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Impeachment is the process by which a
In Latin America, which includes almost 40% of the world's presidential systems, ten presidents from six countries were removed from office by their national legislatures via impeachments or declarations of incapacity between 1978 and 2019.
National legislations differ regarding both the consequences and definition of impeachment, but the intent is nearly always to expeditiously vacate the office. In most nations the process begins in the lower house of a bicameral assembly who bring charges of misconduct, then the upper house administers an impeachment trial and sentencing. Most commonly, an official is considered impeached after the house votes to accept the charges, and impeachment itself does not remove the official from office.
Because impeachment involves a departure from the normal constitutional procedures by which individuals achieve high office (election, ratification, or appointment) and because it generally requires a
Impeachment is provided for in the constitutional laws of many countries including Brazil, France, India, Ireland, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. It is distinct from the motion of no confidence procedure available in some countries whereby a motion of censure can be used to remove a government and its ministers from office. Such a procedure is not applicable in countries with presidential forms of government like the United States.
Etymology and history
The word "impeachment" likely derives from
The process was first used by the English "Good Parliament" against William Latimer, 4th Baron Latimer in the second half of the 14th century. Following the English example, the constitutions of Virginia (1776), Massachusetts (1780) and other states thereafter adopted the impeachment mechanism, but they restricted the punishment to removal of the official from office.
In various jurisdictions
In Brazil, as in most other Latin American countries, "impeachment" refers to the definitive removal from office. The
Initiation: An accusation of a responsibility crime against the President may be brought by any Brazilian citizen however the President of the Chamber of Deputies holds prerogative to accept the charge, which if accepted will be read at the next session and reported to the President of the Republic.
Extraordinary Committee: An extraordinary committee is elected with member representation from each political party proportional to that party's membership. The President is then allowed ten parliamentary sessions for defense, which lead to two legislative sessions to form a rapporteur's legal opinion as to if impeachment proceedings will or will not be sent for a trial in the Senate. The rapporteur's opinion is voted on in the Committee; and on a simple majority it may be accepted. Failing that, the Committee adopts an opinion produced by the majority. For example, if the rapporteur's opinion is that no impeachment is warranted, and the Committee vote fails to accept it, then the Committee adopts the opinion to proceed with impeachment. Likewise, if the rapporteur's opinion is to proceed with impeachment, but it fails to achieve majority in the Committee, then the Committee adopts the opinion not to impeach. If the vote succeeds, then the rapporteur's opinion is adopted.
Chamber of Deputies: The Chamber issues a call-out vote to accept the opinion of the Committee, requiring a supermajority of two thirds in favor of an impeachment opinion (or a supermajority of two thirds against a dismissal opinion) of the Committee, in order to authorize the Senate impeachment proceedings. The President is suspended (provisionally removed) from office as soon as the Senate receives and accepts from the Chamber of Deputies the impeachment charges and decides to proceed with a trial.
The Senate: The process in the Senate had been historically lacking in procedural guidance until 1992, when the Senate published in the Official Diary of the Union the step-by-step procedure of the Senate's impeachment process, which involves the formation of another special committee and closely resembles the lower house process, with time constraints imposed on the steps taken. The committee's opinion must be presented within 10 days, after which it is put to a call-out vote at the next session. The vote must proceed within a single session; the vote on President Rousseff took over 20 hours. A simple majority vote in the Senate begins formal deliberation on the complaint, immediately suspends the President from office, installs the Vice President as acting president, and begins a 20-day period for written defense as well as up to 180-days for the trial. In the event the trial proceeds slowly and exceeds 180 days, the Brazilian Constitution determines that the President is entitled to return and stay provisionally in office until the trial comes to its decision.
Senate plenary deliberation: The committee interrogates the accused or their counsel, from which they have a right to abstain, and also a probative session which guarantees the accused rights to contradiction, or audiatur et altera pars, allowing access to the courts and due process of law under Article 5 of the constitution. The accused has 15 days to present written arguments in defense and answer to the evidence gathered, and then the committee shall issue an opinion on the merits within ten days. The entire package is published for each senator before a single plenary session issues a call-out vote, which shall proceed to trial on a simple majority and close the case otherwise.
