Slovakia’s president to send criminal law reforms to Constitutional Court

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 4:51 AM

(Reuters) -Slovak President Zuzana Caputova on Friday sought to block reforms scrapping a special prosecution branch dealing with high-level crime and lowering punishments for financial crimes by sending them to the Constitutional Court for review.

Slovakia’s parliament approved the reforms last week amid public protests as well as concerns, including from the European Commission, over the changes being pushed through a fast-track procedure.

Caputova told a televised news conference that rather than veto the reforms, she would sign them and send them to the court, where she was also seeking their suspension.

She said the court was the best place to decide on the reforms amid a conflict between Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government and the opposition and other opponents of the reform like herself.

“Therefore the necessary prerequisite for my submission to the Constitutional Court is that I had to sign the amendment even if I do not agree with it, and that is why I am contesting it at court,” Caputova said.

“It is the only way to allow the effects of the amendment not to be triggered even for a single day.”

The reforms would lower sentences, for example for misuse of EU funds, for corruption, tax fraud, theft, or manipulation of public tenders.

Sentences for many crimes would be changed to suspended sentences or home detention, and statutes of limitations that make crimes unpunishable after given periods would be shortened.

Fico’s government argue reforms modernise the criminal code and end what they call excesses at the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

The opposition and other critics say the reforms will protect Fico’s political and business allies from investigations.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)