Parliamentary immunity is not a green light for impunity

The PACE rapporteur on parliamentary immunity, Liliana Palihovici (Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD), has expressed concern that 14 out of the 47 member states do not have any system of inviolability - to protect parliamentarians against politically-motivated pressure - or have significantly reduced its scope.

Presenting a report on "Parliamentary immunity: challenges to the scope of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by members of PACE" to the Rules Committee, meeting in Rome today, she stressed that inviolability continues to play an important role in countries that do not provide their parliamentarians with adequate means of protection, especially because their judicial and criminal systems provide insufficient safeguards. "It constitutes an important safeguard for the political minority and a means for protecting the opposition," she said.

Adopting the report unanimously, the committee condemned methods of exerting political pressure that take the form of proceedings against members of parliament with no connection to their parliamentary mandate, such as taxation matters, or criminal proceedings against members of their family. It accordingly reaffirmed the need to maintain a system of inviolability that makes it possible to prevent any possibility of politically-motivated proceedings, thereby protecting the opposition from pressure or abuse on the part of the majority during and after the end of the parliamentary mandate.

It also called for member states' strict compliance with their obligations under the Council of Europe Statute, condemning breaches by some states of the immunity status of PACE members and in particular of the principle of free movement.

"However," the committee recalled, "immunity is not a system of impunity", nor a green card for statements inciting hatred, violence or destruction of democratic rights and freedoms.

The report will be discussed at the PACE plenary summer session (Strasbourg, 20-24 June 2016).