Thursday, 24 April 2014

Klaus' amnesty remains valid, Constitutional Court not to check it

6 March 2013

Brno, March 5 (CTK) - The Czech Constitutional Court (US) will not be checking the controversial New Year's amnesty declared by President Vaclav Klaus because checking amnesties is not within its jurisdiction, US secretary general Ivo Pospisil told journalists, referring to the US's decision Tuesday.

The court dismissed the proposal by a group of senators to abolish Article 2 of the amnesty that provides for halting cases lasting more than eight years and carrying no more than ten years in prison.

This relates to a number of high-profile corruption and financial fraud cases.

Four judges, including court chairman Pavel Rychetsky, had a different opinion, one judge had a different stand on the justification of the decision. The US now has 12 judges.

Prime Minister Petr Necas (senior governing Civic Democrats, ODS) said he respects the US's decision confirming the amnesty's validity.

"The views on the amnesty may differ. Nevertheless, no one can challenge the fact that the president's right to declare amnesty was implemented. This right [of the president] ensues from the constitution. That is why the US's decision did not surprise me. I'd be surprised by any other decision," Necas said.

Senior opposition Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told CTK that he is "not happy about the US's decision, but it must be respected."

"Unfortunately, this was the last opportunity to somehow correct the amnesty or to have the Constitutional Court's commentary on the procedure that the president and prime minister chose in declaring the unfortunate amnesty," Sobotka said.

The constitutional judges were repeatedly discussing whether they can revise a presidential amnesty at all because the law does not provide for this.

Rychetsky previously admitted in media that judges and experts' opinions on this differ.

In the end, the opinion prevailed among the judges that the US cannot scrap amnesty decisions, in view of the specific character of Czech amnesty, US Protocol head Vlastimil Goettinger said.

Alena Dernerova, senator elected for regional movement who initiated the complaint challenging the amnesty, said she respects the judges' opinion but she still considers the challenged Article 2 unlawful.

Dernerova recommended that those who feel damaged by the halt to criminal proceedings should turn to the European Court of Human Rights.

"From our point of view, we did our utmost," Dernerova said.

Another of the complaint's signatories, Senate deputy chairwoman Alena Gajduskova (CSSD), voiced disappointment at the US decision. She said the Article 2 is at odds with the right to a just trial and to the protection of property.

"I believe that it is an issue for the US to deal with," Gajduskova said, adding that those harmed by the amnesty should turn to the government whose head, PM Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS), counter-signed the amnesty.

In January Necas said granting an amnesty was an exclusive right of the president. By counter-signing it, prime minister only confirms that it is not at odds with the legal order, Necas said in reaction to those criticising his signature of the amnesty.

According to Chamber of Deputies chairwoman Miroslava Nemcova (ODS), the US by its decision confirmed that declaring amnesties is an exclusive power of the president.

The US judges found no reason why they should interfere with the president's right. "In other words, they confirmed that the president acted correctly," Nemcova said.

The US dismissed in February already a proposal by the Municipal Court in Prague to abolish the whole amnesty.

The amnesty halted 327 criminal proceedings, including in serious economic crime cases according to February data. Some 6500 prisoners were released.

The amnesty is broadly criticised and it has even become one of the reasons why the Senate decided on Monday to file a high treason complaint against Klaus with the US.

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