Source: Central Europe Online
Contact:  Tue, 07 Apr 1998


PRAGUE -- (Reuters) Czech President Vaclav Havel vetoed a controversial law
banning possession of drugs for personal use and sent it back to
parliament, citing human rights concerns, his spokesman said on Monday.

"The President reached the opinion that the law would lead to the
prosecution of victims rather than culprits," spokesman Ladislav Spacek
said in a statement.

The law, approved by both the lower and upper houses of parliament earlier
this year, would make possession of a "larger than small" amount of drugs
illegal. It did not specify the amount or types of drugs.

Drug experts have warned that the legislation could lead to an increase in
crime and drug prices and a decline in the willingness of addicts to be

"It (the law) means an overly sharp invasion of the established system of
human rights and freedoms," the statement said.

It added that the shortcomings of the legislation and dangers associated
with its application could outweigh any positive effects.

The lower house of parliament can override Havel's veto with a simple
majority in the 200-seat lower house.

Protesters rejecting the law organized petitions, sent letters to
parliament and to Havel, and staged a demonstration outside the Senate
during the debate on the law.

Police called for the law saying it would help it fight a burgeoning drug trade.

Current Czech law bans drug production and distribution, but does not
punish possession and use.

(c) 1998 Reuters