Iceland – Former PM found guilty of not holding Cabinet meetings

The former prime minister of Iceland, Geir H. Haarde, was found guilty on Monday of violating the country’s constitution.

Geir H. Haarde was PM from 2006-2009. This was the time when the Icelandic economy collapsed. Subsequently, a special commission accused him of negligence in the handling of the crisis. In September 2010 parliament voted to indict him on four charges. The trial began last month.

He was tried by a special court, the Landsdómur, which was established in 1905, but which ha never been convened until now. It comprises five supreme court judges, a district court president, a constitutional law professor, and eight people chosen by parliament.

In the end, former PM Haarde was found guilty of only one charge, namely violating Article 17 of the constitution, which states: “Ministerial meetings shall be held in order to discuss new legislative proposals and important State matters. Furthermore, ministerial meetings shall be held if a Minister wishes to raise a matter there. The meetings shall be presided over by the Minister called upon by the President of the Republic to do so, who is designated Prime Minister.” By a vote of nine to six, the former PM was found guilty of not having held cabinet meetings to discuss the crisis.

According to Iceland Review, the judges concurred that it was “major recklessness not to have discussed the aforementioned matters at cabinet meetings because it was clear to him, or should have been clear, that they were of utmost importance and of the nature that, as part of the government’s economic policy, he was obligated to do so.”

There is no criminal or other penalty associated with the guilty verdict. Moreover, the state will cover all the legal costs of the trial.

Whatever about the circumstances of this particular case, it is interesting that a PM was charged, but it is remarkable that he was found guilty of not holding cabinet meetings. I wonder how many PMs elsewhere would be worried for themselves if Icelandic jurisprudence were to be applied elsewhere?

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