The Constitutional Court of Kosovo held an online public hearing on Wednesday, based on the request of the opposition Vetevendosje, which has claimed that the government of Avdullah Hoti is unconstitutional due to the vote of an MP who was convicted of corruption.
Etem Arifi, an MP with the Ashkali Party for Integration, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in April 2018 for appropriating €26,000 through an NGO.
In August 2020, a Pristina court issued an arrest warrant against Arifi, but he gave himself up on September 29.
He was due to start his sentence on 9 March 2020, but the court postponed it twice by four months in total due to his poor health. During this time, Arifi voted to elect the Hoti Government on 3 June 2020.
No decision was made today by the Court, but the parties presented their arguments and answered judges’ questions.
Blerim Sallahu of Vetevendosje said that Arifi cannot represent the electorate because he is in prison. Sallahu added that by allowing Arifi to hold his mandate, the Assembly’s institutional integrity is violated.
“The moment Mr Arifi became an MP, he violated the integrity of the institution of the Assembly, and the democracy in general, because democracy does not allow to be represented by an MP who is already in prison,” he said.
According to him, there was a lack of proper institutional communication, therefore “the Constitutional Court has the opportunity to correct the unforgivable mistake.”
The legal advisor to the Speaker of Parliament, Artan Murati criticized Kosovo’s Courts for not informing the Assembly of Kosovo about verdicts, especially on MP Etem Arifi’s case.
He added that the current Speaker of Parliament, Vjosa Osmani first heard about the case from the media on April 29.
“The Courts’ practice of not informing the Assembly creates legal and constitutional ambiguities, which are evident in the case in question,” said Murati.
Besnik Berisha from Prime Minister’s office said that Etem Arifi is a certified MP, according to the law in force, therefore his vote was legal.
For Valdete Daka, head of the Central Election Commission, the problem lies with a 2017 judgment of the Supreme Court, which specifies that an additional court decision is needed to ban one’s right to run in elections.
“This judgment is contrary to Article 29 of the Law on Elections, which specifies that no person with a final sentence in the last 3 years can run in general election,” Daka explained as to why Arifi was certified as MP candidate.
Shkemb Manaj, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Mandates, said that they reviewed the case of Arifi as requested by the Speaker.
“No provision of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly speaks of losing the mandate, except in case the MP does not appear in the Assembly for more than six months,” Manaj said.
He added that a deputy loses the mandate “only if is sentenced to imprisonment during that mandate”, which according Manaj is not the case with Arifi.
Among other situations when the mandate of an MP comes to an end according Article 70 of the Constitution of Kosovo, is also when “the deputy is convicted and sentenced to one or more years imprisonment by a final court decision of committing a crime”.
Court’s President Arta Rama-Hajrizi announced that when the court makes the decision, a written form of it will be sent to all parties.
“These arguments or additional arguments that we heard today, can be summarized and submitted in writing until December 7 in the Constitutional Court,” she said.