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LATEST STEP IN HZDS MPS' EFFORT TO SINK COURT

Special Court taken to court

THE CALVARY of Slovakia’s Special Court, which hears cases of high-ranking state corruption and organised crime, goes on, as a group of parliamentary deputies continue to pursue its dissolution claiming that its existence contradicts some provisions of the country’s constitution.

THE CALVARY of Slovakia’s Special Court, which hears cases of high-ranking state corruption and organised crime, goes on, as a group of parliamentary deputies continue to pursue its dissolution claiming that its existence contradicts some provisions of the country’s constitution.

The Constitutional Court started debating the complaint filed by 46 ruling coalition deputies, mostly members of Vladimír Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), on March 17 but then adjourned the hearing until May 20. The MPs, who originally filed the motion in February last year, want the Constitutional Court to declare that the establishment of the Special Court is at odds with the Slovak Constitution.

A positive verdict for the petitioners would mean the de facto dissolution of the Special Court, which was established by the former government of Mikuláš Dzurinda.

Efforts to achieve the dissolution of the Special Court have attracted international attention as well. The US Department of State’s 2008 Human Rights Report, released on February 25, 2009, mentioned the MPs' campaign.

“During the year a group of governing coalition parliamentarians, led by HZDS chairman Vladimír Mečiar, campaigned for the dissolution of the Special Court,” reads the report. “In February they delivered a motion to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the existence of the Special Court should be allowed only in wartime or other similarly extraordinary situations. The motion remained pending with the Constitutional Court at year’s end.”

The deputies are vehemently opposed to the salaries of the Special Court judges, arguing that they are paid much more than judges serving in other types of courts.

They also say that the security clearance that a judge must undergo in order to qualify for service in the Special Court is an intervention into the independence of judges, the SITA newswire wrote.

They further assert that the introduction of such an extraordinary judiciary violates the principles of the separation of powers and judicial independence and argue that when the court was established there was no acute public interest or emergency situation.

The Justice Ministry and the Judicial Council, a body overseeing the operation of judges, and the Supreme Court, seem to share the opinion of the deputies who are challenging the existence of the court.

The Justice Ministry, led by HZDS nominee Štefan Harabin, said it would restrain from commenting on the ongoing proceedings and instead issued a statement.

“Claims that the verdict of the Constitutional Court in the case of the Special Court could open a way for legally sentenced criminals, whose sentence has been confirmed by the Special Court, to go free, the justice department considers legally unsustainable,” reads the official press release by the Ministry on March 17. “In this connection it is enough to point to the decision of the Constitutional Court in the Czech Republic, which in association with the non-constitutional operation of a particular judge of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, preserved the decisions of the senate in which the unconstitutionally appointed judge co-decided.”

Radoslav Procházka who represents those opposing the dissolution of the court in the legal process believes that the Special Court, as such, could be 'saved'.

“However, I expect that the system of security clearances will be affected by the ruling of the Constitutional Court,” Procházka told The Slovak Spectator.

He expects a decision by the court during the next six months.

According to Procházka, the main reason for the creation of the Special Court “was an effort to immunise the execution of penal justice from the eventual existence of local connections between persons from the environment of organised crime and the criminal prosecution bodies and thus make the fight against corruption and other forms of serious crimes more effective”.

Prosecutor General Dobroslav Trnka does not think that establishment of the Special Court contradicts the Slovak Constitution.

Moreover, he pointed out that the Special Court is only a specialised court. He sees certain legislative problems only in the security screenings, SITA wrote.

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