By: Sara Kovač / Nova24tv
“Former colleague Tatjana Bobnar says in the report published on December 6th that she is strictly committed to legality and work and so on, and further accuses the police of using tear gas and a water cannon. Everyone knows, it is also verifiable, that the legal basis for police officers was the rulebook on police powers, written in Article 47, paragraph 2, adopted in 2014,” revealed the former director of the Slovenian police, Dr Anton Olaj. He explained that the regulations are adopted by the Minister of Internal Affairs. “Who was in charge of legal matters in the General Police Administration? The answer is the same as the previous one: Ms. Bobnar, who is so driven and ready to work legally. She confirmed the content of the use of a gas jet mixed with tear gas,” Olaj was clear.
Dr Anton Olaj, who was Jože Možina’s guest this time, is accused by the current authorities of having exceeded his authority in controlling the protests against the previous government with the police. According to them, repression reigned during his tenure, and trust in the police decreased. In the show, Olaj vehemently rejected the accusations and characterised them as untruths for the purposes of political propaganda.
In the very introduction of the show, Olaj spoke about the beginnings of his career. He had a 20-year career in the criminal police and taught criminal law for five years. He is a veteran of the war for Slovenia. At the time of independence, he was a member of the Coordination subgroup for Dolenjska. “I was on duty in that group, we also performed criminal tasks. At that time there was a lot of uncontrolled shooting, everything had to be recorded. At that time, there was a severe attack by airplanes on Medvedjek, where the victims were truck drivers. The criminal services had to record it, this exposed you to danger, clashes took place, mistrust grew,” he recalled, adding that the militia represented a stable factor that the leadership could count on.
The recent performance of protest security over the past two years has been unfavourable, according to the force’s report. As for those who were directly involved in this, Bobnar (when she was still a minister) announced that they would be criminalised and purged. On December 6th, the then minister announced on her website that the report had been prepared. “Colleague Slavko Koroš gave his assessment of this with bombastic headlines about gross violations, disproportionate use of force. I do not agree with the content. The content is weak to be subject to such severe criticism. Bobnar wrote that with this report they have fulfilled their pre-election promises. In a way, this makes sense. The report was specifically written. I promised to find out, as they said in one page, that it was all wrong. I have to write it in here now,” commented Olaj.
Olaj pointed out that four errors were found. Four complaints were successfully resolved. According to him, we must know that these are protests where a huge number of powers were used in two years (2020, 2021). “Which police would be involved in such a mass of protests, which would cover a period of two years, but only in four cases were the complaints justified. This indicates that the Slovenian police functioned perfectly,” emphasised Olaj, recalling the protest on October 5th, where coercive measures were used. If coercive means are used against the crowd, according to the law, the director general of the police must initiate a procedure to verify the use of coercive means. “I did this on October 7th, and the report was drawn up on November 24th. It was made by experienced police officers from this field of work. The report was published on the Internet the next day.” According to Olaj, the commission concluded that the powers were used professionally and legally. However, they pointed out some irregularities. “In the police, we implemented procedures so that irregularities would not occur in the future. Nothing has improved. Given that the findings are based on documentation of audio and video reviews, it is a credible report. This is a great success for the police.” On October 5th, water cannons and gas were used, but according to Olaj, none of the protesters were injured. 6 police officers and 8 cars were injured.
When Olaj attended a meeting of police chiefs in The Hague, where colleagues spoke about their experiences with protesters, he said he realised they were dealing with problems. “I saw that we overcame our problems in a few months. There were weekly protests, we learned in security so that there were no harmful consequences for the protesters. I am pained by the allegation that the police limited freedom of expression or freedom of association and assembly,” he emphasised, adding that he is considered a defender of constitutional postulates. “The police did not receive any command or hint that they should prevent someone from their constitutional right,” he was clear.
The measures had a legal basis
In the following, Olaj touched on Friday’s protests, the backgrounds, and motives behind them. “The police must distance themselves from politics. One of the MPs wrote on Twitter, the parliament is yours and the streets are ours. That is when cycling started, I call them anomists, not anarchists. We have a legal system that they think they will ignore, do their own thing. They are playing with civil disobedience. The very conclusion of the story in the election, that there will be some kind of abolition, a change in the regulation, that all those who broke the law will be rewarded in some way. I am critical here,” stressed Olaj, adding that all their measures had a legal basis. “On the one hand, they are full of efforts to strengthen the rule of law, which means that regulations are valid until the Constitutional Court excludes them from the hierarchy of legal acts. If the regulations apply, they apply. When a police officer comes to a situation, he acts in accordance with the regulation. Pointing the finger at him now, how can you blame him, announce a clean-up, if he acted according to the regulations?!” he was critical.
