The Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted

(Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných – VONS)

The committee was founded on April 27, 1978, by a group of Charter 77 signatories with the aim of following cases of persons facing various forms of state persecution, from police harassment to unjust prosecution in courts of law.
Its members helped individuals facing persecution with obtaining legal representation and acted as mediators in acquiring assistance of a financial or other nature. Observing legal formalities, they addressed their communiqués to the Czechoslovak authorities, calling on them to take steps to rectify injustices perpetrated against individuals in the cases monitored. They also passed reports on the cases monitored to entities and persons abroad, from where this information was reported back to Czechoslovakia via the radio stations Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and the BBC. A number of VONS members were persecuted by the police and justice system for their activities, the most well known case being the legal process against five of its members in 1979. The vast majority of VONS communiqués were published in the samizdat bulletin Informace o Chartě 77 (Information on Charter 77). The Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted was also active after November 1989, when it focused on amending the criminal code, calming the stormy situations in the prisons at the time, as well as, for example, on preparing a general amnesty and rehabilitation laws. Members of VONS also made efforts to purge the judiciary, but with minimal success. At their meeting of July 3, 1996, VONS members decided to suspend the activities of the committee for an indefinite period.

The website was created as part of a grant-supported project with the aim of mapping the history of this independent initiative. In collaboration with Libri prohibiti and other research institutions, the website primarily publishes extracts from, and examples of, archive documents and the personal accounts of eyewitnesses. An overview of texts and documents published so far is available in the News section.

Obálka časopisu Informace o Chartě 77 z července 1989, zdroj: Libri prohibitiParaf, zdroj: Libri prohibitiPrvní číslo časopisu Biuletyn Informacyjny Solidarności Polsko–Czechosłowackiej prosinec 1987, zdroj: Libri prohibitiInformační buletin Československo-polské solidarityVoknoVoknovinyKrtekPodpisy Charty 77Sborník o dějinách VONS

*Translator’s note: The Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted - the Czech verb ‘stíhat’ means both ‘to persecute’ and ‘to prosecute’; some authors have used the translation Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted. Here I use the translation Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted, as in Skilling, H. Gordon, Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London 1981.