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Prime Minister Fico and opposition parties want to save the Slovak Special Court

AFTER the Constitutional Court proclaimed Slovakia’s Special Court unconstitutional on May 20, a wave of negative reactions has arisen among the diplomatic community, lawyers and the opposition. Prime Minister Robert Fico has also said that the Special Court has a role in the country’s judicial system and that his government will attempt to preserve it.

AFTER the Constitutional Court proclaimed Slovakia’s Special Court unconstitutional on May 20, a wave of negative reactions has arisen among the diplomatic community, lawyers and the opposition. Prime Minister Robert Fico has also said that the Special Court has a role in the country’s judicial system and that his government will attempt to preserve it.

Two political parties, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS), whose parliamentary deputies along with some MPs from Smer, initiated the move against the Special Court said they were satisfied with the ruling, but opposition parties spoke about a black day for the Slovak justice system.

According to some lawyers, the Constitutional Court’s ruling about the Special Court may not lead only to its abandonment but also, in theory, to persons sentenced by the Special Court demanding retrials.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Fico had already rejected a proposal initiated by Justice Minister Štefan Harabin (HZDS) to revoke the Special Court. On May 22 Fico repudiated attacks that were launched against the Constitutional Court after its ruling.

“We won’t let anyone attack the Constitutional Court just because they don’t like its decisions,” Fico was quoted by the TASR newswire as saying.

“We’ll have to decide which measures to take, probably in a fast-tracked legislative procedure so that we’ll manage to do everything before the ruling on the Special Court is published in the Legal Code,” Fico said.

The PM said that continuation of the Special Court can be solved either by a constitutional law or by regular legislation but that either solution will need to be in line with the Constitutional Court’s verdict.

The legislative departments of the government and the parliament have already started drafting a new law regarding the Special Court in which the Justice Ministry and Minister Štefan Harabin are also participating, Fico said, adding that the draft should get to the cabinet soon and parliament could decide on it in an expedited legislative procedure at its June 2009 session, the SITA newswire wrote.

Harabin did not give any statements to the media because he was travelling to Bulgaria but the communication department of the Justice Ministry announced he will have a statement sometime on May 25.

According to Fico, the Cabinet will not hold discussions with the opposition parties because he said they have no tools for the preservation of the Special Court.

“Under certain circumstances we don’t need to amend the constitutional act,” Fico said. “The name of the Special Court is likely to change and everything will have to be set right in accordance with the ruling of the Constitutional Court.”

Representatives of the opposition parties announced earlier that they want to submit a proposed constitutional law to re-establish the Special Court.

The leader of the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union Mikuláš Dzurinda announced that the opposition parties plan to organise demonstrations to protest the Constitutional Court's verdict and to demand a “change in the current trend of clearly favouring financial groups, mafiosos and extortionists”. The demonstrations may take place in Bratislava and Kosice on Wednesday, May 27, TASR wrote.

If the opposition is preparing protest rallies to preserve the Special Court, it is protesting against the Constitutional Court, Fico was reported to say by the SITA newswire.

The PM insists that the opposition has no right to meddle in the Special Court's affairs since it was those parties who prepared the law on the court’s establishment which the Constitutional Court said is unconstitutional.

“I am neither a political prostitute, nor a villain,” Fico said as quoted by SITA. “We have some personal level of pride, too. Now it's our turn and the opposition must wait for our proposal. The opposition is not strong enough to push through something without cooperation from the government.”

Dzurinda rejected Premier Fico’s claims that the current opposition is to blame for the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

“The voting of the Constitutional judges was 7 to 6; therefore the voting of seven judges was the personal failure of those seven,” he said, adding that that the governing coalition had appointed nine out of the 13 Constitutional judges before initiating the vote.

To preserve the Special Court, cooperation between Smer and the opposition parties might be required, as the abolishment of the Special Court was mainly supported by two parties, HZDS and SNS, and 90 votes are needed in the 150-seat parliament to pass a constitutional law.

Opposition MP and former justice minister Lucia Žitňanská (KDH) said she sees political motives behind the Constitutional Court's decision on the Special Court. She stated on public service Slovak Radio on May 23 that the move was orchestrated by HZDS and its Justice Minister Štefan Harabin. The deputy also pointed at threats against constitutional judge Ladislav Orosz shortly before the court’s hearing on the Special Court. Žitňanská feels that there are grounded concerns that the Constitutional Court made its decision under pressure, SITA reported.

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