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EDITORIAL

When 'justice' is a mockery

SIXTEEN years after one of the most traumatising cases of the mid-nineties, evoking serious concerns about the rule of law and the state of democracy in Slovakia, the country’s top court said that the father of the victim must apologise to the man who at that time ran the agency that was suspected of committing the crime. This crime has never been properly investigated because the then prime minister, Vladimír Mečiar, blocked any further investigation by granting controversial amnesties covering the case.

SIXTEEN years after one of the most traumatising cases of the mid-nineties, evoking serious concerns about the rule of law and the state of democracy in Slovakia, the country’s top court said that the father of the victim must apologise to the man who at that time ran the agency that was suspected of committing the crime. This crime has never been properly investigated because the then prime minister, Vladimír Mečiar, blocked any further investigation by granting controversial amnesties covering the case.

“I hereby apologise to you for my statements with which I offended and criminalised your personality,” reads the sentence that former spy boss Ivan Lexa, shielded by the safety of the amnesties granted by Mečiar, wants Michal Kováč to write in the apology he is demanding from the former president.

Adding another drop to the Slovak judiciary’s cup of bitterness, Lexa also wanted Kováč, now 82 years old, to pay €3,319 in compensation for statements he made which linked Lexa to the abduction of his son, Michal Kováč Jr. Slovakia’s courts agreed, and have ordered Kováč to pay.

The ruling of the Constitutional Court, which upheld the decision of the Bratislava Regional Court earlier this year, has added yet another absurd scene to the Slovak judiciary’s ongoing festival of decadence, wherein some judges, obviously deafened by the cacophony of this festival, apparently failed to notice the Velvet Revolution back in 1989.

What comes next? Will the country’s courts order those who had been spied on and bullied by the communist secret police, ŠtB, to apologise for giving the former agents reason to spy on them and damage their public records for the future?

The court ruling is a mockery; it is like an evil grin directed at the students who took to the streets in 1989 and stood in the cold November air to bring down a regime where ‘justice’ was only for those who kept their mouths shut and applauded when the privileged ones spoke.

As for Michal Kováč, a constitutional law lifting the amnesties, which that Mečiar granted during a brief period in 1998 during which he assumed presidential powers, would help to bring justice and at least lessen the trauma that has been forever inscribed in the modern history of Slovakia by the survival of autocratic methods applied by its post-communist ‘rulers’.

On November 9, Justice Minister Tomáš Borec made the comment that at the human level he understands Kováč “as far as he proceeded in the way that he did”, offering no further comments to the case, and arguing that he does not want to intervene in the judicial system as a representative of executive power, the SITA newswire reported.

Obviously, former justice minister Štefan Harabin, a nominee of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), did not have any such concern when he went straight from the ministry to the country’s Supreme Court under the first government of Robert Fico.

Meanwhile the opposition parties, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Most-Híd, are now calling for a special parliamentary session to discuss the state of the judiciary, with former justice minister Lucia Žitňanská explaining that recent information had further deepened the mistrust of the public in the country’s courts, and
later referring to the Lexa vs Kováč case, SITA newswire reported.

Borec responded that he hopes that the discussion on the future of the judiciary happens at what he called an expert level, and that it is not burdened by populist statements, according to SITA.

Without constant public pressure, the situation within Slovakia’s judiciary will not change. One or two amended laws or even a couple of new ones will not redeem the reputation of the courts. As observers say, the rotting root is actually not the quality of the laws, but rather the integrity of a few corrupt judges and the fear of the majority to speak out against them.

Government committees with dozens of sub-committees will not solve the problem, though stricter rules regulating the operation of judges are part of the solution. However, an intense, free public
debate, where those who criticise top judges need fear no penalty would be a good start.

Sad to say, the end of judiciary decadence is nowhere in sight for now; certainly not with Harabin running the Supreme Court.

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