Scandal Strikes at the Heart of Europe, by Brendan Oswald

Ján Kuciak progressive.org | by | December 10, 2019 |

Slovakian journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kušnírová, were killed almost two years ago. The murders were part of a state-sanctioned push to silence an investigation into government corruption.Photo: Peter Tkac.

Slovakia doesn’t usually do bloodshed, conflict, or high drama. This small country of five million at the heart of Europe has no modern history of conflict, having peacefully thrown off the shackles of communism via the Velvet Revolution.

However, Slovakia’s self-image as a peaceful, law-abiding nation has taken several shocks in the last couple of years. The country has become mired in a scandal involving embezzlement, bribery, and murder, which led to the downfall of prominent government ministers, several high court judges, a former prosecutor general, and even the prime minister.

New security clearances for judges implemented

| The Slovak Spectator | 2. Oct 2015 at 6:30  |  Radka Minarechová |

Courts struggle with a backlog of cases. Source: SME

THE FIRST set of judicial candidates that underwent controversial security clearances that came as part of a 2014 constitutional amendment, stood before the Judicial Council on September 28. 

Experts remain divided on the new measure.

The Judicial Council, the top judicial body overseeing the operation of Slovakia’s courts, checked the first 19 candidates who have already been screened by the National Security Office (NBÚ), approving 17.

“One candidate did not fulfil the conditions of judges’ competencies, while in one case we stopped the discussion and asked for additional information,” Judicial Council Chairwoman Jana Bajánková said, as quoted by the Sme daily. 

The court which nominated the failed candidate will most probably have to start a new selection process, she added, before declining to comment further citing the closed session and confidential NBÚ documents involved. 

Dana Bystrianska, head of the Association of Judges of Slovakia, says she has mixed feelings from the session. Though the candidates had been initially asked to answer questions in written form for the NBÚ questionnaire, they did so only verbally before the Judicial Council.

“It seems that there is actually a big time pressure and small space for the candidates to focus on questions in the questionnaire,” she told The Slovak Spectator.

COMMUNIQUÉ from the conference “Together for Effective and More Reliable judiciary” which took place on 19 November 2014 in Bratislava

Conference was held under auspices of the President Andrej Kiska, and with participation of the Justice Minister Tomáš Borec, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee Róbert Madej, members of the Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, judges of different levels and from various regions of the Slovak Republic, significant judges from the Czech Republic, representatives of the NGO sector, and the diplomatic corps.

 

The following conclusions resulted from the conference:

 

  • The following three conditions are inevitable for functioning Rule of Law in Slovakia: co-operation of all three powers of the state, their sincere attempt to reach such goal, and their mutual respect.

 

  • Legislative and executive powers should put the judiciary to the top priorities on their agenda and should not solve the problems of the judiciary with populism or as part of the political competition. They should remedy the main causes of low electivity of courts which are, mainly, uneven loading of courts with court litigations and disproportionate distribution of judges between courts; inefficient legislation; insufficient amount of assistants of judges with legal education, and low qualification of the court administrative staff.

 

  • Trust of the public is the most valuable merit that the judiciary possess. Strengthening of the trust is primarily a task for the judges themselves who should take over the accountability for their work, for their profession, and for the moral values connected to it. Apart from good and persuasive judicial decisions, the basis for the trustworthiness of courts is the fulfilment of the legitimate request of the public that a judge should not only be professional but also moral authority. 

 

In Bratislava, on the 19th November 2014

 

Conference was organised by the association of judges “For Open Judiciary” with support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Open Society Foundation and VIA IURIS.

Conference - „Together for effective and more reliable judiciary“

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