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Truth and its consequencesEDITORIAL
20 Jan 2014 Beata Balogová Opinion
INTERIOR Minister Robert Kaliňák, the long-time right-hand man of Prime Minister Robert Fico, has much confidence in his ability to determine who is and who is not telling the truth. Kaliňák makes such declarations with such clarity, it is as if he had just seen a set of polygraph test results.
Back in 2006, just weeks after Hedviga Malinová reported being assaulted by an unknown offender in Nitra on her way to the university – ostensibly because she was speaking Hungarian on her mobile phone – Kaliňák told the media at a press conference that “it is beyond doubt that the case did not happen”. One year later, the police charged Malinová with perjury. In May 2011 in an interview with the Sme daily, Kaliňák called Malinová a “pathological liar” while the prosecution was still open. He also said that “it could only happen in Slovakia that an unprecedented liar almost turns into a defender of human rights”.
Meanwhile Rudolf Chmel, the former deputy prime minister for human rights and national minorities, apologised to Malinová while suggesting that the right to a just process had been breached by politicians’ premature intervention in the investigation. Malinová, who has married since the attack and goes by the surname Žáková, has since acquired Hungarian citizenship and left the country to protect her children from what she called police harassment.
More recently, Kaliňák accused Ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová of lying. She has been trying in vain to get the government to discuss her report, which points to serious violations of human rights by state bodies in its policy toward Roma – including the controversial and violent police raid in a Roma settlement near Moldava nad Bodvou.
“She is defending people who have violated the law; she lies and threatens the police,” Kaliňák said on January 8, as quoted by Sme.
During a meeting with journalists in early January 2014, Kaliňák has indeed restated several times that the witnesses from the Roma settlement who claimed the police raid was violent are not telling the truth and that they should not be put on the same level as the police. To date, neither courts nor prosecution bodies have properly heard these witnesses.
ETP Slovensko, a non-profit group that works with ethnic minorities, tells a different story – one where more than 60 police officers raided the settlement, spurring chaos before they detained 15 Roma men. While none of the Roma were ever charged with a crime, several do allege they were assaulted by police officers. ETP Slovensko documented the injuries with a camera.
In a country which declares to respect human rights and claims to create conditions so that minorities can feel at home, when suspicions of police misconduct surface and the person charged with looking into such claims finds evidence of wrongdoing, one would think state officials would rush to hear her as soon as possible. Needless to say, this has not occurred in the Moldava nad Bodvou case. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Fico, now also a presidential candidate, also had some things to say in association with the controversial raid: he called on Dubovcová, whom he dubbed an “opposition politician who came from the SDKÚ”, not to attack the police and “not to question everything that is happening in this country, since the Roma as well must have some duties and must respect that something is happening around them”, according to the public service Slovak Radio.
Fico suggested that people in Slovakia know what the Roma problem is: “I was for several years the chairman of the prison committee and I know all the prisons in Slovakia. You know that it is not being recorded who is a Roma and who is not; it is not done. But I guarantee you that every second person sentenced or serving a prison sentence is Roma.”
This does not sound like a man who would be a president to all the country’s citizens. It instantly evokes an earlier statement of his.
“We did not establish our independent state in the first place for minorities, although we do respect them, but mainly for the Slovak state-forming nation”, adding that he has detected what he called a “strange tendency to put forward the problems of minorities” to the disadvantage of the Slovak nation “as though Slovak men and women do not live in Slovakia at all”.
The quality of a democracy is always judged by the way it treats its weakest and most vulnerable citizens. Leaders who purport to be democrats should be judged the same way.
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