By backing an amendment to the Criminal Code, the government says it is reacting to a problem which arose in the Slovak criminal system in 2005 following re-codification of the criminal law.
“We are only correcting the mistakes the previous Justice Minister made,” Prime Minister Robert Fico said during a March 4 press conference. He described the relevant part of the Criminal Code, passed under the then-justice minister, Daniel Lipšic, as ‘a complete mess’.
Fico added that the government rejects a provision passed under Lipšic, who is currently deputy chairman of the Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH), an opposition party. “This is an anti-constitutional provision as he [Lipšic] proposed unlimited and infinite [pre-trial] custody,” Fico noted.
The proposed amendment would allow pre-trial custody of up to four years for suspects accused of serious crimes which qualify for jail sentences of 25 years to life.
Pre-trial custody could be extended for a further one year (i.e. to five years in total) with the approval of a court. “Certain guarantees must be determined so that someone does not spend ten or twelve years in custody as Mr. Lipšic imagined,” the prime minister concluded.
The government also agreed to a shortened legislative proceeding to consider the amendment to the Criminal Code. MPs will therefore debate the amendment after its first reading, during their March meeting starting on March 10, 2009.