Former Prime Minister of Iceland Geir H. Haarde declared the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Friday, that “broad abuse-of-office laws for politicians are ‘problematic’ and should be abolished or redrafted,” to be a personal victory for him.
Former PM of Iceland Geir H. Haarde. Photo: Geir Ólafsson/Iceland Review.
“PACE’s resolution is a huge victory for me and my cause and I celebrate it. The resolution and the work behind it was made in response to the High Court trial against me and the trial against former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko,” Geir wrote in a statement, published on ruv.is.
On April 23, 2012, nine judges out of 15 at the High Court of Iceland (Landsdómur) convicted Geir in one out of four charges, for not having fulfilled his obligations according to the 17th article of the Constitution of Iceland, that is, for not having held cabinet meetings on important matters in the lead-up to the economic collapse in 2008.
Geir was put on trial after the majority of MPs in Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, decided to press charges against him based on the parliament’s Special Investigative Commission’s (SIC) recommendations in 2010.
Two other former ministers were not charged by Alþingi in spite of having been found responsible for the banking collapse in the SIC report. Taking a fourth former minister to trial for her part in the collapse was also considered but the majority of MPs voted against it.
Geir appealed the High Court verdict to the European Court of Human Rights after Pieter Omtzigt, a parliamentarian for the Christian Democratic Appeal in the Netherlands and member of the European Council, came to Iceland to investigate his case.
Friday’s resolution is based on Omtzigt’s report.
The resolution further reads that, “special procedures to impeach ministers should be in line with basic rule of law principles and applied with ‘extra caution and restraint’.”
Moreover, “‘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 concludes that, “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.”
Icelandic Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, who succeeded Geir as chair of the Independence Party, stated on the Stöð 2 evening news on Saturday that the High Court should be abolished following PACE’s resolution.
Chair of the opposition’s Left-Green Movement Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who was among MPs voting in favor of charging Geir in 2010, commented on the evening news of RÚV yesterday that she is convinced that it had been the right move given the regal framework that existed at the time but that she agrees that the position of the High Court should now be reviewed.