Cabinet approves law to limit diplomatic immunity and presidential powers


By Dita Asiedu

The Czech Republic officially recognises the International Criminal Court (ICC). But indirectly, however, its constitution does not. In order for the ICC - which mainly prosecutes war criminals - to be able to try Czech politicians, the Czech Republic must amend its constitution and harmonise Czech legislation with international law. The Czech Cabinet therefore approved a proposed amendment to the constitution on Wednesday, which is aimed at limiting the powers of the President and the immunity enjoyed by Czech MPs and Senators. The proposal was put forward by the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures, and Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky. Radio Prague spoke to Government Spokesman, Libor Roucek for further details:

Libor Roucek
"The reason is that the Czech Republic signed the so-called 'Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We would like to ratify this statute, and for that reason, we have to change certain paragraphs in our constitution. The new proposal limits the immunity and also the Presidential powers, for example, in serious crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. This means that, in the future, if the president wanted to grant amnesty to someone who had committed these crimes it, according to the new proposal, would not be possible."

At first glance, the headlines of Thursday's papers give readers the impression that what many of them have dreamed of for years had finally come true; that Czech MPs and Senators would be made accountable for their actions. For years, there have been public calls to limit the rights of Czech MPs and Senators, to ensure that they could no longer enjoy more freedom than was considered appropriate:

"There were several attempts in the past to change the immunity. For instance, the immunity of the MPs should only be restricted to political matters. When an MP has a car accident, it should not have anything to do with immunity. Here, the MP or the Senator should be treated as anybody else."

According to Mr Roucek, however, the chances of limiting the immunity of MPs to the degree that many members of the general public have called for, are very slim:

"There would have to be changes in the law, and of course the law is changed by both chambers of Parliament - by the MPs and by the Senators. On many occasions, if some of the Senators or the MPs feel that their power or their positions would be under threat, they object to the changes and that was the case in the past."