Top Slovak court halts big part of government’s criminal law overhaul

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 4:36 AM

(Reuters) – Slovakia’s Constitutional Court has halted a part of the government’s overhaul of the criminal law that aimed to significantly reduce punishment for crimes such as corruption and fraud.

The court, however, said in a statement on Thursday it rejected other complaints by the country’s liberal president and opposition, meaning a plan to scrap the country’s special prosecution office which has dealt with serious crime including high-level corruption will go ahead.

The combination of the changes, pushed through by Prime Minister Robert Fico’s coalition in a fast-track legislative procedure, has raised alarm in the opposition along with concerns at the European Commission and the European Prosecutor’s Office.

The criticism has focused on the lack of wide debate, a significant lowering of punishments for financial crimes, and also for shortening the statutes of limitations which would forever halt many ongoing investigations, even if the law took effect for just one day.

The court did not scrap a planned reform to abolish the Office of Special Prosecutor, which has dealt with high-level crime including cases involving senior public officials and politicians from Fico’s SMER-SD party.

The decision means the affected parts of the reform should not enter into effect on March 15, pending further deliberations by the court that may take months.

The court acted speedily, aiming to make its decision effective before the reform law takes effect.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague, editing by Jason Hovet and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)