leaving the Republic

Under Section 109 of the Communist Criminal Code, which was adopted in 1961 (abolished by the amendment to the Criminal Code No. 159/1989 on 13 December 1989), leaving the Republic was a crime directed against emigrants as well as those attempting by quasi-legal means to acquire their property, especially real property, left in Czechoslovakia. It was committed by anyone who had left the territory of the country without permission or who had stayed abroad without permission. Significantly, a penalty of forfeiture of property could be imposed for this offence, in addition to five years' imprisonment. A qualifying act was also determined for which it was possible to impose up to 10 years of imprisonment; among other things, this penalised smuggling.

Just as Czechoslovak citizens were detained in the GDR, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, citizens of these states (including Soviet citizens) were detained in the territory of Czechoslovakia, especially near the national border with West Germany and Austria. Some of them were convicted for attempted or prepared crime under Section 109 of the Criminal Code for "unlawfully leaving the republic".

According to Section 109, a "criminal offence" was committed according to Communist legal practice even if a Czechoslovak citizen who travelled with a valid passport abroad exceeded the time indicated in the exit visa in the passport. If it was a minor fault, sometimes Section 5 (D) of the Act on Misdemeanours was applied.

Paragraph 109 of the Communist Criminal Code:

  1. Whoever leaves the territory of the Republic without permission will be punished by imprisonment for six months to five years or by corrective action or forfeiture of property.
  2. A Czechoslovak citizen, who remains abroad, will be punished.
  3. Whoever organises the crime in paragraphs 1 or 2 or takes a group of persons or repeatedly takes persons across a border who leave the territory of the Republic without permission shall be punished by imprisonment for three to ten years or by the forfeiture of property.

Overview of StB investigations in 1976 – 1980 by classification of criminal offence (number of cases)

By the end of the 1980s, 110,885 people had been sentenced and subsequently rehabilitated under Section 109 of the Criminal Code (the most in 1970: 13,363, 1971: 20,163 and 1972: 12,263). Already in the 1960s, these cases accounted for more than half of all "anti-state" cases (for example, in 1964, their share was even 66.6%). Their number increased sharply after 1968 in connection with the new wave of outbound trips and was already represented by an overwhelming majority of persons convicted under Act No. 140/1961 Coll., Criminal Code (94.5% in total). The leadership of the StB Investigation Administration repeatedly complained that they were literally overwhelmed by these cases, although special investigative groups were set up for this purpose (hence it was proposed that investigation be taken over by the Public Security).

The offence of leaving the Republic was repealed on 1 July 1990 by Act No. 119/1990 Coll., on Judicial Rehabilitation. Czechoslovak courts broadly rehabilitated approximately 260,000 people on the basis of Act No. 119/1990 Coll.

Overview of convictions under Section 109, judges, prosecutors and investigators of the StB 1977 – 1989 (former West Slovakia Region)

Also see: State Security investigation report 

- end term -