By: Sara Bertoncelj
“The statement of the commission basically politically joins the attacks on the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, which we are constantly witnessing in the mainstream media led by RTV Slovenia, and thus unilaterally and completely inappropriately interferes in daily politics, contributes to divisions and thus damages reputation of SAZU. In my opinion, in any case the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, by publishing this statement of the Commission for Human Rights on its website, has dishonourably slipped to the level of agitating non-governmental organisations,” wrote dr. Milček Komelj,” vice-president of SAZU for humanities, social sciences and arts.
Yesterday, the Commission for Human Rights of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) launched a statement to the public criticising measures to prevent the epidemic, accusing the government of arbitrary adoption of measures, autocratic and too frequent repressive actions. They specifically accuse the government of abusing the epidemic and spreading repression to the whole of society, and by inadequate communication, including in the field of health and social care, it has introduced unrest and fear. Also, according to the commission, during the first wave, the government abused the institute of palliative medicine for not admitting the elderly to hospitals, while now the issue of selection is becoming a growing problem. They also touched on the procurement of medical equipment. As these are serious allegations, and above all a move by an otherwise reputable institution, which we have not been accustomed to so far, we asked its member for a comment.
The academic commissions and working bodies of SAZU are independent in their statements, but committed to the fundamental principle that the Academy does not interfere in daily politics, but only defines the fundamental issues of the nation, its tradition and language, science and art. Regarding the consequences of the unforeseen epidemic, in this spirit SAZU has already issued an appropriate encouraging statement in the spring. “Members of SAZU have different ideological definitions and some also advertise themselves as political activists, but they are supposed to do so only in their own name, and not with the support of the Academy, as they are personally responsible for their entire activities. That is why, as the vice-president of SAZU, I am convinced that such statements are completely unacceptable for SAZU,” warned dr. Milček Komelj.
The position is contrary to the principles of SAZU and at the level of agitating non-governmental organisations
Doctor of Art History Milček Komelj explained to us that he found out about the statement of the Academic Commission for Human Rights only today after the session of the Executive Board of SAZU, which took place on Zoom. He also learned that the said statement was disputed by a member of this commission, Acad. Jože Krašovec, who wrote a separate opinion. “When I read the statement on the academic website after the session, I immediately reminded the remaining members of the SAZU management that it was in complete contradiction with the SAZU principles and suggested that the Academy management publicly distance itself from it,” Komelj said. In fact, he politically joins the attacks on the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, as we are constantly witnessing in the central media these days, led by RTV Slovenia, thus unilaterally and completely inappropriately interfering in daily politics, “In my opinion, in any case the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts slipped to the level of agitating non-governmental organisations by publishing this statement of the Commission on Human Rights on its website,” Komelj expressed his criticism of the Commission.
The statement signed by Tine Hribar and Renata Salecl
The existence and spread of covid-19 disease have radically affected our lives, especially in the field of human rights, wrote the Commission for Human Rights of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in its statement entitled “For a way out of the pandemic and autocracy”, signed by the President of the Commission Dr. Tine Hribar, and vice president dr. Renata Salecl. “Arbitrary adoption of measures, autocratic and too frequent repressive actions that we have encountered in Slovenia in recent months, and which we have witnessed during attacks on the media, do not contribute to curbing the covid-19 pandemic, but discourage the public from supporting otherwise necessary and urgent measures.” According to the authors of this statement, this is exactly what should discourage the public from supporting otherwise necessary and urgent measures. By the way, Dr. Tine Hribar is the husband of Spomenka Hribar, which says a lot about the whole thing.
The statement went on to specifically accuse the government of abusing the epidemic and spreading repression, with its command approach, to the whole of society. It introduced unrest and fear through inadequate communication, including in the field of health and social care, they wrote. Also, the government, according to the commission, abused the institute of palliative medicine during the first wave to not admit the elderly to hospitals, while now the issue of selection is becoming a growing problem and at the beginning of the epidemic procured inappropriate medical equipment, supplies and medical tests. During the second wave, it seems that the situation has partially improved, “but there is still no clear evidence of full transparency,” the Commission assessed the situation in Slovenia.
The Commission for Human Rights also accuses the government of neglecting preparations for the second wave and abandoning the strengthening of public health, as well as the operation of social and health institutions and homes for the elderly. With its ill-considered decisions, the government, according to the commission, put health care in an unmanageable position and jeopardised the right to timely hospital treatment, examinations by a personal doctor and specialist, and urgent diagnostic procedures. The Commission also accuses the Government of bringing health and social workers to the brink of despair and burnout. The Commission therefore called on the National Assembly to demand that the government focus all its efforts on resolving the pandemic, preventing corrupt practices and recognising the importance of human dignity, human rights and democratic decision-making. The President of the Republic, Borut Pahor, is being asked by the commission to warn of the government’s extremely harmful interference in the media and culture, science, art and universities.
The principle of the Academy is that it must not interfere with politics, and the Commission’s statement is purely political. The Academy is supposed to intervene only in issues of principle, which are of fundamental importance to Slovenes. For example, they advocated for the Slovene language, the need to provide a grave for all the deceased, and a declaration of reconciliation will be adopted. As Komelj said, this cannot and must not be the position of the Academy. However, the Commission’s failure to adhere to the principle of not interfering in politics is certainly an alarming sign that another important institution could deviate from its mission and become a political agitator.