The special UN envoy on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, has criticised the processes followed by the Italian government, changing the law before cases involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi before the Constitutional Court could study them. He declared that all citizens should be subject to the same law.
A case in which Berlusconi was a key witness was transferred from Milan to Brescia. Before the Constitutional Court could decide on whether this could be done or not, the Italian Parliament altered the legislation, amending the Criminal Procedure Code to make the move theoretically legal when in practice, without the alteration, it would not have been. The UN envoy declared that “Parliament jumped the gun. The speed in which (the) parliamentary process was invoked to amend the Criminal procedure Code before even the Constitutional Court could decide on the reference is unprecedented and the immediate beneficiary of this amendment is seen as the Prime Minister”.
Mr. Cumaraswamy added that there was a need for such a change in Italian law. However, the timing of the alterations seems to primarily favour the Prime Minister personally, not the nation. He also pointed out that Mr. Berlusconi failed to appear in two trials in which he had been named as a witness, one in Milan and the other in Palermo, Sicily.
“When (I) enquired why, I was told that there is a provision in the Criminal procedure Code providing high ranking personalities like the Prime Minister the option to appear and give evidence in court or call upon the court to give their testimonies at a venue of their choice. I find such a law, particularly in this day and (at this) time, untenable”, said the special envoy. He went on to declare that “The Prime Minister being the head of the executive arm of the government should not be seen as being above the law and violating the very core value of the rule of law”.
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