By: Tamara Griesser Pečar
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) receives around 240 complaints from Slovenia every year. The court convicted Slovenia of human rights violations in 332 cases (93 percent). Slovenia has so far paid 295,644,418.49 euros in compensation from the state budget.
In addition to the media, the judiciary is also a big problem in Slovenia. Not because there would be no relevant laws, but because the transition has not yet been fully implemented and the laws are not being implemented or are being implemented unilaterally. The rule of law does not work; we can even say that there is currently no legal security in Slovenia because there is no equality before the law. While the judiciary does not prosecute the real culprits, there have been a number of criminal charges and proceedings against well-known representatives of the spring side, such as civil society representatives, politicians, journalists and theologians, for reserving the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
No changes were needed in the judiciary after independence
In a short time when the parties of continuity did not rule, the government began to implement changes, but so far it has not had enough time for that, and constant protests have followed. Everything is a bit reminiscent of the old times, which some obviously want back. At that time, many critics of the existing one-party system or individual measures of the communist government found themselves on the dock, not to mention the opponents of interwar and partly post-war revolutionary violence. Some of these, of course, were murdered without being brought to justice.
Judgments at rigged trials were, of course, predetermined in party bodies – and were extremely high. In the selection of judges, political suitability took precedence over professional qualifications. Human rights violations were common during the investigation, during the trial and in prison. The courts neither considered the witnesses nor the material in favour of the accused nor the motives of the acts. If necessary, they also falsified evidence. None of those responsible for crimes during the communist regime defended themselves in court. There is not enough evidence for the assistant chief of the Ozna secret police after the war, who was also co-responsible for the post-war murders, Mitja Ribičič.
The Slovenian judiciary has not experienced lustration
As there was no lustration in Slovenia, those burdened in positions of responsibility did not automatically have to withdraw after independence. They stayed and waited for what would happen, destroying archival material that would testify to human and civil rights violations. Thank God they failed to destroy everything. In contrast to the Slovene system, after the annexation of East to West Germany, persons in socially and politically important positions – members of the government, the army, the judiciary, civil servants and university professors – were checked whether they were once in the service of the German secret police Stasi or they collaborated with them. This statutory review was extended by the German Parliament until 2030. From 1991 to the end of 2020, the Stasi archives received 1,756,592 requests for screening of persons employed in public services at the request of public authorities. The Stasi managed to destroy about five percent of the archives, while in Slovenia about eighty percent were destroyed.
In many cases, the Slovenian judiciary does not operate according to legal norms
Trials in Slovenia do not take place within a reasonable time, cases drag on for years and years and sometimes become obsolete. As Slovenia has in many cases violated the right to a trial without undue delay, some have turned to the European Court of Human Rights. In 1995, the Constitutional Court found that “the former Yugoslav and within its framework the Slovenian constitutional and state institutional system, contrary to the traditions of European legal civilisation, did not place human rights at the forefront and did not create legal restrictions on state power and its violence” (UI-158/94 from 9 March 1995).
Apparently, we have not yet completely moved away from this system. Judicial proceedings are still lengthy, and judgments are often without sufficient justification, in part even without any justification. The same judges judge in appeals as well as in judgments sent by a higher instance for retrial, which is inadmissible in a state governed by the rule of law. Prosecutors are also involved in criminal proceedings that could be affected by their personal interests. Of course, unlike judges, prosecutors cannot be rejected in such cases on the grounds of bias, but it is self-evident in legal states that they do not take part in such proceedings, but exclude themselves from such proceedings. The aforementioned cases are an abuse of the law.
Judges are directly or indirectly burdened by the past
Thus, in Slovenia there is a single lustration law, i.e. the Judicial Act, which in paragraph 3 of point 8 stipulates that those “who have judged or decided in investigative and judicial proceedings in which fundamental human rights have been violated by a judgment and freedoms” do not have the conditions to obtain a permanent judicial mandate, but the law has been implemented only once. We had judges who otherwise should not have a permanent mandate, e.g. former President of the Supreme Court Branko Masleša.
Numerous examples show that a large part of the judiciary in Slovenia does not operate according to the legal norms in force in democratic countries. The most famous, but by no means the only one, is the Patria trial, which was an attempt to exclude the unloved leader of the largest opposition party in Slovenia from politics. Let us remember, for example, Franc Kangler, who is also the subject of a parliamentary commission of inquiry, only that the Constitutional Court stopped the investigation against judges, and, for example, Dr Milko Novič, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison on very dubious charges and served 40 months. The judge, who finally acquitted Novič, came under severe pressure.
Appeals to the European Court of Human Rights have so far cost Slovenia almost 300 million euros
At a time when there is no judicial epilogue for the actual death threats on posters and in the statements of protesters against the Prime Minister, saying that it is a matter of freedom of speech, the Constitutional Court adopted a diametrically opposite decision in April this year. Historian Jože Pirjevec appealed against the decision of the Supreme Court, which annulled the judgment of the District Court and the High Court against Dr Boštjan Turk. Pirjevec stated that his human rights had been violated because Turk pointed out the indisputable fact that Pirjevec had signed with Giuseppe Pierrazzi at a time when this was no longer necessary. According to his own statement, he changed his name to its original state only in 2004.
The Supreme Court found that Turk’s record in the 2011 Reporter’s column Referenti and renegati was partly sharp, but that it did not go beyond the right to freedom of expression, especially not because Pirjevec is a public figure. Contrary to the previous practice (of course in a different composition), the Constitutional Court intervened in the acquittal, which otherwise could not be annulled. Despite the fact that the author wrote something that is true, according to the majority in the Constitutional Court, he was allegedly insulting and thus violated human rights in the column.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which Turk turned to for violating freedom of expression, now has the floor. It should be added that the ECHR receives around 240 complaints from Slovenia every year. By the end of 2017, as many as 9,238 complaints had been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights. It issued a verdict in 353 cases by the end of 2017, and three more in 2018. Slovenia was convicted of human rights violations in 332 cases (93%). Slovenia has so far paid 295,644,418.49 euros in compensation from the state budget.