Senate trial: A hearing for the complainant and the accused convenes within 48 hours of notification from deliberation, from which a trial is scheduled by the president of the Supreme Court no less than ten days after the hearing. The senators sit as judges, while witnesses are interrogated and cross-examined; all questions must be presented to the president of the Supreme Court, who, as prescribed in the Constitution, presides over the trial. The president of the Supreme Court allots time for debate and rebuttal, after which time the parties leave the chamber and the senators deliberate on the indictment. The President of the Supreme Court reads the summary of the grounds, the charges, the defense and the evidence to the Senate. The senators in turn issue their judgement. On conviction by a supermajority of two thirds, the president of the Supreme Court pronounces the sentence and the accused is immediately notified. If there is no supermajority for conviction, the accused is acquitted.
Upon conviction, the officeholder has his or her political rights revoked for eight years, which bars them from running for any office during that time.
Fernando Collor de Mello, the 32nd President of Brazil, resigned in 1992 amidst impeachment proceedings. Despite his resignation, the Senate nonetheless voted to convict him and bar him from holding any office for eight years, due to evidence of bribery and misappropriation.
In 2016, the
The process of impeaching the
In 2013, the constitution was changed. Since 2013, the process can be started by at least three-fifths of present senators, and must be approved by at least three-fifths of all members of the Chamber of Deputies within three months. Also, the President can be impeached for high treason (newly defined in the Constitution) or any serious infringement of the Constitution.
The process starts in the Senate of the Czech Republic which has the right to only impeach the president. After the approval by the Chamber of Deputies, the case is passed to the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, which has to decide the verdict against the president. If the Court finds the President guilty, then the President is removed from office and is permanently barred from being elected President of the Czech Republic again.
No Czech president has ever been impeached, though members of the Senate sought to impeach President Václav Klaus in 2013. This case was dismissed by the court, which reasoned that his mandate had expired. The Senate also proposed to impeach president Miloš Zeman in 2019  but the Chamber of Deputies did not vote on the issue in time and thus the case did not even proceed to the Court.
In Denmark the possibility for current and former ministers being impeached was established with the
In 1995 the former Minister of Justice Erik Ninn-Hansen from the
In February 2021 the former Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg at that time member of the Danish Liberal Party Venstre was impeached when it was discovered that she had possibly against both Danish and International law tried to separate couples in refugee centres in Denmark, as the wives of the couples were under legal age. According to a commission report Inger Støjberg had also lied in the Danish Parliament and failed to report relevant details to the Parliamentary Ombudsman The decision to initiate an impeachment case was adopted by the Danish Parliament with a 141–30 vote and decision (In Denmark 90 members of the parliament need to vote for impeachment before it can be implemented). On 13 December 2021 former Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg was convicted by the special Court of Impeachment of separating asylum seeker families illegally according to Danish and international law and sentenced to 60 days in prison. The majority of the judges in the special Court of Impeachment (25 out of 26 judges) found that it had been proven that Inger Støjberg on 10 February 2016 decided that an accommodation scheme should apply without the possibility of exceptions, so that all asylum-seeking spouses and cohabiting couples where one was a minor aged 15–17, had to be separated and accommodated separately in separate asylum centers. On 21 December, a majority in the Folketing voted that the sentence means that she is no longer worthy of sitting in the Folketing and she therefore immediately lost her seat.
In France the comparable procedure is called destitution. The
There is no formal impeachment process for the chancellor of Germany, however the Bundestag can replace the chancellor at any time by voting for a new chancellor (constructive vote of no confidence, Article 67 of the Basic Law).
There has never been an impeachment against the President so far. Constructive votes of no confidence against the chancellor occurred in 1972 and 1982, with only the second one being successful.
The chief executive of Hong Kong can be impeached by the Legislative Council. A motion for investigation, initiated jointly by at least one-fourth of all the legislators charging the Chief Executive with "serious breach of law or dereliction of duty" and refusing to resign, shall first be passed by the council. An independent investigation committee, chaired by the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal, will then carry out the investigation and report back to the council. If the Council find the evidence sufficient to substantiate the charges, it may pass a motion of impeachment by a two-thirds majority.: Article 73(9)
However, the Legislative Council does not have the power to actually remove the chief executive from office, as the chief executive is appointed by the Central People's Government (State Council of China). The council can only report the result to the Central People's Government for its decision.: Article 45
Article 13 of Hungary's Fundamental Law (constitution) provides for the process of impeaching and removing the president. The president enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution while in office, but may be charged with crimes committed during his term afterwards. Should the president violate the constitution while discharging his duties or commit a willful criminal offense, he may be removed from office. Removal proceedings may be proposed by the concurring recommendation of one-fifth of the 199 members of the country's unicameral Parliament. Parliament votes on the proposal by secret ballot, and if two thirds of all representatives agree, the president is impeached. Once impeached, the president's powers are suspended, and the Constitutional Court decides whether or not the President should be removed from office.
