Parliamentary Immunity, a comprehensive comparative study
PhD student: Dr S. Hardt
Promotors: Prof L.F.M. Verhey, Dr Ph. Kiiver
Duration: 1/6/2009 - 31/5/2013
PhD defence: Maastricht, 26/9/2013
Parliamentary immunity, defined as the full or partial immunity of members of parliament from measures of investigation or prosecution for civil or criminal matters, is known to virtually all (national) parliaments. Its purpose is to safeguard the proper functioning of parliament by enabling it to discharge its tasks without undue influence or interference by, especially, the executive and judiciary. Systems of parliamentary immunity differ significantly in terms of legal design, procedure and scope: while in some systems protection is limited to freedom of speech in parliament, parliamentarians in other systems may not, in principle, be prosecuted even for serious crimes without prior authorization by the assembly of which they are members. Even though there is broad consensus among scholars and across legal systems that parliamentary immunity is an important institution without which parliamentarians would not, or not to a sufficient degree, be able to discharge their constitutional functions in a democratic system, it is also alleged that immunity facilitates corruption, libel and slander within the ranks of parliament and may, at times, even infringe upon human rights of citizens. The question is, therefore, how systems of parliamentary immunity are to be designed to effectively secure their objectives limiting possibilities of abuse. A comparative study of the systems of parliamentary immunity of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands will explore in depth a variety of legislative options for the organization of parliamentary immunity and examine their similarities and differences, conflicts that may arise as well as the interrelation between parliamentary immunity and constitutional systems. The results of the envisaged comparison of different systems of parliamentary immunity against the background of different constitutional and institutional settings will be relevant and valuable for future measures of constitution building as well as reform projects concerning parliamentary immunity in the context of national parliaments as well as international parliaments (e.g. the European Parliament) and parliamentary assemblies.