-established case law, which is generally known and followed,” reads the ruling by Judge-Rapporteur Jan Wintr. “There is no reason at all why it should be changed or not applied to the complainants. In similar cases, the court has rejected dozens of complainants,” 

The decisions of the postwar administrative authorities cannot be re-examined by the present courts. A narrow exception to the rule was created by the restitution rules, which do not apply to the Liechtensteins because they lost their property even before the Czechoslovak communist coup in 1948.

The legal representative of Lichtenstein did not yet want to comment on today’s ruling.

The Liechtenstein family is seeking the return of extensive property in the Czech Republic, including the UNESCO-listed chateaus in Lednice and Valtice in southern Moravia.

The Liechtensteins lost their property in then Czechoslovakia in 1945 under the President Benes Decrees, based on which the property of ethnic Germans and Hungarians was confiscated, except for those who had opposed the Nazi regime. However, the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation said the confiscation was illegal and filed lawsuits with 26 Czech district courts in 2018. According to the available information, Liechtenstein has not succeeded in any of these lawsuits.

The complaint that concerns land in Uhrineves, Kralovice and Hajek on the south-east outskirts of Prague was filed against the rulings of the Supreme Court, the Prague Metropolitan Court and the Prague 10 District Court.

As the Constitutional Court received a number of similar complaints that raise identical legal issues, the whole plenum was deciding on the complaint instead of a three-member court panel. A considerable majority of the judges opposed the questioning of the post-war confiscation of the Liechtenstein property, which echoes the position of Czech courts of all levels in this and other lines of the litigation between the family and the state.

In the lawsuits filed in 2018, the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation pointed out that the last holder of the family estates in the Czech Lands, Franz Joseph II, was not a citizen of Germany, but of neutral Liechtenstein, and was the head of a sovereign state. The confiscation of the family property was therefore illegal, the foundation stated.

However, according to the Czechoslovak administrative authorities at the time, Prince Franz Josef II of Liechtenstein (1906-1989) declared his German nationality in the 1930s, and his property was therefore forfeited to the state after World War II based on the Benes Decrees.

Judge David Uhlir expressed a different view than the statement issued today. He recalled that the Prince of Liechtenstein was the head of a neutral state.

“The idea that Prince Franz Josef II of Liechtenstein was complicit in the crimes of the Third Reich and therefore subject to a presidential decree is absurd,” Uhlir said. “Even where, as a result of binding legal opinions, the possibility of righting historical wrongs through the courts is definitively closed, the door remains open to political solutions,” he added.

Judges Lucie Dolanska Banyaiova and Milan Hulmak also presented different views, but only on the reasoning of the ruling, not its conclusion.

The Liechtenstein family has filed a complaint against the Czech Republic with the European Court of Human Rights.

In October 2023, the Foundation proposed an out-of-court settlement of the property dispute. It said it was prepared to give up its ownership claims to property in the Czech Republic in exchange for the creation of a joint fund into which ownership rights to the disputed property would be transferred. In such a case, the Princely Foundation would be entrusted with the duty to manage the assets in the fund in a responsible and sustainable manner.

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