The president and judges, including the chief justice of the supreme court and high courts, can be impeached by the parliament before the expiry of the term for violation of the Constitution. Other than impeachment, no other penalty can be given to a president in position for the violation of the Constitution under Article 361 of the constitution. However a president after his/her removal can be punished for her/his already proven unlawful activity under disrespecting the constitution, etc. No president has faced impeachment proceedings. Hence, the provisions for impeachment have never been tested. The sitting president cannot be charged and needs to step down in order for that to happen.
Where one house impeaches the president, the remaining house either investigates the charge or commissions another body or committee to do so. The investigating house can remove the president if it decides, by at least a two-thirds majority of its members, both that the president is guilty of the charge and that the charge is sufficiently serious as to warrant the president's removal. To date no impeachment of an Irish president has ever taken place. The president holds a largely ceremonial office, the dignity of which is considered important, so it is likely that a president would resign from office long before undergoing formal conviction or impeachment.
In Italy, according to Article 90 of the Constitution, the President of Italy can be impeached through a majority vote of the Parliament in joint session for high treason and for attempting to overthrow the Constitution. If impeached, the president of the Republic is then tried by the Constitutional Court integrated with sixteen citizens older than forty chosen by lot from a list compiled by the Parliament every nine years.
Italian press and political forces made use of the term "impeachment" for the attempt by some members of parliamentary opposition to initiate the procedure provided for in Article 90 against Presidents
By Article 78 of the Constitution of Japan, judges can be impeached. The voting method is specified by laws. The National Diet has two organs, namely 裁判官訴追委員会 (Saibankan sotsui iinkai) and 裁判官弾劾裁判所 (Saibankan dangai saibansho), which is established by Article 64 of the Constitution. The former has a role similar to prosecutor and the latter is analogous to Court. Seven judges were removed by them.
Members of the Liechtenstein Government can be impeached before the State Court for breaches of the Constitution or of other laws.: Article 62 As a hereditary monarchy the Sovereign Prince cannot be impeached as he "is not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts and does not have legal responsibility".: Article 7 The same is true of any member of the Princely House who exercises the function of head of state should the Prince be temporarily prevented or in preparation for the Succession.: Article 7
Members of government, representatives of the national assembly (Stortinget) and Supreme Court judges can be impeached for criminal offenses tied to their duties and committed in office, according to the Constitution of 1814, §§ 86 and 87. The procedural rules were modeled after the U.S. rules and are quite similar to them. Impeachment has been used eight times since 1814, last in 1927. Many argue that impeachment has fallen into desuetude. In cases of impeachment, an appointed court (Riksrett) takes effect.
Impeachment in the Philippines follows procedures similar to the
A main difference from U.S. proceedings however is that only one third of House members are required to approve the motion to impeach the president (as opposed to a simple majority of those present and voting in their U.S. counterpart). In the Senate, selected members of the House of Representatives act as the prosecutors and the senators act as judges with the Senate president presiding over the proceedings (the chief justice jointly presides with the Senate president if the president is on trial). Like the United States, to convict the official in question requires that a minimum of two thirds (i.e. 16 of 24 members) of all the members of the Senate vote in favor of conviction. If an impeachment attempt is unsuccessful or the official is acquitted, no new cases can be filed against that impeachable official for at least one full year.
Impeachment proceedings and attempts
In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, impeachment complaints were filed against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but none of the cases reached the required endorsement of 1⁄3 of the members for transmittal to, and trial by, the Senate.
In March 2011, the House of Representatives impeached Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, becoming the second person to be impeached. In April, Gutierrez resigned prior to the Senate's convening as an impeachment court.
In December 2011, in what was described as "blitzkrieg fashion", 188 of the 285 members of the
To date, three officials had been successfully impeached by the House of Representatives, and two were not convicted. The latter, Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, was convicted on 29 May 2012, by the Senate under Article II of the Articles of Impeachment (for betraying public trust), with 20–3 votes from the Senator Judges.
