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Czech Republic: Grand Chamber to rule on security clearance human rights dispute

A human rights dispute, which centres on the withdrawal of a Czech Republic defence ministry official’s security clearance, reaches Grand Chamber judgement next week.

The European Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgment in the case of Regner v. the Czech Republic (application no. 35289/11) on 19 September.

The case concerns an administrative decision withdrawing applicant Vaclav Regner’s security clearance, which was a prerequisite for Regner to hold a senior post in the Ministry of Defence and his complaint about the alleged unfairness of the proceedings in which he challenged that decision.

In September 2006, the National Security Authority decided to withdraw the security clearance that had been issued to Regner to enable him to carry out his duties as deputy to a Vice-Minister of Defence, on the ground that he posed a national security risk.

The decision did not mention the confidential information on which it was based, disclosure of confidential information not being a statutory condition.

Consequently, Regner was removed from office on 4 October 2006 and on 20 October 2006 he signed an agreement terminating his contract by mutual consent with effect from 31 January 2007.

In January 2007, Regner sought judicial review in the Prague Municipal Court of the decision withdrawing his security clearance. He and his lawyer were permitted to consult the file, except for the parts classified as confidential which had been sent to the court.

In September 2009, the court dismissed Regner’s application for judicial review, finding that the authority’s approach in not disclosing to the applicant the contents of the information on the basis of which the security clearance had been withdrawn had not been illegal, as disclosure of such information was prohibited by law.

In July 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court dismissed an application on points of law lodged by Regner finding that disclosure of the classified information could have entailed the disclosure of the intelligence service’s working methods and of its information sources or the risk of influencing possible witnesses.

The applicant unsuccessfully lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court, complaining of the unfairness of the proceedings.

In March 2011, the prosecution service charged the applicant and 51 other persons with influencing the award of public contracts at the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2007.

In March 2014, the České Budějovice Regional Court sentenced Regner to three years’ imprisonment.

The Prague High Court upheld that judgment, but suspended execution of his prison sentence for a two-year probationary period.

Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) of the Convention, Regner complains that he was unable to have sight of decisive evidence, regarded as classified information, during the proceedings he brought to challenge the decision withdrawing his security clearance.

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