THE MAN appointed to serve as vice-chairman of the Office of the Security Council of Slovakia, the body which oversees the security of the state and plays a crucial role in the event of emergencies, has not yet obtained security clearance. This means that Svätopluk Ratuský should not have access to classified information, normally considered vital to his role. If this were not unusual enough, Ratuský was formerly a member of the communist-era border guard, a particularly repressive part of the communist security apparatus.
Former members of one unit of the border guard, which worked with the secret police, are not eligible for security clearance according to the law.
However, it is not yet clear whether Ratuský worked for the unit in question.
The head of the Security Council, Prime Minister Robert Fico, refused to comment on Ratuský's case, saying it was leaked information.
“I cannot take seriously various rumours,” Fico said on June 1. “Either the person has committed something, and then we say goodbye to him or he did not and we won’t say goodbye.”
However, Ratuský has more baggage. In the mid-1990’s, he served as the head of the anti-terrorist department of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), under the leadership of Ivan Lexa. At that time the SIS was suspected of involvement in the illegal abduction of Michal Kováč Jr, the son of the-then Slovak president, on August 31, 1995.
Former defence minister Martin Fedor, now an MP for the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), said it is not right that 20 years after the Velvet Revolution, people connected with the repressive establishment of the former totalitarian regime hold public posts.
“Suspicions about participation in the abduction of a Slovak citizen make it even more serious that such a person should not work in bodies that oversee the security of the state and its citizens,“ Fedor told The Slovak Spectator.
Ratuský became an employee of the Office of the Security Council in January 2007.
The council, which receives classified information not just from Slovakia but also from NATO, has eight members. The prime minister's spokesperson, Silvia Glendová, confirmed to the Sme daily that Ratuský had fulfilled the conditions for the position when he started his employment there. She added that he accessed only information that does not fall under the law on classified information.
The vice-chairman of the Security Council, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, said that the National Security Office will screen Ratuský and further steps would be taken after that.
Since January 2007, the council has dealt with issues such as a classified report on the activities of the SIS; the plan to implement the 'Zuzana 2' weapons system and enhance its export capability; and the annual report on deals involving military materiél .
Ratuský told Sme that when the council discusses classified data he is not present.
However, he signed - together with Igor Urban, the head of the Office of the Security Council - a report on the security of Slovakia for 2007.
“I am receiving the criticism calmly, just as in other cases when things are being criticised without any knowledge of the issue,” Urban told The Slovak Spectator.
Between 1995 and 1998, Urban was the chairman of the parliamentary committee to oversee the activities of the intelligence services (OKO). At the time, no opposition deputies were represented on the OKO; it was staffed solely by MPs from the ruling coalition of the time, led by Vladimír Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Ján Slota’s Slovak National Party, and the now-defunct Association of Workers of Slovakia.
In the spring of 1995, Urban as chairman of the OKO, together with Lexa, who had just been appointed head of the SIS, allegedly summoned employees of the intelligence service to HZDS party headquarters in Tomášikova Street, where they were interrrogated about the SIS's activities before Lexa's arrival, according to František Gaulieder, a former member of the OKO.
After suspicions emerged that Kováč Jr had probably been kidnapped and dumped in Austria by the SIS, neither Urban nor anyone from the OKO pursued this line of enquiry.
“Neither the OKO as a whole, nor its individual members, found any facts that could be defined as violation of laws,” Urban said in May 1996.
By that time, the verdict of the Higher Regional Court in Vienna was published, stating that a Slovak public body, i.e. the SIS, had been involved in the kidnapping of Kováč Jr.
Asked whether he views his current post as head of the Security Council’s Office as a problem Urban's response was: “No, I do not consider [it a problem].”
Details of Ratuský’s activity as a member of the border guard are in his personal file, stored by the Nation’s Memory Institute (ÚPN) which has submitted it to the National Security Office (NBÚ) for clearance.
The NBÚ will decide whether Ratuský is eligible for security clearance.
Ladislav Pittner, who at the time of Kováč Jr's abduction was an MP for the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and who headed a civil commission that tried to collect information on the kidnapping, said he suspects Ratuský of having participated in the abduction.
Pittner told The Slovak Spectator that the commission provided all bodies involved including the parliament with the report and it could not possibly have not done more to inform them of the circumstances of the case.
Vladimír Palko, a former interior minister and currently an independent MP, said that both Urban and Ratuský have had their moral credit damaged by the way they behaved between 1994 and 1998, and have no moral right to hold positions in the public service.
“This is a kind of softer form of what had happened here between 1994 and 1998, which led us into international isolation,” Palko told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Palko, it is ironic that it was Fico who, as an opposition MP for the Party of the Democratic Left during the Mečiar premiership, voiced criticism of the non-democratic elements in Mečiar’s rule.
The HZDS, which Mečiar still leads, and is now a part of the ruling coalition headed by Fico.
“If Ivan Lexa now got some public position, that would be the cherry on the cream”, Palko concluded.
7. Jul 2008 at 0:00 | Ľuba Lesná