Gustav Krajči and Ivan Lexa - two former public officials whose names have become synonymous with high-level crimes committed under the government of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar - may not be charged with criminal offences after all.
In a stunning decision released on July 8, the Constitutional Court ruled that current Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda had no legal basis for cancelling an amnesty issued by Mečiar to Krajči and Lexa in March 1998.
Lexa, the former boss of the Slovak secret service, has been in jail since April in pre-trial custody on charges that he engineered the 1995 kidnapping of the former President's son, Michal Kováč Jr. Krajči, a former Interior Minister in the Mečiar cabinet, is being investigated on charges that he engineered the marring of a 1997 referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections.
"In practice, this means that criminal proceedings against Krajči regarding the marred referendum must halt, as well as criminal proceedings against Ivan Lexa for the kidnapping of Michal Kováč Jr.," said Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský for Rádio Twist on July 8.
When former Slovak President Michal Kováč ended his term in office on March 2, 1998, many presidential powers devolved to Mečiar - including the power of amnesty. Mečiar duly used his powers as acting President on March 3 to issue amnesties to all those involved in the Kováč Jr. kidnapping and the marred referendum. But when Dzurinda took office after September parliamentary elections last year, he too inherited the presidential power of amnesty - which he used on December 8 to cancel the amnesties issued by his predecessor.
Ernest Valko, a prominent Bratislava lawyer and former Chief Justice of the Czechoslovak Constitutional Court, helped Dzurinda to prepare his revision of Mečiar's amnesty, and maintained that the Prime Minister's move had been perfectly legal. "What Dzurinda did was valid, and no one can undo it, not even President Rudolf Schuster," he said.
However, the political opposition seized on the Constitutional Court decision to press its case against the government. Vojtech Tkáč, a deputy with Mečiar's HZDS party, said on July 8 that "we will now form a special parliamentary committee to investigate how many times and in what circumstances the Dzurinda government acted against the constitution."
Following the committee's investigation, Tkáč continued, "we will probably initiate a vote of non-confidence in Dzurinda because he is responsible for the actions of members of his government." Constitutional Court decisions do not bind parliament to act upon them.
Tkáč expressed anger that Dzurinda had been allowed to alter the amnesties in the first place. "Because of Dzurinda's actions, Lexa is sitting in jail and criminal proceedings have been launched against Krajči," he said.