Nominee For Constitutional Court Withdraws His Nomination Following Political Pressure
Fremr convicted 172 people of emigration in 124 separate cases between 1983 and 1985. Credit: Freepik.
Prague, Aug 14 (CTK) – Robert Fremr, a vice-chairman of the Prague High Court, will not become a constitutional court judge, as he himself decided to withdraw his nomination due to pressure, he told reporters today.
Fremr admitted that he had not been able to ease the distrust of a part of the public regarding his Communist-era tenure in the judiciary, and did not want to jeopardise the credibility of the Constitutional Court. He mentioned that public confidence is a key prerequisite for a constitutional judge.
“I counted them, and before November 1989 I had issued about a thousand decisions,” he said. “I fully respect that from today’s perspective some of those decisions simply cannot be explained. I could defend myself in one or another case, but I am sure that I would never be able to explain them all completely.”
“I want to stress that I came to this decision on my own, no one forced me to make it. The indiscriminate media pressure from some media outlets – most of which were completely fair – was no longer bearable for me and my family,” he continued, thanking the representatives of the Czech justice system, professionals, colleagues and friends who had supported him. “It is they who have the greatest personal experience of my work and my character. They made me hesitate with my decision,” he said.
Although Fremr was approved for the post by the Senate, President Petr Pavel subsequently postponed his appointment pending a review of new information from historians about Fremr’s decisions in criminal cases under the communist regime.
Fremr is one of the country’s most experienced criminal judges, as he has been on the bench since 1982, was a vice-president of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and served as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Last week, he said he was considering giving up his candidacy for the Constitutional Court, but that like the president, he wanted to wait for the results of the vetting process so that his move could not be interpreted as a confession. He has previously stressed that he was not an extended arm of the communist StB secret service. At the time, he described the current interest of some media in his person as an unfair campaign that contains a number of half-truths and lies.
The judge said he had notified Pavel of his decision today. “I don’t think it surprised the president. He told me he would accept whatever approach I took on the matter. He said he understood.”
Referring to the offer from the president’s advisory panel to resign over his nomination, Fremr said that would be unfair. He said the panel members did not know all the information and could not have anticipated it.
“They did not know the key information that served as arguments against my nomination,” he noted. “I went into the evaluation process with the idea that there was nothing wrong with me, and certainly this selection panel could not have seen it coming. When I was offered the job, I was hesitant because of my membership in the Communist Party, but I did not see any other objections to myself and my work there.”
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes reported last week, based on archival files, that Fremr had convicted 172 people of emigration in 124 separate cases between 1983 and 1985. Leaving the republic was punishable under the penal code at the time. All those convicted were rehabilitated after the 1989 revolution and the trials were branded political.
The server Echo24 also reported today that Fremr sentenced a warehouse worker to ten months in prison in 1985 for defaming the republic. An appeals court later overturned that sentence and released the defendant after serving five months in custody.
The Constitutional Court is now undergoing a change in personnel, as a number of judges have reached or are due to reach the end of their terms. President Pavel has already appointed five of his nominees as constitutional judges: judges Josef Baxa, Daniela Zemanova and Veronika Krestanova, civil law professor Katerina Ronovska, and constitutional lawyer Jan Wintr. The new head of the institution, Baxa, said that missing one judge did not pose a problem for the court’s operation.