Olaj said that he was very negatively surprised by Slavko Koroš, a colleague from the criminal police, who headed the commission that wrote the recent report. “He used the expression that we gassed something. For 24ur show, he said that he was dissatisfied with the previous government. That is why I pointed out how such a person can be impartial. He does not even give the appearance of impartiality. So how can he interpret the conclusions impartially?! Four irregularities in two years make the story of how everything is wrong,” Olaj was critical and added that it is necessary to tip our hats to all the police officers who during this time took care of the safety of all of us. “The least that is needed is that we should receive some kind of cleansing now. This is extremely wasteful,” he is convinced. According to him, the police used the legally determined means proportionately. “In this report, they mention the principle of proportionality from the constitution. The principle of proportionality is enshrined in the Law on Police Duties and Powers, which states that the coercive means that cause the least consequences or injuries to the protesters must be used,” he emphasised, adding that they found that there were no injuries at all. “How can it now be said that someone who threw tear gas because of a mass violation of public order and peace gassed Ljubljana!?” he was critical. Olaj pointed out that, at the same time, it is also necessary to realise that Slovenia did not invent tear gas. The tear gas was bought on the market. So other police forces around the world also have it. “We used it when the conditions for it were given. This is completely misplaced and shows the politics of this finding. The matter simply does not go together,” he was clear.
Propagandists claimed that repression had increased under the previous government. Olaj said that he used numbers to prove that the police during his leadership was significantly less repressive than before. Fewer means of coercion were used. “So how can you be labelled as more repressive? We issued fewer fines; we found a way to reach people. We have increased the number of those warned. In 2020, approximately 55,000 warnings were issued for offenses committed. In 2021, during the time when I led the police, there were 189 thousand warnings,” he explained.
According to him, the propagandists who talked about the police losing trust did not say that trust began to decline from 2018 to 2020. At that time, Bobnar was the general director. “Confidence just continued to fall. At the beginning of 2020, I turned the curve, there was more interaction with people, less repression, more help. The pandemic exhaustion of the people was somehow subsiding. There were fewer restrictions, after all, the police exposed themselves with measures.” Olaj recalled that they talked before and after the elections about how they would restore trust in the police. “I managed to increase this together with the narrowest staff.”
Bobnar confirmed the use of a gas jet mixed with tear gas
“Former colleague Tatjana Bobnar says in the report, which was published on December 6th, that she is strictly committed to legality and work and so on, and in the following, there is also an accusation because the police used tear gas and a water cannon. Everyone knows, it is also verifiable, that the legal basis for police officers was the rulebook on police powers, in Article 47, paragraph 2, adopted in 2014,” revealed Olaj and explained that the rulebook is adopted by the Minister of the Interior. “Who was in charge of legal matters in the General Police Administration? The answer is the same as the previous one: Ms. Bobnar, who is so driven and ready to work legally. She confirmed the content of the use of a gas jet mixed with tear gas. This regulation is still valid.”
When asked if he himself was under pressure in his role as director general of the police, he said no. “The Prime Minister did not talk to me. Why would he? I was the head of the body in the composition. They monitored our statistics. At that time, the meetings were strictly in connection with anti-corona measures, but not otherwise. Hierarchy was very much emphasised in the whole situation. The topics were purely professional,” he emphasised and reminded that he published the results of crime on a monthly basis. The police acted in an emergency situation (there were 1 to 2 protests per week). In relation to the recent disclosure of Bobnar, to who the Prime Minister allegedly told that she could restore trust with a purge, he said that if the records are authentic, it may turn out that the Prime Minister violated the law. “The Constitution allows ten MPs to file a constitutional accusation, which is then decided by the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. This casts a bad light,” he commented, adding that he wonders why the minister waited half a year to announce this. “But if the acting general director of the police would be confirmed, would you keep silent about the fact that it is a criminal act?”, he added.
Finally, he spoke about the issue of migration. “I have a different opinion on the issue of migration than the current ruling policy. There is nothing wrong with that. We are a plural society.” The temporary technical barriers were put in place by Cerar’s government based on analysis that they could contribute to reducing intrusions, they had a purpose, and they were useful. “The message is so clear that you can only enter the country through the crossing and climbing over the fence shows that the intentions are bad. Now the message is different, you can cross the green border anywhere. Then why do we even have border crossings? For some they apply, for others they do not,” he pointed out, adding that the smuggling channels therefore consider our country as less risky. “Even if they get us, the politics here are soft. The problem will arise when Italy intensifies the protection of the border with Slovenia. Foreigners who are trapped and want to go elsewhere will not be able to go elsewhere easily. This will be concentrated, a migrant pocket, it will mean a substantial security risk,” he added, stressing that he wants more unity for Slovenia. “I would like to see them be as united as they were at the plebiscite.”