Commission Co-Chairman Smith Calls on Formerly Totalitarian Countries to Return Wrongfully Confiscated Property
Washington, DC-Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution sponsored by Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) that calls on formerly totalitarian countries to address the problem of claims stemming from illegal and uncompensated property confiscations. The resolution was cosponsored by Commissioner Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Jon Christensen (R-NE), Ranking Member Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Edward Markey (D-MA), as well as by Representatives Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Henry Hyde (R-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jon Fox (R-PA), and Tom Lantos (D-CA).
According to Mr. Smith, throughout much of this century, individuals and religious communities in Central and Eastern Europe saw their private property plundered by totalitarian regimes. The United States Government generally seeks compensation from foreign governments only on behalf of property claimants who were American citizens at the time their property was taken. Property claimants who were not American citizens when their property was confiscated by Communist or other totalitarian regimes must seek restitution or compensation under the domestic law of their former country, even if they later became naturalized American citizens. Under these circumstances, "Congress has a role in helping enable these dispossessed property owners to file claims in their former homelands with a real possibility of achieving a just resolution," stated Smith.
Although some countries in Central and Eastern Europe have adopted restitution or compensation laws, the laws are often not effectively implemented. In addition, restitution and compensation laws in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and other countries, contain discriminatory residency or citizenship provisions. Some countries have not yet addressed confiscated property issues at all. Co-Chairman Smith explained that the resolution "signals the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that the United States is concerned with the urgent return of plundered property to individuals and religious communities." In particular, the Resolution:
The full text of the resolution is available through the Commission's
Chadwick R. Gore