“After 19 years and several failed attempts, a major trauma for this country has finally been healed,” Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská (of coalition Most-Hid) said on May 31 in response to the ruling by the Constitutional Court earlier that day that Mečiar’s amnesties can be scrapped. Žitňanská highlighted the fact that the move was made in unison by the government, parliament, the president [Andrej Kiska], and now the court.
“The agreement by the top constitutional institutions on the way of abrogating the amnesties shows that we’re still capable of communicating and reaching agreement in key moments and on important issues,” the minister wrote on her social media account. Her party boss, Most-Híd chair Béla Bugár, added that the scrapping also affirms the meaning and existence of the party.
The decision opens the door for implementing some justice for the victims, President Andrej Kiska said, as quoted by the Sme daily. He also said that he expects the forthcoming trial to determine who is responsible for the abduction of then-president’s son Michal Kováč, Jr. to Austria.
Prime Minister Robert Fico (the coalition Smer party) views the concensus as proof that the solution adopted by the governing coalition was appropriate and fully aligned with the values of the Constitution. “Once again, those who suspected us of mischief were wrong,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. Other members of Smer, the largest coalition party, have also welcomed the court’s ruling. According to MP Erik Tomáš, the court’s verdict is “a clear answer to all speculators who doubted the honesty of the initiative sponsored by the prime minister and the governing coalition”.
Not everoyne is expressely positive
Parliamentary Speaker Andrej Danko (of the coalition SNS party) gave a more ambivalent response. He said he respected the decision and was glad that the coalition came up with a solution that has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court. Danko praised the legal framework of the coalition’s proposal to revoke the amnesties – and contrasted it with opposition’s proposals, which he called “tragicomic”. He also cautioned that this may be just half of the “test”, as those negatively affected by the ruling may turn to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). “I’m calling on all the overjoyed people to realise that we may see a review by the ECHR, should the people involved choose to involve them,” the speaker of parliament said, as cited by TASR. “But it is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel, and the trauma may be healed,” he said.
Danko said that the earlier attempts to abolish the amnesties may have been made by people with insufficient legal knowledge or weaker determination to continue the case.
The opposition OĽaNO-NOVA party considers the abolition of what it called “Vladimír Mečiar’s immoral amnesties” to be a victory for justice. “Our gratitude goes to all those who have sought the abolition of the amnesties for many years,” the party said, according to the newswire. “The opposition parties have proposed their abolition on several occasions, but it was only public pressure that forced the governing coalition to act.” The party highlighted the contributions made by its MP Ján Budaj and by Anna Remiášová, the mother of Róbert Remiáš, a police investigator who had been murdered in 1996.
Fellow opposition party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MP Martin Poliačik also embraced the court’s decision, describing the “immoral amnesties” as a “stain on Slovakia’s history”.
Experts, witness embrace the decision
The NGO Via Iuris also welcomed the verdict. “The fact that the Constitutional Court came to their decision within the set 60-day period and confirmed that the amnesties issued by Mečiar as acting president in 1998 are at odds with principles of a democratic and legal state can be viewed as a positive signal to the public,” the NGO stated. “We’re glad that the Constitutional Court has affirmed that if a state body is suspected of committing a crime against citizens, it cannot secure impunity for the perpetrators forever,” said lawyer Peter Wilfling of Via Iuris.
The NGO went on to say that the Constitutional Court's ruling was in line with the statements of international conventions and courts that prohibit the granting of amnesty in cases concerning abductions and inhumane crimes. Similar amnesties have been nullified in several countries around the world, with international bodies often recommending this action.
Oskar Fegyveres, a former member of the Slovak Intelligence Service who was involved in the abduction but later distanced himself from the event, said in an interview for the Sme daily that May 31 is a day which gives closure to all that happened in the late 1990s. Fegyveres had served as a liaison for Remiáš. The main witness in the case maintains that SIS was behind the abduction and said that he is ready to repeat his testimony.
1. Jun 2017 at 13:48 | Compiled by Spectator staff