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Czech President vetoes law banning misdemeanor offenders from residency

Prague, 20.6.2012 21:10, (ROMEA)
Czech MP  Ivana Řápková, a populist politician with the Civic Democrats (ODS).

News server iDNES.cz reports that Czech President Václav Klaus has returned a controversial amendment authored by the former Mayor of Chomutov, Czech MP Ivana Řápková (Civic Democrats - ODS), to the Chamber of Deputies. The law would have made it possible for municipalities to ban persons who repeatedly commit misdemeanors and who are not permanent residents of that particular municipality from residing there for up to three months. Klaus said the legislation would be rash.

"I consider the punishment of banning residency for a mere misdemeanor to be disproportionate in the context of Czech law. The concrete regulations proposed by the amendment are rash and do not correspond to the declared intentions of those who proposed them," the President's press release reads.

Klaus reiterated that the amendment only managed to be passed on a second reading. He has also joined those critics who previously took issue with Řápková for presenting an amendment that was unconstitutional and wrongheaded given that freedom of movement and residency are basic human rights. Czech ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský also took a stand against the amendment, as did some other politicians.

Klaus said that from the beginning the amendment was the subject of disputes regarding its "obvious populism and political tendentiousness as well as the fact it is easily abused, rash, and probably unconstitutional. I consider this amendment to the law on misdemeanors as one more proof of the dangerous and growing trend of addressing social problems through criminalizing them instead of getting rid of their causes. By banning someone from residency, a municipality will not resolve its specific problem, but will temporarily shift the problem into a neighboring community."

The amendment says that whoever repeatedly commits misdemeanors may be banned for up to three months from residing on the territory of a municipality. The regulation would only apply to perpetrators who are not permanent residents of the municipality concerned and would apply to repeated petty theft, disturbance of nighttime quiet, or offering prostitution in a public area. The repetition of the misdemeanors would be calculated during the course of one year, according to the bill.

Klaus said it is not possible to punish people on the basis of their permanent residency, as that does not play such an important role in people's lives as it once did. "Commuting for work and living in different places on the weekend and during the workweek is common practice today. As a result, a residency ban for someone so punished could have serious consequences - it could make their family life, work life or care for their own real estate impossible," he pointed out.

The Czech Government rejected the amendment in March 2011, saying a ban on residency was too harsh a punishment for misdemeanor offenses. The Chamber of Deputies later passed the amendment and sent it to the Senate, which rejected it and returned it to the lower house, where their veto was overturned with 105 votes. The amendment was then sent to the president for signature. Now the lower house will have to revisit it a third time. In order to overturn the presidential veto, the MPs need a simple majority of the votes (i.e., 101 votes).

Gwendolyn Albert, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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