Open letter Via Iuris to the Slovak Prime Minister

On January 26, VIA IURIS sent an open letter to the Slovak Prime Minister. We ask him to take responsibility for the situation in the Slovak judiciary. We also point out why we consider the disciplinary proceeding against Judge Miroslav Gavalec an insult to democracy, justice and rule of law.

 

Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic
Mr. Róbert Fico
Government Office of the Slovak Republic
Nám. Slobody 1
813 70 Bratislava

Pezinok, January 26th, 2010

Dear Prime Minister,

We turn to you as citizens who have respect for both the constitution and democratic principles to which the Slovak Republic has pledged to uphold. However, we are extremely concerned regarding the independent judiciary – one of the three pillars of the democratic rule of law – because it has disappeared throughout this term of government in this country.

The disciplinary proceeding against Judge, Miroslav Gavalec, is just another example of the series of artificial proceedings where Štefan Harabin, retaliates against his critics. This is a slap in the face of the solidity, justice and the rule of law in this country. A Judge of the Supreme Court is only being disciplinary prosecuted because he made open complaints regarding inappropriate working conditions. Although it appears as though, his superior reproached him for lacking of expertise, but this is just an excuse.

VIA IURIS is a civic association that is concerned about protecting human rights, has had opposite experiences with Mr. Gavalec. For instance, Mr. Gavalec has made numerous judicial decisions on cases our organization has been connected with such as: the Pezinok’s Landfill Case, the Expressway R1 by Žiar n. Hronom, the disclosure of privatization contract of Slovak Telecom, the disclosure of resolution on halt of fake donors of SDKU-DS, as well as many other cases. Furthermore, in all the cases where he has had to pass a judicial decision he has proved not only his excellent knowledge of the law, but also its application in accordance with the spirit of the law. Moreover, his judgments are clear, cogent, and logically reasoned; his judgments refer to international legal standards and can also assist students of law as an example. In addition, his senate has submitted a preliminary question to the European Court of Justice, which is concerned with the application of the international Aarhus Convention, and on which this resolution the whole of Europe is awaiting. We perceive Judge Gavalec as an exemplary and wise judge with courage and moral attitudes that should be taken as a standard norm at the Supreme Court level.

Judge Gavalec is among the most decent and courageous judges of our country. He is solely being punished for his disagreements with Štefan Harabin’s immoral conduct, or he has been an "inconvenience" for Mr. Harabin somehow. From the latter we highlight a number of examples of "inconveniences" for Mr. Harabin: first, is the prosecution for a testimony made in a criminal proceeding, which was in accord with the law. Second, is regarding an open letter to the President. Third, is connected to the public expression of opinion. Final issue is on delays of proceedings that are not caused by the judge. All of these judges that have been an inconvenience for Mr. Harabin, have been sanctioned for the fact that they have acted, and behaved as expected from a judge in their position.  Their unjustified penalization is proof that our country lacks judges of these characters - respect for law, honor, virtue, and justice.

Dear Prime Minister, in your statements which have been related to the problems in our judiciary, you have publically remarked that only the judiciary itself must sort out these problems, since the judicial branch is independent from the executive branch. However, in this regard, this is not true. The reason for this is you appointed Štefan Harabin as the Minister of Justice in your government, and during his time in office, he was systematically strengthened his control over the judicial functionaries in the Judicial Council. Consequently, based on the proposal of the Judicial Council, Mr. Harabin was suggested to be appointed to the position of the President of the Supreme Court. As a result, of Mr. Harabin’s power in his position he was successfully appointed to this post as the President of the Supreme Court. Yet, as a minister he had unreasonably withdrew the courts’ chairmen and installed his own people to replace them. Among other things, those he installed initiated disciplinary proceedings. Furthermore, the process and results of these disciplinary proceedings have discredited not only Slovaks but also people from abroad. Currently, Mr. Harabin, as the President of the Supreme Court, has placed unacceptable pressure on judges through the changes in their work schedule, remuneration, assignment of cases, or through other means.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have a minister in your government who has lied in the Parliament, made racial slurs on MEP, and has never explained the links between him and people suspected of organized crime. This man stands at the head of the state's judicial system. Moreover, you are an experienced attorney in human rights; surely know better than anyone else that independence of the judicial branch cannot be built upon the intimidation, degradation, senseless disciplinary punishments, and arbitrary interference of the executive in the judicial administration. You know, like we do, as a defender of human rights, that human rights are useless and vain unless the judiciary is properly functioning. A man, who meets with these kinds of injustice, should have the possibility to appeal on an independent and impartial court, which promptly and fairly comes to resolutions,  and issues the decision in a comprehensible and clear way, based on which the concerned person has acted. Furthermore, the strengthening of the social securities’ of citizens has no sense either, if the court or judge does not guarantee this law. How long do the citizens of this country have to wait for such a performance in the court system?

Therefore, we call upon you, the leader of the strongest political party, and the most powerful man in this country, to begin to be seriously concerned about the loss of independence of the judiciary, and the non-functioned system of judicial origins in our country. We also expect that this issue will be included in assessment of the governmental activities between 2006 and 2010, and additionally will be incorporated into the agenda for your next electoral program.

Prime Minister, problems regarding the judiciary are just like other problems in a democratic state which means they must be a subject to public debate. Moreover, the general assembly and government are unlike judges and the judicial system, because they are directly liable to citizens, and mirror the democratic level of institutions in our country. For all these reasons, we turn to you to make a stance in this regard.

Sincerely Yours,
VIA IURIS - Center for Public Advocacy

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