Court Rules State Can Be Sued For Zeman’s Transgressions

Milos Zeman

Brno, May 24 (CTK) – The state can be sued if the president causes harm within the execution of his office, the Czech Supreme Court (NS) has said in the justification of its verdict in the dispute about President Milos Zeman’s abusive words on the late journalist Ferdinand Peroutka.


The NS returned the case to the district court for reappraisal, ruling that the president is not accountable as a person within the execution of his post, for instance, for his statements that infringe personality rights.


The lower-level court originally ordered that the state must partially apologise to Peroutka’s granddaughter Terezie Kaslova


Zeman’s office ignored this verdict. The Supreme Court said the office need not obey it because it is not final and the apology would be irreversible.


The judiciary is to solve similar disputes under the the law on responsibility for damage caused during the execution of public office by a decision or a wrong administrative procedure, it ensues from the NS verdict.


The NS also pointed to the use of an unsuitable law in the case, that is the Civil Code, and stressed that not the Presidential Office, but another institution, possibly one of the ministries, should have acted on behalf of the state. Their role in similar cases is specified in the law on responsibility.


The NS did not clearly say which ministry should represent the state in the dispute about Zeman’s words. However, it indicated that if it were not possible to set the respective office, the Finance Ministry would act on behalf of the state.


It will be up to the district court to decide on the accountable office in the dispute about Zeman’s words now.


Along with the exclusive presidential powers, the execution of the president’s office is connected with other activities in the sphere of representation, protocol and ceremonial affairs, the NS said.


Peroutka (1895-1978) was a prominent democratic journalist during the interwar period and was imprisoned by the Nazi regime in 1939-1945.


In his address at a conference on the Holocaust, Zeman said that Peroutka had shown pro-Nazi leanings, and he kept insisting that he had read Peroutka’s article called “Hitler is a Gentleman.” His spokesman Jiri Ovcacek searched for the article for a long time, but in vain. Czech historians said Peroutka had not written such a text.


Both the Presidential Office and Kaslova filed a petition for appellate review with the NS since they were not satisfied with the district court’s verdict on a partial apology for Zeman’s statements.


The NS issued its ruling after 1.5 years. It did not deal with Zeman’s statements about Peroutka and their veracity.