After World War II, Czechoslovakia slowly began the process of detangling itself from the Soviet Union. A period of political liberalization in the late 1960s ended with the Soviet military occupying the country. Soviet-backed Czech authorities met political dissent with force and imprisonment.
In 1988, as the first human rights organization allowed into Czechoslovakia to examine political prisoners, PHR called international attention to the country’s poor prison conditions as well as the wrongful imprisonment of political dissidents. These findings are discussed in a joint report with Helsinki Watch titled “Medical Mission to Czechoslovakia.”
PHR’s investigation showed that the death of Pavel Wonka, who had been imprisoned after declaring himself an independent candidate in Czechoslovakia’s one-party state, was due to the beatings, harassment, solitary confinement, and inadequate medical attention he was subjected to behind bars. The report also examined the case of Jiri Wolf, who was arrested for participating in the “Committee against the Dictatorship” and was placed in a Category 3 prison, the harshest of the Czech penal systems.
In the report, PHR called for prison and political reform in Czechoslovakia and condemned the jailing of Czech citizens for exercising their right to free speech.