CJEU: Double Jeopardy Doesn’t Stand in Way of Prosecuting Kovac Jr’s Kidnappers

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Michal Kovac Jr. in a TASR photo taken on June 26, 1996

Luxembourg, December 16 (TASR) – The prohibition on being tried or punished for the same offence twice (double jeopardy) doesn’t stand in the way of issuing a European arrest warrant against individuals charged with the 1995 kidnapping the son of former Slovak president Michal Kovac, according to a decision issued by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) on Thursday.


“The fact that the criminal prosecution was halted by an amnesty, with the amnesty subsequently annulled, doesn’t stand in the way of issuing an arrest warrant, as domestic judicial bodies haven’t yet ruled on the criminal liability of the defendants,” stated the CJEU.

The CJEU pointed out that the prohibition in question can be invoked only when the criminal liability of the defendants has been examined and a verdict handed down”. Only such an interpretation is in line with the “legitimate goal” of preventing legal impunity for individuals who have committed a crime.

In the case of the 1995 kidnapping of former president Michal Kovac’s son, in which pardons were granted under a now-annulled 1998 amnesty issued by former premier Vladimir Meciar, Slovakia has advanced closer to justice, Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OLaNO) posted on a social network in response to a ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) on Thursday.

“We’re again one step closer towards healing a wound in our judiciary. It [the ruling] is important news for our country that will enable us to investigate the travesties of the past. Our society deserves this, as does the legacy of the murdered Robert Remias [the key witness in the kidnapping, whose murder was also pardoned by Meciar’s amnesty – ed.note],” posted Heger.

The ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the case of the 1995 kidnapping of former president Michal Kovac’s son is epochal, President Zuzana Caputova posted on a social network Thursday.

“Today, the Court of Justice of the EU decided that criminal prosecutions can proceed. I perceive this as an epochal decision – finally, an opportunity has opened up for our courts to investigate thoroughly a case that has been polarising society for many long years and decide on the guilt or innocence of the defendants,” wrote the president.

Caputova believes that Vladimir Meciar’s 1998 amnesties were a gross misuse of the law. “Civil society as well as many of our politicians attempted for years to have them annulled so that the responsibility of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) and other individuals for the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac’s son could be investigated,” she said.

Parliamentary Chair Boris Kollar (We Are Family) won’t comment on the verdicts of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), TASR learnt from his spokeswoman Michaela Jurcova on Thursday.