Minister of the Czech Republic for Human Rights and Equal Opportunities

Jiří Dienstbier

Jiří Dienstbier Jr. (born 27 May 1969, Washington, D.C.) is Czech Minister for Human rights, equal opportunities and legislation, Czech Senator, former Deputy Chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party, attorney-at-law, and a former shadow ministerof Justice. In March 2011, he won the by-election for the Kladno constituency (northwest of Prague) to the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, and received the mandate that became vacant after the death of his father.

Dienstbier Jr. became the official candidate of the Czech Social Democratic Party in the first direct presidential elections in the Czech Republic, held in January 2013.

His father was Jiří Dienstbier Sr., a well-known Czech dissident and politician.

Early life and background

Jiří Dienstbier Jr. is the son of Jiří Dienstbier Sr., former journalist and then civil rights activist who became the first Minister of Foreign Affairs in the newly democratic Czechoslovakia, and Zuzana Dienstbierová, née Wíšová, a psychologist. His parents and one grandfather, Jaromír Wíšo, were signatories to the human rights movement Charter 77. Consequently, from childhood onwards, Dienstbier Jr experienced the intense and lasting pressure put on his family by the Communist regime during the period of so-called normalization (of the political situation in Czechoslovakia) after 1969. The struggle for human rights and civil liberties caused frequent intervention by the authoritarian regime in the everyday lives of dissidents’ families, including their children. While Jiří Dienstbier Jr was in grade three of primary school, his father was imprisoned for his work in a movement acting parallel to Charter 77, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted (Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných – VONS).


Like their parents, the children of dissidents in Czechoslovakia were persecuted. Whole families were ostracized. Children were mostly barred from attending institutions of higher education, particularly from taking courses in the humanities. Eventually, Dienstbier was admitted to a technical school in Prague, thanks in part to the slight thaw in many countries of the East bloc after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union and to the fact that there was little competition to get into that school because of the high academic demands made on the students. After graduating, Dienstbier studied economics at the Engineering Faculty of the Czech University of Technology (ČVUT), Prague. After the Velvet Revolution, which began in mid-November 1989, Dienstbier switched his field of studies from economics to law. He graduated from the Faculty of Law atCharles University in 1996.

Early political career

Dienstbier’s political activity began while he was at university, together with other children of dissidents, who had had similar experiences and were oriented to political life. They organized Stuha (Studenské hnutí; also the Czech word for ribbon), a student movement independent of the state-controlled student organizations, which aimed to awaken students’ interest in public affairs and to lead them to political activity, albeit not as intense as that of their parents’, against the non-democratic régime. It must be recalled that under the quasi-totalitarian régime most people in the country, including the students, were horrified at the thought of any political activity that was not proposed or tolerated by the régime. Even the slightest unauthorized public activity could result in persecution or at least that is what the people of Czechoslovakia thought.

The truly first independent student movement in the 20 years since the reestablishment of hard-line communism in Czechoslovakia (a period popularly known by the name of the ‘normalization’ policy instituted by that régime) made their primary activity aim the breaking down of the barriers between dissidents and the rest of the society. The movement wrote speeches for International Students’ Day, on 17 November 1989, which had in previous years also been an opportunity and pretext to express discontent with the régime publicly. On such occasions, there generally more people were willing to suppress their fear of repression, and to gather in public to protest. With time, their numbers grew. After the Berlin Wall came down in early November 1989, the time was becoming increasingly ripe for change in Czechoslovakia. The contribution of Jiří Dienstbier and his fellow-students Jan Dus, Martin Benda, and Jan Vidím to the founding and organization of STUHA considerably helped to accelerate the change in the outlook of the public and to mobilize them for democratic change in Czechoslovakia. On 17 November 1989, a student march was held, with the aim of leading young people on the roughly hour-long march from the officially permitted neutral demonstration further into the centre of Prague.

