E15 weekly: Attempt at narrowing MPs’ criminal immunity fizzles

A criminal code amendment aimed at curbing the parliamentary immunity of both MPs and senators against prosecution has fallen through.

First the opponents of the amendment, proposed in the Senate, failed to have it rejected, then its proponents failed to have it approved, resulting in a victory for its opponents in the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Moreover, Senators Eliška Wagnerová of the Green Party (SZ) and Miroslav Antl of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), who jointly tabled the amendment, aimed at respecifying the legal provisions for parliamentary immunity, suffered their defeat at the hands of social democrats. The Senate, controlled by a ČSSD majority, in the end failed to support either motion. Its verdict therefore seems to be: changes in the legal interpretation of parliamentary immunity cannot be brushed aside but will, at the same time, not be implemented.
In proposing their amendment, Wagnerová and Antl were responding to a Supreme Court verdict which removed former MPs Petr Tluchoř, Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa from the jurisdiction of bodies responsible for penal proceedings, thus putting an end to their prosecutions for having accepted lucrative posts in exchange for resigning their seats in parliament. Claiming the court overstepped its powers by offering too broad an interpretation of the constitutional article on immunity, they proposed a criminal law amendment to restrict immunity specifically to discourse expressed during sessions of either parliamentary chamber, within their respective organs and the spaces where these bodies convene. In its verdict, the Supreme Court decided that all dealings of MPs leading to political agreements, compromises and decisions constitute such discourse. “In such cases, arrangements made in the shadows outside conference rooms can also be considered protected discourse,” said Wagnerová.

 

E15 weekly, 9. 12. 2013