Prague court calls on Constitutional Court to throw out entire presidential amnesty
The Municipal Court in Prague says the entire amnesty announced by President Václav Klaus on New Year’s Day contravenes the Czech constitution – because it had not been previously discussed by the government. The prime minister says the move could open a whole can of worms: If the Constitutional Court agrees, the validity of previous amnesties could also come into question.
That plank of the amnesty touches on several high-profile cases of alleged massive corruption, many dating back to the days of Wild East privatisation, and was seen by some as a reward for successful obstruction of the judicial process.
Last week a cross-party group of senators filed a challenge to the latter article at the Constitutional Court in Brno, saying it prevented those damaged in such cases from seeking redress.
The Prague Municipal Court has also taken the matter to the Constitutional Court, saying that the entire amnesty is unconstitutional. The justification was written by the chairman of the Prague court, Kamil Kydalka, and appeared on the Constitutional Court’s website on Wednesday.
Justice Kydalka argues that the amnesty is unlawful because it was co-signed by Prime Minister Petr Nečas without consultation with his cabinet colleagues; he says it ought to have been discussed in advance by the government.
If the Constitutional Court does not declare the whole amnesty unlawful, then it should at least declare the article related to halting long-running cases invalid, the Prague Municipal Court’s petition adds.
Prime Minister Nečas was quick to react to Wednesday’s news, suggesting a ruling against the president’s amnesty could open a big can of worms.
“The approach adopted in the case of this amnesty was completely the same as in the case of two previous amnesties. If this procedure were regarded as unconstitutional, then, purely theoretically, the amnesties from 1993 and 1998 could also be called into question retrospectively. Our approach was exactly the same – the government didn’t give its approval in those cases either.”
So what are the chances that the Constitutional Court will uphold this latest legal challenge? Constitutional lawyer Marek Antoš told Czech Television much would hinge on the legal classification of Mr. Klaus’s amnesty.
The Constitutional Court may consider the petitions from the Prague Municipal Court and the group of senators together, though, as Mr. Antoš says, it is not clear whether it has the authority to review the amnesty at all. Either way, his last major decision as president could still be making headlines after Mr. Klaus steps down in six weeks’ time.