The march from the Albertov district of Prague, co-organized by Dienstbier, triggered an avalanche of demonstrations over the next few weeks, which soon became known as the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and was the beginning of the end for the undemocratic régime. Later, in connection with this, the BohemianMoravian Student Parliament (Českomoravský studentský parliament) nominated Dienstbier as a deputy to the Federal Assembly[21] (the Czechoslovak parliament). At only 21 years of age just shortly before this first free and democratic general elections in early June 1990, Dienstbier was barely eligible. He held his seat in the Federal Assembly for the full two years of this shortly defined mandate. He sat on the security committee and also on 17 November Commission, which was in charge, among other things, of purging state institutions of former members of the Secret police and its collaborators and of planning the basic starting points for a democratic state. This commission also comprised many students who lacked experience of public affairs, but had been chosen as its members because there was little likelihood that they had collaborated with the secret police. Dienstbier, by contrast, was someone the Communist secret police had kept an eye on, also during the march to and from Albertov on 17 November - start of Velvet Revolution.

After his mandate expired, Jiří Dienstbier studied law at Charles University, Prague, and became, in 1994 and again 2006, a member of the town council for the borough of Prague 2. (comprising mostly Nové Město and Vinohrady). At that time, he was a member of the centrist Citizens’ Party (Občanské hnutí – OH), founded by former dissidents from a wing of the original Civic Forum. The party was politically unsuccessful.

Professional career

In June 1992 Dienstbier decided to quit politics for a while and to continue his law studies full-time. Dienstbier graduated with a degree in law in 1997, and qualified for the bar a year and half later.

In 1998, he was an articled clerk at the law firm of Hamburger, Weinschenk, Molnar, in Washington, D.C.

Dienstbier was one of the few Czech politicians who also worked at a non-political career, though he did not lose interest in political work. From 1997 onwards, he was employed by the law firm of Marián Čalfa,a former Czechoslovak prime minister. Dienstbier worked as a lawyer for fifteen years, while also working in Prague municipal politics. He was elected three times to the town council of Prague 2, where he was active in the fight against corruption and clientelism. It was in those years that he established his reputation of an honest politician.

Today, Dienstbier is the last top-level Czech politicians (apart from Marek Benda) whose formative experience in their youth was in the risky business of resistance to the non-democratic régime and who carries the dissident ethos into the present day.

Vice-Secretary of the Social Democratic Party

In 1997 Jiří Dienstbier Jr. joined the Czech Social Democratic Party and almost immediately became Chairman of its youth wing. Nevertheless, he remained comparatively unknown.

Public interest in Dienstbier was revived after many years, when he stood for election in the 2011 mayoral elections in Prague. The Social Democratic Party was desperately seeking a suitable candidate who would be able to lead the ballot in the Czech capital, where the party has historically had a weak position. Its reputation was at the time also badly damaged by having been in a coalition with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which was strongly suspected of corruption and clientelist practices. The strategy of finding a clean candidate turned out to be the right one, and although he did not become Mayor, Dienstbier did become one of the most-trusted people in Prague politics. During the next six months, Dienstbier became a member of the Czech Parliament, a Senator, and, shortly afterwards, Deputy Chairman of the Social Democratic Party and about a year later a presidential candidate.

2012 presidential campaign

In mid-2011, the Social Democratic Party was in need of a highly reputable candidate to be at the top of its list in the Prague municipal elections (where the Social Democrats had traditionally proved unsuccessful). Dienstbier, who was also a mayoral candidate, took his party to the greatest 2010 Prague success in Social Democratic history. Dienstbier refused to enter a questionable coalition with the Civic Democratic Party, and thus became a politician who is highly trusted by the public, which has also begun to recall his earlier political achievements in 1990. In comparatively rapid succession he then became a senator, winning his late father’s constituency, and then became the deputy chair of the Social Democratic Party.

2013 Czech presidential election

In the same period he was also nominated the Social Democratic candidate for the first direct presidential elections in the Czech Republic, which are to be held in January 2013.

Personal life

Dienstbier's partner of many years is Jaroslava Tomášová. Together they have one son, also called Jiří (born 1992). As a young man in the 1980s, Dienstbier was an enthusiastic beekeeper. This activity helped him to deal with the systematic pressure that the communist regime in Czechoslovakia put on him and his family.

Dienstbier prevented the defrauding of a small, but traditional, football club, Bohemians 1905


The object of mass VOTE: 

Jiří Dienstbier

Czech Republic

Rate the damage it causes (does not cause) the object of VOTE to the European Commonwealth.

Method of ethical VOTE is to choose one of the following  values:

 0 - moral, there is no prejudice to the European community;
-1, -2, -3 - minor damage, harm to the European community;
-4, -5, -6 - damage of medium gravity for the European community;
-7, -8, -9, -10 - substantial damage, harm to the European community.


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