By: Sara Bertoncelj
“The Commission’s statement basically politically joins the attacks on the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, which we are constantly seeing in the mainstream media led by RTV Slovenia, and thus, it biasedly and completely inappropriately interferes in daily politics, contributes to the division among the people, and therefore damages the reputation of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts (Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti – referred to as SAZU). In my opinion, SAZU has dishonourably slipped to the level of the agitating non-governmental organizations by publishing the statement of the Human Rights Commission on its website,” wrote Milček Komelj, Ph.D., the vice-president of SAZU for humanities, social sciences, and arts.
Yesterday, the Human Rights Commission of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts sent a statement to the public, criticizing the measures which have been implemented to mitigate the epidemic, accusing the government of arbitrary adoption of measures, as well as autocratic and, too frequently, repressive actions. To be more precise, they are accusing the government of abusing the epidemic and spreading repression to the whole of society, and also of introducing unrest and fear with its inadequate communication, including in the field of health and social care. According to the Commission, during the first wave, the government also abused the institute of palliative care 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 made by an otherwise reputable institution, which is something we have not been accustomed to so far, we asked one of its members to comment on the matter.
The academic commissions and working bodies of SAZU are independent in their statements, but they are 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. In light of all of this, SAZU has already issued an appropriate, encouraging statement in the spring, regarding the consequences of the unforeseen epidemic. “Members of SAZU have different ideological beliefs, and some also speak up as political activists, but they are supposed to do so only in their own name, and not with the support of the Academy, just as they are personally responsible for their personal activities. Therefore, as the vice-president of SAZU, I am convinced that such statements are completely unacceptable for SAZU,” Milček Komelj, Ph.D., pointed out.
The statement goes against the principles of SAZU, and it is at the level of the agitating non-governmental organizations
Milček Komelj, who holds a doctorate in art history, explained to us that he only found out about the statement of the Academy’s Human Rights Commission 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, academic Jože Krašovec, who wrote a separate opinion. “When I read the statement on the academic website after the session, I immediately warned the other 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, adding that the Commission’s statement basically politically joins the attacks on the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, which we are constantly seeing in the mainstream media led by RTV Slovenia, and thus, it biasedly and completely inappropriately interferes in daily politics, contributes to the division among the people, and therefore damages the reputation of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts. “In any case, in my opinion, SAZU has dishonourably slipped to the level of the agitating non-governmental organizations by publishing the statement of the Human Rights Commission on its website,” Komelj expressed his criticism of the Commission.
The statement was signed by Tine Hribar and Renata Salecl
The existence and spread of the COVID-19 disease have radically affected our lives, especially in the field of human rights, the Human Rights Commission of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts wrote in its statement, entitled “For a way out of the pandemic and autocracy,” signed by the president of the Commission, Tine Hribar, Ph.D., and vice-president, Renata Salecl Ph.D. “The arbitrary adoption of measures, autocratic and too frequently repressive actions that we have encountered in Slovenia in recent months, and which we have witnessed in the attacks on the media, do not contribute to curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, but discourage the public from supporting the otherwise necessary and urgent measures.” According to the authors of the statement, this is exactly what is discouraging the public from supporting the otherwise necessary and urgent measures. By the way, Tine Hribar, Ph.D., is the husband of Spomenka Hribar, which really says a lot about this whole matter.
In the statement, they then went on to specifically accuse the government of abusing the epidemic and spreading repression to the whole of society with its command approach. The government supposedly introduced unrest and fear through its inadequate communication, including in the field of health and social care, they wrote. According to the Commission, the government also abused the institute of palliative care during the first wave of the epidemic, to not admit the elderly to hospitals, while now, the issue of selection is becoming a growing problem. The government also supposedly procured inappropriate medical equipment, personal protective supplies and medical tests at the beginning of the epidemic. 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 accused the government of neglecting the proper preparations for the second wave and abandoning the strengthening of public healthcare, as well as the operating of social and healthcare institutions and nursing homes. With its ill-considered decisions, the government, according to the Commission, put healthcare in an unmanageable position and jeopardized 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 the 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 recognizing the importance of human dignity, human rights and democratic decision-making. The President of the Republic, Borut Pahor, was also asked by the Commission to draw attention to the government’s extremely harmful interference in the media and culture, science, art and universities.
One of the principles of the Academy is also that it must not interfere in politics; however, the Commission’s statement is purely political. The Academy is only supposed to intervene in issues of principle, which are of fundamental importance to the Slovenians. For example, they advocated the Slovenian language, the need to provide a grave for all the deceased, and due to their advocating, a declaration of reconciliation will also be adopted. As Komelj said, this cannot and must not be the official 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 possibly deviate from its mission and become a political agitator.