SLOVAKIA'S ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová was not given the opportunity at the January 8 cabinet session to present her disagreement with the opinion of the Interior Ministry regarding last year’s police operation in the Roma village of Budulovská in Moldava nad Bodvou.

Dubovcová said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, that with the attitude of the cabinet, her office can be downgraded to a paper tiger. She had turned to the cabinet because she disagrees with the Interior Ministry’s opinion over whether the rights of ethnic Roma citizens of Budulovská were violated by police.

According to Prime Minister Robert Fico, Dubovcová did not proceed pursuant to the Ombudsman Act and she was not supposed to have addressed the cabinet at all. Dubovcová described for the Sme daily how Fico did not give her a chance to speak. According to her, he said she did not proceed in line with the law and lectured her over how she should do her job. He also accused her of dragging the government into “political problems”. Dubovcová told the daily that it was clear from Fico’s words that he does not have the correct information and therefore his conclusions are at odds with the law.

“I was not even allowed to present my statement,” Dubovcová said, according to SITA. “Based on an incorrect legal interpretation and because someone has not examined in detail my statement, the cabinet decided even before the debate itself that I was not supposed to present the material to the cabinet,” she told reporters after the cabinet meeting. As she further explained, Fico said at the start of the session that the police are subordinate to the Interior Ministry and not the cabinet.

“But I reiterate that I have two findings,” the ombudswoman explained. “One concerns the police, the other measures to be taken by the Interior Ministry, and I used all the procedures that the law allows me.” She added that she turned to the cabinet because she believes that the ministry failed to comply with its legal obligation and did not inform her of the measures it has taken.

Ombudsman Dubovcová examined the June police operation based on a complaint she had received. The result of her analysis was that the police action seriously violated fundamental rights and freedoms of a large number of people. Accordingly, pursuant to the law, she turned to the public authorities against whom the complaint was directed.

“… I just asked that the authorities adopt measures to ensure that when similar actions are performed, a camera is used to make video recordings,” she said. She also demanded that police make records when detaining people at police departments. Her demand was based on the finding that in this case, several people were detained to establish their identity between 20:00 and 1:00 on the night of the raid. According to Dubovcová, this is inadmissible in a country with the rule of law.

She added that the ombudsman’s powers are sufficient in Slovakia; however, it is necessary to show some good will in their application. She pointed to the fact that in this particular case, no public authority has responded as required to the findings of her work. The government has still failed to demonstrate that the police acted properly in the raid in the Roma village.

Dubovcová is abusing the police crackdown at a Roma settlement for political purposes and is violating the law, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák claimed, as quoted by the TASR newswire. He added that the way the ombudswoman submitted her material was at odds with the law, as she was required to turn first to the police – preferably the relevant regional directorate – and then the Interior Ministry. Moreover, Kaliňák maintains that Dubovcová, a former judge and now a Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) MP, requested documents that she does not have clearance to see.

Head of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights Rudolf Chmel told Sme he believes that Dubovcová turned to the government in compliance with the law. Moreover, constitutional lawyer Peter Kresák agrees with him. According to him, Dubovcová took the cabinet by surprise with her request. The cabinet opened space for successful lawsuits of the aggrieved at international courts. The General Prosecutor’s Office ordered in December to start a criminal prosecution over the procedures employed during the raid.

(Source: SITA, TASR, Sme)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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