Senators to file complaint with Constitutional Court over amnesty

Photo: CTK

A group of senators across the political spectrum is preparing a legal complaint to the country’s Constitutional Court challenging part of the amnesty declared by outgoing President Václav Klaus. The amnesty has already seen the release of thousands jailed for minor crimes, but is also expected to halt major corruption and embezzlement cases. The legal team behind the complaint says the amnesty tramples on the rights of victims.

Photo: CTK
If President Václav Klaus has had any second thoughts about the amnesty he hasn’t shown it yet. On Sunday the president stuck to his guns, releasing a statement saying his decision would be proven correct once cooler heads prevailed. So far, according to opinion polls a majority of the public differs: many remain upset that convicts have been allowed to go free. Some schools in the area of Zlín have even agreed to take down the president’s photo in classrooms on the grounds he no longer represented “respectable people”.

The prime minister, who had to counter-sign the amnesty, has also caught some of the blame, even from within his own cabinet where only the justice minister was informed ahead of time. Coalition member the Liberal Democrats, led by Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake, is asking for an explanation when the cabinet meets this week:

“I think it is perfectly in order to discuss with both the prime minister, as well as the justice minister, details of negotiations that were held with the president’s office over the scope of the amnesty.”

Karolína Peake,  photo: CTK
Matters, in fact, are moving beyond explanations at the government level or public discontent: a major facet of the amnesty, covering cases which have been continuing for eight years or more has spurred a group of 20 senators to challenge the amnesty. Hana Marvanová and Milan Hulík are the two high-profile lawyers preparing an unprecedented complaint with the Constitutional Court. Milan Hulík and his colleague want the Constitutional Court to assess whether the rights of victims ensured under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms had not been curtailed by the amnesty, as there was no chance victims would ever see justice if the amnesty goes ahead. Lawyer Milan Hulík:

“Individuals who were affected, who lost property in some of these cases, will never be able to see it returned.”

Roughly 50 cases, such as the famous H-System in which clients bought homes that were subsequently never completed or built, could be affected by the amnesty. Many cases date back to when Václav Klaus, then prime minister, spearheaded the transformation from a centralised to a market economy. The opposition has accused the president of sweeping corruption cases relating to the privatization process from that period under the rug.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
The Prague State Attorney’s Office, meanwhile, has confirmed it has received a number of criminal complaints over the amnesty, but there the outcome is far more certain than the complaint being filed with the Constitutional Court. Essentially, neither the president nor the prime minister can be investigated over the matter, not only because they have political immunity but because such an amnesty is fully within the president’s powers. In the future, some politicians are urging, those powers should perhaps be changed. There are some who argue that in a democracy unlike the former communist regime which jailed dissidents, there is no longer a need for amnesties to be given at all.