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EDITORIAL

Civilian oversight of police needed

THE POLICE should be commended for ridding their ranks of the likes of Miroslav Jacko, one of the six current and former officers jailed for their roles in a kidnapping and theft ring that had been operating within the force since 1999.

THE POLICE should be commended for ridding their ranks of the likes of Miroslav Jacko, one of the six current and former officers jailed for their roles in a kidnapping and theft ring that had been operating within the force since 1999.

But before the back-slapping begins, we should point out that Jacko's partners on the board of the Slovglass firm, where he served from 2004 to 2006, were two men known from the case file in the 1995 Kováč Jr. kidnapping - former secret service officers Michal Hrbáček and Martin Lieskovský. The latter two men spent several months in jail in 1999 for their alleged role in the abduction of Kováč, the son of the former president, before being released under the terms of an amnesty issued by former PM Vladimír Mečiar.

The name Hrbáček in particular has since been associated with strong-arm tactics in the business world, such as the takeover of Slovglass in 2005 with the help of a private security firms and Messrs. Lieskovský and Ján Čarnogurský Jr., son of the former justice minister.

And thus we are left to ask - will the current investigation, if it is left up to the authorities, go after the roots of the cancer within the police and other security forces, or will it be satisfied with hanging a few foot soldiers, as always?

While officers caught drinking on the job or demanding money for traffic offences - serious crimes, to be sure - have been summarily punished in recent years, those responsible for kidnapping Michal Kováč, killing Róbert Remiáš, and compiling thousands of pages of illegal surveillance for their political masters in the 1990s, remain at large.

The cynicism goes so deep that at the same time the SIS secret service was rejecting reports it was involved in the illegal arms trade, a former senior SIS officer, Anton Rázga, was chairman of the board of the arms firm Magic Trading Corporation, while former SIS director Vladimír Mitro became the defence attorney for arms trader Ašot Mkrtyčev, who this week was convicted of murder. Lucky for the SIS, given that Mkrtyčev received a 20-year sentence, his arms activities may never be probed in court.

On April 29, Slovakia was to 'celebrate' the 11th anniversary of the Róbert Remiáš murder. Not only are the killers not in jail, but some members of the ruling coalition continue to claim that Remiáš' death was accidental. This is not 'sad'; it is absurd, and it continues to poison Slovak society, including the security forces.

So: enough information embargoes on 'sensitive cases'. Enough boastful police press conferences and empty talk about 'cleaning' the ranks. Enough secrecy on matters that should be laid before the public. Given that the state has proven utterly incapable of investigating its own, it's time to set up civilian oversight of the police and intelligence services. And no, parliamentary oversight doesn't count.

It's not just that we don't trust them. It's that they have shown they can't be trusted.


By Tom Nicholson

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