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PACE expresses doubts about broad ‘abuse-of-office’ laws for politicians

Strasbourg, 28.06.2013 – PACE has said broad abuse-of-office laws for politicians are “problematic” and should be abolished or redrafted to limit their scope, while special procedures to impeach ministers should be in line with basic rule of law principles and applied with “extra caution and restraint”.

Adopting a resolution on “Keeping political and criminal responsibility separate” based on a report by Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), the Parliamentary Assembly said “abuse of office” provisions should be interpreted narrowly and applied with a high threshold. They should only be invoked against politicians as “a last resort”. Political decisions should be for the ultimate judgment of voters.

The resolution sets out a number of principles for distinguishing political from criminal decision-making, based on a recommendation from legal experts in the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

In particular, criminal proceedings should not be used to penalise “political mistakes or disagreements”, though politicians should be accountable for ordinary criminal acts in the same way as other citizens, the Assembly said.

The parliamentarians also called on member states which have been condemned for violations of Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of misuse of power in restricting rights and freedoms) to take measures to ensure the independence of the judiciary and comprehensively execute the relevant judgments of the Court.