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Lawyer Jurij Toplak: The ECHR Ruling Is A Slap In The Face To The Constitutional Court And The Slovenian Judiciary

The Slovenian judiciary is at the forefront in terms of human rights violations in the European Union. A review of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights shows that in the period from Slovenia gaining independence to 2021, the Slovenian judiciary has violated at least one human right in 342 rulings. According to publicly available data, only Malta is worse. The Slovenian public is not aware of the dismal results, as Dr Jurij Toplak revealed in a recent case. Namely, Slovenia has been convicted again, the state authorities have been informed of this, but the public has not.

“When the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decides that Slovenia has violated human rights, the state authorities are notified about the ruling but do not inform the public of it. As a result, people do not know that Slovenia has been convicted in Strasbourg. For years, I have been informing the public about ECHR judgments and violations. In recent years, I am no longer informing the public of such outcomes and, with many judgments against Slovenia, neither are the authorities, the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – STA) or the media. People are deprived of important information on the state of the rule of law and human rights in Slovenia,” he wrote in a public statement.

In his statement, Toplak informed the public that Slovenia has been convicted again because the courts are still not holding public hearings. “On the 6th of July 2023, the ECHR found a violation of fair trial standards because the courts did not hold public hearings when Mr Jure Letonje was fined after he sat on a police car. The Constitutional Court found no violation of European law in this. The ECHR judgment is a slap in the face to the Constitutional Court and the Slovenian judiciary, because the ECHR and lawyers have been explaining to them for more than 15 years now that they are in violation of a law, but the Constitutional Court does not seem to understand it. The ECHR has informed the Slovenian authorities of the ruling; however, the public did not hear the news,” the lawyer stated.

“State authorities like to inform the public of when Slovenia is not violating rights in a court case, but non-violation is expected and not something special, just like it is not something special that the food in a canteen is not poisoned or that there was no incident in a school,” Toplak concluded.

Toplak then appealed to the Ministry of Justice, the Slovene Bar Association and other state bodies that receive information from the ECHR about rulings about violations to inform the Slovenian Press Agency and the public about the human rights violations found in Slovenia and thus contribute to bettering the rule of law.

Human rights violations cost money

Human rights violations by Slovenian courts are not only costly in terms of human lives destroyed, but also in the erosion of democratic and legal standards, as well as actually costing us millions of euros. Human rights violations have so far cost Slovenian taxpayers around 300 million euros in compensation that the state has had to pay out to its victims. The price for the decline of democratic standards is high. The Patria case, in which the Slovenian judiciary sentenced the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) President Janez Janša to imprisonment without sufficient evidence to support its case, with the obvious intention of influencing the democratic process, should be highlighted here. Janša commented on the judiciary’s disastrous record: “There is no democracy without an independent judiciary – a judiciary that has equal rights for all and protects and defends human rights. And not the other way around. However, the Slovenian judiciary is at the very top of Europe in terms of human rights violations.”

However, we were just recently able to follow the latest episode of the degradation of the rule of law in Slovenia, namely, in the case of the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, in which the current authorities usurped public broadcasting by adopting an amendment to the said act that effectively terminated the legally granted mandates to the governing bodies. The law was adopted under an emergency procedure that is only supposed to be used in times of natural disasters and war. The law was adopted without adequate public debate, then approved through a referendum, followed by a suspension by the Constitutional Court, and then one of the most degrading episodes in the history of the Constitutional Court. After severe political pressure, both from the country’s political leadership and from European Commissioner Věra Jourová, who visited the Constitutional Court, the Court lifted the suspension on the grounds that it was unable to rule on the merits of the case.

Totalitarian continuity

Dr Tamara Griesser Pečar believes that the reasons for the almost massive number of violations of human rights are to be found in the failure to lustrate the judiciary, which, during the transition from a totalitarian to a democratic system, was given continuity of personnel and thus continuity of state of mind, reflected in the judgments. As she told the newspaper, in 1995, the Constitutional Court found that “the former Yugoslav and, within its framework, 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 formulate legal limits to state power and its violence.”

And how this continuity is reflected in the work of the Slovenian judiciary is clear from publicly available data that shows that we rank second on the scale of judgments finding at least one violation per million inhabitants.

The overwhelming majority of applicants to the European Court of Human Rights succeed. Of the 373 judgments heard by the ECHR before 2021, 342 found human rights violations. This is in addition to a further four ECHR judgments in 2022, which again found human rights violations, as is clear from publicly available data.

Of the four judgments delivered, human rights violations were again found in every single one.

Gal Kovač

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