By Peter Truden
After three decades of democracy in Slovenia, its principles have not been fully adopted by the state judiciary and political system. The transition from former communist totalitarianism is not yet complete – not morally nor politically. This means that social capital and institutional constraints affect transitional justice. Studies have shown that the more profound lustration takes place at the start of a democratization process, the lower the corruption of that particular country is. Yet, what happens when lustration does not take place? Authoritarian elites then rewrite the rules, laws, and shape the political process in order to maintain political power also in a newly established democracy.
Former totalitarian structures have embedded themselves also in democratic Slovenia. Two recent cases confirm the tremendous impact of these structures operating as a deep state. The first example is from 26 November 2021, when the Slovenian Supreme Court annulled the verdict of the District Court in an infamous case named Balkan Warrior. The case deals with a drug trafficking cartel from the Balkans, and it involved the cooperation of officials from several EU member states, non-EU European countries, as well as intelligence sharing from the USA. The main protagonist, Dragan Tosić, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after the judgment became final in March 2018. Alongside being an example of the good practice of cooperation of different states in justice affairs, it is also a silver lining for the moral compass of the European society.
Yet, two months after a delegated judge Kmet was assigned to the case, the Supreme Court let Tosić and his accomplices out of prison based on the procedural decision, although the review file had more than 40,000 pages and the judgment has not yet been publicly announced nor its explanation written. It is thus unclear how such a decision was made and on what basis. It is also highly likely that a panel of judges was in particular hurry to annul the judgment by next week, when a law, which no longer allows these types of cases to lapse, comes into force. Now, the case will lapse and further trial will be prevented. Nevertheless, what we do know is that the process was plagued with a conflict of interests. Namely, one of the judges drafting the decision was mentored by the Supreme Court judge who at the final stages withdrew himself from the deliberation procedure because he once represented Tosić. Additionally, Masleša – the president of the senate, was the last judge who imposed the death penalty in the former totalitarian regime.
Such a flamboyant conflict of interest, baffling non-transparency, and pretentious entitlement are characteristic of the Slovenian judiciary system. Meritocracy, public service, and justice for all are concepts still foreign to it.
The second example is from 25 November 2021, when the Slovenian Parliament was again unable to adopt the 2009 resolution of the European Parliament on European conscience and totalitarianism (adopted in the EP with 553 votes in favor, 44 against, and 33 abstentions). Slovenian Parliament rejected the resolution already for the fourth time since 2015. In other words, the Slovenian Parliament is unable to condemn totalitarian regimes for all the evil they have caused. For all the millions of lives they have claimed worldwide and tens of thousands in Slovenia, Slovenian Parliament is unable to denounce Nazism, Fascism, and Communism. Out of 90 members of the Parliament, 45 members voted against something that a vast majority of the European Parliament members adopted. Doing so, those members of Parliament voted against the very foundations – historical, moral, and political – of the EU.
They are obviously a part of the stubborn totalitarian structures still lingering in Slovenia. Their understanding of justice and law is clearly based on a refusal to confront the real, historical truth of totalitarian regimes – communism in the case of Slovenia. This allows them to continue taking a selective approach to dealing with totalitarianisms and the non-recognition of the massive, systematic human rights violations that have taken place under communism. That obviously does not correspond to the ideals that the EU represents and strives for and neither to the democratic values, norms, and principles on which the rule of law is based. Strip away their façade and revered words, and you can see a totalitarian wolf in democratic clothing.