In Israel the proposed Immunity Law is central to coalition negotiations - yet around the globe there is a gradual but significant process of reducing the scope of procedural immunity. See how Israel compares with democracies around the world
There is a gradual but significant process of reducing the scope of procedural immunity. In France and Italy, for example, immunity from prosecution was abolished in the 1990s; In Slovakia, immunity was greatly reduced in 2012, and now, primarily includes immunity from arrest before trial; in Estonia, it was determined in 2015 that immunity applies only if the offense was committed in the course of fulfilling the duties of a Member of Parliament. The same is true in Sweden.
In Western European democracies, such as Germany, Spain, Denmark and the Czech RepublicFor example "Handbook on the Incompatibilities and Immunity of the Members of the European Parliament," Directorate General for Internal Policies, Policy Department C: Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs, Documented requested by European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, August 2014; Parliamentary Immunity: Challenges to the Scope of the Privileges and Immunities Enjoyed by Members of the Parliamentary Assembly," Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, 23.5.2016; Sacha Hardt,. Parliamentary Immunity: a Comprehensive Study of the Systems of Parliamentary Immunity of the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands in a European Context (Maastricht: Maastricht University, 2013); James Hamilton, "Political Immunities in Europe: The Scope and Lifting of Parliamentary Immunities," Workshop on Corruption and Immunities, Vienna, 16.6.2016 , where procedural immunity against prosecution is still in effect, its use is extremely limited, and immunity is almost always revoked.
The traditional distinction between the "British model" (limited immunity) and the "continental model" (extensive immunity) is no longer accurate. Although in Anglo-Saxon democracies immunity is less prevalent than in continental democracies, also in many of the latter there is no automatic immunity, certainly not full automatic immunity, from prosecution.
Only in six of the 20 countries examined (Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Austria, Estonia) is there "automatic immunity" for Members of Parliament. In three countries (Austria, Estonia, and Denmark), immunity applies only if the offenses are related to the offender’s political functions.
In addition, in Sweden and Portugal, there is automatic immunity only for relatively minor offenses, the penalty for which is less than 2-3 years in prison. No immunity exists with regard to matters relating to bribery offenses. By comparison, the punishment in Israel for fraud and breach of trust by a public servant-- is 3 years, and for taking bribes-- 10 years; In Belgium, this immunity applies only during the period of time in which parliamentary sessions are held.
In other countries, there is either no procedural immunity, or—immunity does not prevent prosecution, but merely shields from detention or certain interrogation procedures (mainly physical search).
|Country||What does the immunity cover?||Comments|
|Austria||Various interrogation methods, arrest, imprisonment and prosecution.||The immunity from arrest and imprisonment is annulled after conviction in a final judgment that includes a sentence of at least one year in prison; With regard to prosecution - if the law enforcement authorities believe that there is a connection between the offense and the political functions of the suspect - there is automatic immunity. If the law enforcement authorities believe there is no such connection, the suspect can be prosecuted without the approval of the parliament. In such a case, the Parliament may reinstate immunity, at the request of the suspect or some of the members of Parliament.|
|Australia||There is no immunity in criminal proceedings|
|Italy||Arrest and imprisonment, and various interrogation methods||The immunity is revoked after conviction in a final judgment|
|Estonia||Various interrogation methods, arrest, imprisonment and prosecution.||Immunity from arrest and imprisonment is annulled after a criminal conviction;|
|Immunity applies only if the relevant act is part of the "free mandate" of the Member of Parliament. The law also states that immunity will not be used as a means to evade justice.|
|United States||Arrest in the parliament building, on the way to and from it||Immunity does not apply in the case of serious offenses (like felony) and "breach of peace".|
|Belgium||Arrest, detention, prosecution, court summons||Certain investigative procedures, such as searching the belongings of a Member of Parliament, can be carried out only in the presence of a representative of the Speaker of the Parliament; Immunities apply only during the parliamentary sessions (and not during recess).|
|Britain||No immunity in criminal proceedings|
|Germany||Various interrogation methods, detention and imprisonment, and prosecution||The immunity is revoked after a conviction in a criminal judgment that includes a sentence of at least one year imprisonment|
|Denmark||Arrest, imprisonment and prosecution||Immunity from arrest and imprisonment is annulled after a final judgment and the consent of Parliament; The immunity does not apply in cases where the suspicions concern "personal matters" (as opposed to "public matters")|
|Netherlands||There is no immunity in criminal proceedings|
|Malta||There is no immunity in criminal proceedings|
|Norway||Protection against arrest in or on the way to and from the parliament building|
|Spain||Arrest, imprisonment and prosecution||The immunity from arrest and imprisonment is annulled if a criminal judgment justifies it|
|Portugal||Arrest, imprisonment and prosecution||The immunity does not apply to offenses subject to a sentence of at least three years imprisonment (for example, bribery)|
|Finland||Arrest before trial begins||The immunity is annulled if there are significant suspicions of an offense subject to a sentence of is at least six months in prison|
|Czech Republic||Arrest, imprisonment and prosecution|
|France||Arrest and imprisonment||Immunities do not apply in the case of a "crime" offense; The immunity is annulled after conviction in a final judgment; Parliament can approve a suspension of the investigation and prosecution proceedings for the duration of the session|
|Canada||There is no immunity in criminal proceedings|
|Sweden||Arrest and imprisonment||Immunity applies only in cases in which the act is related to the suspect's parliamentary activity; The immunity does not apply to offenses punishable by at least two years imprisonment (for example, bribery)|