From Iceland — Human Rights Court To Review Former PM's Case

Human Rights Court To Review Former PM’s Case

Published November 27, 2013

The European Human Rights Court (ECHR) has decided that it will review former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde’s case against the Icelandic government.
Vísir reports that the Ministry of the Interior was informed of the court’s decision today. The Icelandic government has until March 6 to respond to questions from the court on the case.
In order to do so, the Icelandic government will also have to submit an English translation of the verdict of the National Court, which tried him for negligence and mismanagement.
Last year, Haarde was found guilty of one charge of four of negligence and mismanagement during his time in office, contributing to the economic crash of 2008. He was not punished, and in fact the state was ordered to pay for his legal expenses.
Although Geir would go on to get a job as an “international affairs consultant” for the law offices of Opus, he announced shortly after the trial that he would send his case to ECHR. He contended that much about the trial against him was “reprehensible”, and said that the Icelandic government broke international human rights law regarding the right to be charged for a specific crime. Rather, he said, his trial was a political one initiated by political enemies.
The move to go to a European human rights court may have been initiated by a memorandum (.pdf file) written for the committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights by Pieter Omtzigt, an EMP for the center-right European People’s Party, which stated in part that Geir’s trial was “arguably one of those cases from which lessons can be drawn for keeping political and criminal responsibility separate.”
The 2010 Special Investigative Commission report on the causes of the economic collapse singled out, among others, Geir as a negligent prime minister who ignored warnings that the economy was at the breaking point, and who was frankly terrified of former Central Bank chairman Davíð Oddsson. Parliament narrowly voted to press charges against Geir, and determined that he must stand trial.
The trial, held throughout the spring of 2012, featured numerous witnesses coming to testify, including Davíð Oddsson. Prosecutor Sigríður Friðjónsdóttir concluded her final arguments by stating that when it comes to the personal responsibility of a government minister, the law is clear. Geir had many opportunities to step in and prevent disaster, she said, all of which he chose to ignore. Andri Árnason, Geir’s defence attorney, argued on the other hand that many matters were kept deliberately hidden from Geir until it was too late, if they were revealed at all.

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