14 December, 2020
The rule of law cannot exist merely hypothetically, the operation of law must be visible, as stated on 11 December by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Aigars Strupiss in the think tank dedicated to constitutional ideas of the Constitutional Court. In his opinion, the most critical issue in strengthening the justice in Latvia relates to problems of the rule of law. Society loses trust in the law because the principle of the inevitability of punishment does not work.
According to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, part of the problem lies in the current understanding that the “real” crimes are those directed against a specific person, but economic and corruption crimes are less significant because they do not have a specific victim. It is difficult to explain otherwise why penalties for economic and corruption crimes tend to be so lenient. This paradigm must be broken, it must be understood that the victim of these crimes is society as a whole.
"The operation of the law must be visible, so that it could be seen that it works, so that no one can escape punishment," said the Chief Justice, reminding that it is not the severity of punishment that matters, but the inevitability of punishment. If it works, the society respects the law.
What regards the execution of judgments of the Constitutional Court, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court pointed out that it is easier for courts, compared to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Saeima (parliament), because the court does not take part in politics. The courts must respect the fact that the interpretation of the law provided by the Constitutional Court is binding, and the courts do so. There obviously are debatable issues as well, and judges are discussing them, thus developing the quality of application of the judgments of the Constitutional Court.
The Chief Justice indicated the meetings of judges of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court as a positive practice, which helps in improving cooperation of institutions and promotes mutual understanding. "It is not a one-way road. The Constitutional Court must also see what is happening around it," said the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, pointing out in particular the social and legal processes. "The more comprehensible and closer to reality the judgments will be, the easier it will be to enforce them," said the Chief Justice.
By illustrating the problems of execution of judgments of the Constitutional Court, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also addressed the judgments of the Constitutional Court on the issue of remuneration of judges, indicating doubts as to whether these judgments have been executed qualitatively and adequately. Both the Supreme Court and the Judicial Council have expressed the view that they may not have been fully executed. A new draft law on the remuneration system for public officials has been drafted, but it does not clearly define a mechanism for forming judge's remuneration. Consequently, it is currently impossible to tell whether the criteria established by the Constitutional Court for the remuneration of judges have been taken into account.
In the think tank of constitutional ideas named “How to strengthen the rule of law so that a person feels safe? Improving the efficiency of the execution of Constitutional Court judgements” part was taken by Sanita Osipova, President of the Constitutional Court, Inara Murniece, Speaker of the Saeima, Aigars Strupiss, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Janis Bordans, Minister of Justice, Ineta Ziemele, Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union, former President of the Constitutional Court, Gunars Kutris, former President of the Constitutional Court, as well as the current judges of the Constitutional Court.
The text of the commentary by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Aigars Strupiss is available here (in Latvian)
The video-record of the think tank is available here (in Latvian)
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 28652211