Aktualizováno: 6. 12. 2020
Contribution "Changes to the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in terms of usability for citizens" at the conference of the Party of Free Citizens "Necessary Changes in the Constitution" held on April 20, 2013 at the Prague Autoclub.
The Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms form the basis on which the rule of law is built. In order to be the stabilizing pillars of a free society, they must function in peace and any changes to them must be made judiciously. However, suggestions for their changes are presented to the public not only in the form of professional proceedings, but also through book publications intended for the general public. What is mentioned in the presented publications and proposals, but is not addressed in more depth, is the proposal or discussion of their optimal scope and form due to their applicability for the ordinary citizen. Knowledge of the text of the Constitution and the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms affects the political and legal consciousness of citizens, and according to them they should always clearly recognize their fundamental rights and if their current government is or isn´t in conflict with these documents. They should therefore be clearly written in their form and scope.
The current scope of the Constitution and the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Czech Republic
To find out the current state of the wording of the Czech Constitution and the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in comparison with the wording in countries that are often recommended as inspiring for the Czech Republic, it is therefore appropriate to compare these legal norms. By giving these documents a more readable form, ie. the font and formatting will be changed so that the given texts appropriately and aesthetically fill as much space on individual pages as possible, not only their clearer form is obtained, but also the possibility for their mutual comparison in terms of scope arises.
The Constitution is the highest legal norm of the legal order of the state and its basic law. If there is a conflict of legal norms in the legal system, the Constitution takes precedence over laws, government regulations and decrees. The following table shows a comparison of the scope of the Czech Constitution of 1992 with the scope of the US Constitution (including 27 amendments) of 1788 and the Constitution of Switzerland of 1848.
Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is also called the "human rights catalog" because it serves to "catalogize" human rights. In the USA, the so-called Charter of Rights of 1791 applies, ie 10 of the 27 amendments to the US Constitution, which were created due to concerns that the US Constitution may allow the establishment of a totalitarian regime by the central government. The best-known version of human rights in the world was published by the UN in 1948 in a non-binding document, the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1992, the so-called Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the current constitutional order of the Czech Republic, entered into force in the Czech Republic. In 2007, the so-called Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is part of the Lisbon Treaty, was proposed and approved in 2009. Only Poland, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic have negotiated an exemption from this charter. Their comparison in terms of scope is shown in the following table.
Comparison of the scope of basic legal documents of the Czech Republic and the USA
Therefore, if we compare the situation where a citizen must orient himself in the basic documents of the legal system of his country, then a citizen in the Czech Republic must "study" about 1.4 times more text and about 1.7 times more pages than a citizen in the US. And when we count EU documents it is about 1.9 times more text and about 2.6 times more pages, as shown in the following picture.
To compare these documents, it is appropriate to include documents that are often mentioned in discussions, both in terms of the example of opacity and size - the Lisbon Treaty, and in terms of example of clarity and brevity - the draft Constitution from the book „The State in the Third Millennium“- see. the following table.
Vision of the state in the third millennium
The mentioned Constitution from the book „The State in the Third Millennium“ is the final chapter of this book and it is worth mentioning some other ideas from previous chapters, because in addition to the vision of the ideal structure of state administration, it should become a service center that serves citizens to transfer as many activities as possible to the regions and the commercial sphere, while the minimum necessary to do so must be carried out effectively and transparently with the help of audits and controls, it also describes and points to the applicability of the legal order to the citizen.
The citizen is often required by the state to know all the regulations and if he does not follow them, he can be punished, in full accordance with the motto "ignorance does not excuse", while sometimes the regulations themselves are partially contradictory. If a citizen thus adheres to one rule, he may violate another. In addition, laws and regulations are very often subject to change and are formulated too complicated and professionally, so that it is difficult for an ordinary citizen to understand. In addition to the national production of state laws, the citizen is also affected by foreign regulations, the enormous increase in recent decades being based on bilateral agreements between states or possible membership in regional organizations such as the EU and world organizations such as the UN and could be contradictory to national law. However, if the set of tasks assigned to the state is reduced to maintaining a democratic rule of law and foreign policy, it is possible to make the Constitution short and easy to understand. The advantage then is that citizens can deal with the Constitution and get to know it. Therefore, there should be a requirement for the legislator to write economically and clearly, even the laws with which the ordinary citizen comes into contact most often during his or her life.
Another point in this book is that if the state, on the one hand, assumes that it is the duty of the citizen to know the Constitution and the laws, it should, on the other hand, ensure that citizens are best informed about the current state of legislation. Thus, as part of compulsory school attendance, it should not introduce law teaching and dedicate to each citizen a collection of laws, which will contain, in addition to the Constitution, the most important laws with commentary, so that the citizen can orientate himself in a democratic state governed by the rule of law and to be informed about his rights and duties?
Usability of the legal order for the citizen
The Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms represent the basis of the legal order of the state, which should be "user-friendly" and easy to apply for the citizen. But what exactly is usability? In general, usability is a feature that is simple to use and easy to learn during handling. ISO defines it as the extent to which a product (ie in this case the legal order) can be used by specific users (ie in this case by citizens) to achieve the set objectives effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily in a given context of use.
If we continue to be inspired by technical practice, some industry standards even before the product is put into practice directly require its "Determination and demonstration of reliability, availability, maintainability and safety", the so-called RAMS, such as according to EN 50126, which requires, among other things, the definition of:
- all possible hazards in the system in all uses;
- the characteristics of each hazard in terms of the severity of the consequences;
- the likelihood of the occurrence of any type of safety-related system failure.
Fulfillment of these and similar conditions should therefore also apply to legislators when submitting draft texts of laws, despite how different is their current practice and the ideas of most people about its possibilities and potential resulting from existing historical experience.
Recommendations and conclusion
This contribution to the discussion on "amending the Constitution with the aim of increasing freedom and reducing the power of politicians" not only clearly summarizes and compares selected Constitutions and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also draws the US Constitution as inspiring for the Czech Republic. It should be borne in mind, however, that the stable wording of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is of great value to the state. However, if proposals for their amendment are already being submitted, they should also take into account their usability to the average citizen and should therefore be written in such a way that their final form is short and comprehensible.
As these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are submitted mainly due to the need to improve the current state of Czech politics, the final recommendation is that regardless of the possible implementation of any changes, the Czech state administration should start to raise citizens' political and legal awareness by informing them of the current state of legislation, in a similar way to the Swiss administration, which publishes an annual information brochure giving citizens a broad and clear picture of political institutions and executive bodies, including an emphasis on the structure and role of the state; for the citizen plays.