Motion calling for treason charges against Klaus to be discussed by Senate

Václav Klaus, photo: archive of the Czech Government

A complaint to the Constitutional Court against outgoing president Václav Klaus is set to be discussed by the Czech Senate. The charge, which accuses Mr. Klaus of treason over a controversial amnesty he declared at the start of the year, made the agenda of the upper house when the requisite support was acquired on Tuesday. Its backers say a ruling would help define the president’s powers in the future.

Václav Klaus,  photo: archive of the Czech Government
A group of left-wing senators have just collected enough signatures to force a debate in the upper chamber on a motion calling for the filing of treason charges against President Klaus at the Constitutional Court.

The use of the word treason may sound dramatic. However, a charge of treason is the only legal path open to legislators who believe the president has acted unconstitutionally.

The senators’ current move chiefly relates to an amnesty the president declared on January 1. It sparked a great deal of controversy because it halted cases running for eight years or more carrying a maximum sentence of at least 10 years. Many such cases relate to alleged massive corruption.

One of the people behind the move is Jiří Dienstbier of the Social Democrats. He says he and the other signatories feel the president has also acted unconstitutionally in other respects.

Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“The amnesty is just one of five points. Two relate to the president not ratifying an international treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, even though it’d been approved by both houses; the Constitutional Court already ruled that he should act without unnecessary delay in that matter. He also hasn’t respected a Supreme Court ruling that ordered him to name new judges. And finally, though there are three empty places on the Constitutional Court, he has not fulfilled his duty to name new judges.”

Mr. Klaus, who stands by his amnesty, has refused to comment on the move.

However, a number of politicians (and not only on the right) have expressed disapproval. Among them is Jan Zahradil, an MEP for the president’s former party, the Civic Democrats.

“My personal opinion is that the facts of the case do not amount to the crime of treason. Mr. President had no intention of committing such an act, and I have to say I regard this as a politically motivated matter.”

Jiří Dienstbier says one of the key aims of the motion is to establish more precisely the powers of the president – and in so doing to avoid confusion in future.

Jiří Dienstbier,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“The idea behind discussing this constitutional complaint is that the Constitutional Court, as the relevant authority, should rule on to what degree the president acted unconstitutionally; to establish clearly where the limits of his constitutional powers lie; and, thanks to a clear definition, to prevent breaches of the constitution.”

It took the motion’s backers some time to find the necessary signatures to push it onto the Senate agenda and there is a chance it will not be passed. In any case, as he prepares to step down next Thursday, Mr. Klaus surely will not appreciate manoeuvres of this sort overshadowing his departure from Prague Castle.