SLOWAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Kotrmelce

WHAT do gymnastics and Slovak politics have in common? Kotrmelce. It’s very practical to have a single word for “somersaults”, “flip-flops” and “screw-ups” because you really do have to be a sport to get over the sudden and inexplicable reversals in policy of local politicians. Justice Minister Viera Petríková showed us a full Olympic routine just last week. She first put District Judge Jana Dubovcová temporarily out of duty because she felt charges filed against the judge were too serious to leave her in the courtroom until the investigation was resolved. The judge’s alleged offense? Threatening the independence of the judiciary by giving a number of interviews in which she criticised former Justice Minister Štefan Harabin and for signing a petition against his election to the head of the Supreme Court.

WHAT do gymnastics and Slovak politics have in common? Kotrmelce. It’s very practical to have a single word for “somersaults”, “flip-flops” and “screw-ups” because you really do have to be a sport to get over the sudden and inexplicable reversals in policy of local politicians. Justice Minister Viera Petríková showed us a full Olympic routine just last week. She first put District Judge Jana Dubovcová temporarily out of duty because she felt charges filed against the judge were too serious to leave her in the courtroom until the investigation was resolved. The judge’s alleged offense? Threatening the independence of the judiciary by giving a number of interviews in which she criticised former Justice Minister Štefan Harabin and for signing a petition against his election to the head of the Supreme Court.

Given the fact Harabin has failed to explain wire taps which indicate he is friends with suspected drug lords, has repeatedly been caught lying, has made anti-Semitic remarks, and has threatened to put members of the opposition in jail, one would expect that more judges would speak up, not only the few that have done so. Even in apathetic Slovakia, this case has caused somewhat of an uproar. The opposition Christian Democrats called for the minister to step down. Prime Minister Fico himself declared that no one should be persecuted for speaking their mind.

And so, the chairman of the district court in Banská Bystrica, Ľubomír Bušík, who initiated the witch hunt, withdrew his proposal to kick Dubovcová out of the judiciary for good, explaining that “this issue has become the subject of political fighting”. At this point, Petríková should have done two things: filed a complaint against Dubovcová herself, because otherwise it’s too obvious that the only reason she had to take the judge out of duty was loyalty to Harabin; and started proceedings against Bušík for admitting that he acted under political influence.

Petríková did neither of those things. What she did do was issue a statement in which she now herself accused Dubovcová of turning her disciplinary case into a “political battle”. How can a judge who is being harassed by her superiors and has no power turn something into a political battle? If she in fact managed to do it, why did the justice minister cede to the pressure? And if the judge is really dragging politics into the judiciary, why isn’t Petríková taking any action against her?

There’s no point in looking for answers. This case was about one thing only – getting rid of one of Harabin’s critics. To achieve this goal, the Justice Minister destroyed even the last bits of credibility her office enjoyed. It’s certain that Petríková would be better doing “kotrmelce” than she is at running the Justice Ministry.


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