The president can be impeached by Parliament and is then suspended. A referendum then follows to determine whether the suspended President should be removed from office. President Traian Băsescu was impeached twice by the Parliament: in 2007 and then again in July 2012. A referendum was held on 19 May 2007 and a large majority of the electorate voted against removing the president from office. For the most recent suspension a referendum was held on July 29, 2012; the results were heavily against the president, but the referendum was invalidated due to low turnout.[circular reference]
In 1999, members of the
The Constitution of Singapore allows the impeachment of a sitting president on charges of treason, violation of the Constitution, corruption, or attempting to mislead the Presidential Elections Committee for the purpose of demonstrating eligibility to be elected as president. The prime minister or at least one-quarter of all members of Parliament (MPs) can pass an impeachment motion, which can succeed only if at least half of all MPs (excluding nominated members) vote in favor, whereupon the chief justice of the Supreme Court will appoint a tribunal to investigate allegations against the president. If the tribunal finds the president guilty, or otherwise declares that the president is "permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity", Parliament will hold a vote on a resolution to remove the president from office, which requires a three-quarters majority to succeed. No president has ever been removed from office in this fashion.
When the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, the only officials who could be impeached (though the term itself was not used) were the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court of South Africa. The scope was broadened when the country became a republic in 1961, to include the state president. It was further broadened in 1981 to include the new office of vice state president; and in 1994 to include the executive deputy presidents, the public protector and the Auditor-General. Since 1997, members of certain commissions established by the Constitution can also be impeached. The grounds for impeachment, and the procedures to be followed, have changed several times over the years.
According to the Article 65(1) of
Two presidents have been impeached since the establishing of the
In February 2021, Judge Lim Seong-geun of the Busan High Court was impeached by the National Assembly for meddling in politically sensitive trials, the first ever impeachment of a judge in Korean history. Unlike presidential impeachments, only a simple majority is required to impeach. Judge Lim's term expired before the Constitutional Court could render a verdict, leading the court to dismiss the case.
In Turkey, according to the Constitution, the Grand National Assembly may initiate an investigation of the president, the vice president or any member of the Cabinet upon the proposal of simple majority of its total members, and within a period less than a month, the approval of three-fifths of the total members. The investigation would be carried out by a commission of fifteen members of the Assembly, each nominated by the political parties in proportion to their representation therein. The commission would submit its report indicating the outcome of the investigation to the speaker within two months. If the investigation is not completed within this period, the commission's time may be renewed for another month. Within ten days of its submission to the speaker, the report would be distributed to all members of the Assembly, and ten days after its distribution, the report would be discussed on the floor. Upon the approval of two thirds of the total number of the Assembly by secret vote, the person or persons, about whom the investigation was conducted, may be tried before the Constitutional Court. The trial would be finalized within three months, and if not, a one-time additional period of three months shall be granted. The president, about whom an investigation has been initiated, may not call for an election. The president, who is convicted by the Court, would be removed from office.
The provision of this article shall also apply to the offenses for which the president allegedly worked during his term of office.
In the federal system,
According to the House practice manual, "Impeachment is a constitutional remedy to address serious offenses against the system of government. It is the first step in a remedial process—that of removal from public office and possible disqualification from holding further office. The purpose of impeachment is not punishment; rather, its function is primarily to maintain constitutional government."
The U.S. House of Representatives has impeached an official 21 times since 1789: four times for presidents, 15 times for federal judges, once for a Cabinet secretary, and once for a senator. Of the 21, the Senate voted to remove 8 (all federal judges) from office. The four impeachments of presidents were: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump in 2019 and again in 2021. All four impeachments were followed by acquittal in the Senate. An impeachment process was also commenced against Richard Nixon, but he resigned in 1974 to avoid likely removal from office.
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1. To charge (a high public official) before a legally constituted tribunal with crime or misdemeanor in office. 2. To bring discredit upon the honesty or validity of.
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while it's true that politics are bound up in how impeachment plays out, it's a myth that impeachment is just political. Rather, it's the principal legal remedy that the Constitution expressly specifies to hold presidents accountable
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The ratification debates support the conclusion that 'other high Crimes and Misdemeanors' were not limited to indictable offenses but rather included great offenses against the federal government. ... Justices James Wilson and Joseph Story expressed agreement with Hamilton's understanding of impeachment as a political proceeding and impeachable offenses as political crimes.
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Impeachment has elements of both legal and political proceedings. As a result, it is a unique process.
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attempted Impeachment of William O. Douglas.
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- The dictionary definition of impeachmentat Wiktionary
- Media related to Impeachmentsat Wikimedia Commons