SLOVAKIA will officially apologise to Hedviga Malinová, an ethnic-Hungarian Slovak citizen who five years ago reported to the police that she had been assaulted on her way to an exam at her university in Nitra. She suggested that the attack might have happened because she was heard speaking Hungarian.
The case of Malinová, who has since married and is now called Žáková, has become notorious and even contributed to a deterioration in relations with Slovakia’s southern neighbour Hungary.
Ministers agreed on September 28 to offer an apology to Malinová, who had taken her case to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, the Sme daily reported the same day. Malinová-Žáková sued the Slovak Republic for what she called errors during the investigation that failed to guarantee her a fair trial, Sme reported.
The court in Strasbourg, before starting the formal process, addressed the involved parties about the option of a settlement, which they eventually agreed to. A document intended for the court has now been signed by Malinová’s lawyer, Roman Kvasnica, and Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská, according to Sme.
The state refrained from commenting on the agreement, which should eventually result in Malinová, who turned to the ECHR on November 22, 2007, withdrawing her case and dropping her claims for financial compensation, Sme wrote.
“This is no sweeping victory, but certainly an important step towards it,” Kvasnica told the Hungarian-language daily Új Szó on September 28. “I can see in this gesture an effort by those decent people sitting in the cabinet to distance themselves from the practices of their predecessors and I greatly appreciate this.”
Kvasnica also said, as quoted by Sme, that he would be satisfied only once the criminal prosecution against Malinová had been cancelled and the General Prosecutor’s Office had undergone a massive clean-up.
The deputy prime minister for human rights and national minorities, Rudolf Chmel, had already apologised to Malinová last December.
Chmel stated that in the case of Malinová the right to a just process had been breached by politicians’ premature intervention in the investigation, and that this had negatively affected her reputation.
“The fact that we let her be literally tortured for over four years is a big exclamation mark particularly visible on Human Rights Day, and therefore I’d like to apologise to Hedviga Malinová-Žáková for these grave injuries,” Chmel wrote in a statement issued on the occasion of Human Rights Day on December 10.
Slovak society has been divided over what happened to Malinová-Žáková in August 2006, with the police claiming that their investigation into the case involved over 250 officers and interviews with 600 people, and led them to conclude that an assault never occurred.
The police findings were released on September 12, 2006, at a press conference by then interior minister Robert Kaliňák and then prime minister Robert Fico, with Kaliňák stating “it is beyond doubt that the case did not happen”.
He presented several pieces of alleged evidence, including DNA samples, to support his assertion.
Malinová was then charged in May 2007 with perjury and making false claims. However, the charges have never been laid before a court and after more than four years the case remains pending with the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Kvasnica said on August 24, 2011, that he thought that nobody would ever properly investigate who attacked his client.
“The state of the affair clearly shows that since 2006, when the attack on Hedviga Malinová happened, the Slovak state bodies have absolutely failed,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
Kvasnica recently filed an action against several prosecutors, including former general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka and his subordinates, claiming that they have been biased in their handling of the Malinová case. He stated that there are close ties among the prosecutors that jeopardise the prosecution of those responsible. He further claimed that Trnka is not independent of political influence, the Sme daily reported.
Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic also recently conceded that it is unlikely that the public will learn the truth about what happened to Malinová.
“The problem is that from the beginning it was politicised and then it gets hard to look for the truth, especially after some time has passed,” Lipšic said, as quoted by TASR, adding that it is up to the Office of the General Prosecutor to now close the case, as it has promised to do several times.
Új Szo reported that Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic was the only cabinet minister not to vote for the settlement. Lipšic did not deny the report, but expressed some irritation that cabinet proceedings had been leaked.
“I find it absurd that five minutes after a closed cabinet session where there are 15 cabinet members present everybody knows what the material is about and how [the ministers] voted,” Lipšic said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.
He stressed that he believed the Malinová case should be closed immediately, so that the mistakes made by the state could be put right at least partially.
“Whether someone is a suspect or a victim of a crime, whether they are telling the truth or lies, everybody has the right to see their case closed in a reasonable time and not to be made the subject of political or other games,” the minister noted, as quoted by SITA. He added that it is unacceptable that the General Prosecutor’s Office has been dealing with the case for five years and said that the former leadership of the office is to blame.
Michaela Terenzani contributed to this report
3. Oct 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová