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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Tupý

DANIEL Tupý was murdered and no one will ever be punished for his death. “Tupý” means “blunt”. Sadly, the blades with which the twenty-one year old was stabbed on the banks of the Danube in November 2005 were sharp enough to take away his life. “Tupý” also means “idiotic”, which the philosophy student was not, but which his killers and the system that failed to deliver justice definitely are. “Tupý” also means “insensitive”. And as a result of last week’s verdict, the country is becoming ever more desensitised.

DANIEL Tupý was murdered and no one will ever be punished for his death. “Tupý” means “blunt”. Sadly, the blades with which the twenty-one year old was stabbed on the banks of the Danube in November 2005 were sharp enough to take away his life. “Tupý” also means “idiotic”, which the philosophy student was not, but which his killers and the system that failed to deliver justice definitely are. “Tupý” also means “insensitive”. And as a result of last week’s verdict, the country is becoming ever more desensitised.

The Tupý case is not the first disappointment produced by Slovakia’s law enforcement forces and judiciary. In fact, in high-profile cases failure seems to be the rule. No one has been tried for the 1995 kidnapping of president Michal Kováč’s son to Austria, or the massive looting of state property done under the cover of ‘privatisation’ in the 1990s. In a country known for widespread corruption, no top-level politician has ever faced charges of bribery. Nothing happened last year after one MP faked the signature of another in parliament. Two out of three coalition party leaders can’t credibly explain the source of their enormous wealth.

So Slovaks have never had much reason to trust the local judiciary. However, for a number of reasons it seemed that the Tupý case could be different. The case stretched across two governments, both of whose interior ministers put substantial political capital into it, so coalition and opposition alike had reason to see it resolved. The case wasn’t about money or influence, just brute violence. Still, the system failed once again.

It can hardly be fixed by a justice minister who has never explained why he had friendly phone conversations with a suspected drug-lord, as old police wire-taps prove, who recently threatened his predecessor (“You’ll end-up in jail, you bastard.”), and was on numerous occasions caught lying. Especially if he is busy suing newspapers for hundreds of thousands of euros and preparing to be elected head of the Supreme Court, whose competencies he wants greatly increased so that he can become the absolute ruler of the Slovak courts.

Given the fact that Justice Minister Štefan Harabin also nearly succeeded in destroying the Special Court, an institution created to combat the most serious crime and deal with the crimes of politicians, and which clearly has strong support among Slovakia’s judges, people are understandably becoming increasingly sceptical not only about him, but the judiciary as a whole.
The sorry state of the courts has numerous reasons. Communist-era judges were kept in place after the revolution, successive governments have always meddled in their decision-making, and the public has never had any influence over what goes on in the courts. Unlike in the USA or England, there is no room for juries in Slovakia.

Fixing them will not be easy, but it is one of the most important tasks ahead of the country. Because today, the sword of justice is tragically blunt.

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