“When in doubt, the employer has not only the right but also a duty to check whether the employee meets the conditions for his employment at all,” said Dr Matej Lahovnik, adding that the Supreme Court is obviously afraid of the truth and that they are trying to fool everyone by saying that there is no legal basis that would allow them to check whether Branko Masleša has the appropriate state legal exam, which is a condition for being able to be a judge in Slovenia at all. Lahovnik’s claim was also confirmed by Dr Miha Pogačnik, Slovenian lawyer and politician, who emphasised that personnel records and papers belong to the Judicial Administration, which is headed by the Secretary-General of the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Justice also has a service for supervising the operations of the courts, which has the authority to supervise the judicial administration as well. “It would be good for the judiciary, the people and the international reputation of our country if any doubts that might still exist would be resolved as soon as possible,” he added. “When people without qualifications and integrity are the ones making the rulings in our courts, comparable data for the Slovenian judiciary at the European Court of Human Rights are as follows,” Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote on Twitter on Monday, adding a table to illustrate his point, which shows that Slovenia is ranked at the very top in terms of the share of judgments with at least one human rights violation.
After the recent excuses of the President of the Supreme Court, Damijan Florjančič, saying that the court does not have the competence or legal basis to verify the fulfilment of conditions for the people taking office as judges, lawyer Dr Miha Pogačnik pointed out that personnel records and papers belong to the Judicial Administration (as stated in Article 60 and the following articles of the Courts Act), which is headed by the Secretary-General of the Supreme Court (Article 61a). The Ministry of Justice also has a service for supervising the operations of courts, which has the competence to supervise the judicial administration (Article 65). When asked whether he believes that control will now finally happen, Pogačnik wrote that he did not know, but that it would be good for the judiciary, the people and the international reputation of our country if any doubts that might still exist would be resolved as soon as possible. “However, it seems that in addition to the question of ‘where is the seal?’ that has often been asked in this matter that can be resolved legally, another question is being asked more and more frequently, of ‘where is the minister?'” Pogačnik added. As we have already mentioned, Minister of Justice, Marjan Dikaučič, was present at the extraordinary session of the Committee on Justice – which was mainly devoted to the topics related to Judge Branko Masleša and the question of his education – but he did not do much more than just be present, as he did not even comment on the matter.
Well, the Siol web portal also did not get the answers to its questions. Namely, the Supreme Court rejected its request to send them the approval of the Republic Secretariat for Justice and the Organisation of Administration, which Masleša had to obtain before taking the state legal exam in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “The court does not have the document that was requested, so the applicant’s request had to be rejected, as the conditions from Article 4 of the Public Information Access Act were not met, since the requested information does not exist in court in material form,” the Supreme Court replied. It really seems that there is some bad luck surrounding the documentation that would clarify anything about Masleša’s qualifications. In 2019, the Ministry of Justice wrote that there is no legal basis in Slovenian regulations for recognising the state legal exam that was passed in another country as equal to the one passed in Slovenia. When the State Legal Exam Act came into force in 1994, the transitional provision stipulated: “An exam in accordance with the provisions of this Act shall be equated with a state legal exam and other examinations that were equated with it, according to the regulations so far.” They also wrote that the documentation that proves the fulfilment of the conditions under the Judicial Service Act, which was verified in a concrete case, when appointing judge Masleša to a permanent mandate in 1994, was sent to the Judicial Council, in accordance with the provisions of the then-valid Judicial Service Act. However, the Judicial Council has let us know that they do not have this documentation in their archives.
Is the information on a Supreme Court Judge’s state legal exam private?
The Supreme Court also explained to Siol: “As we have explained to you several times before, such data are issues that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia. It has also previously been explained to you that the set of data that the court as an employer or, in the case of a judge, the body in which he or she performs the judicial function, collects, processes and shares with the public, is legally restricted. The legislation does not provide for the collection or sharing of data related to the private information of employees. Only the person concerned can answer such questions.”
The Judicial Council did not find any information about the judge in the archives
The journalist wanted an explanation on why Masleša even needed the approval of the secretariat to take his state legal exam – as this is what the judge himself said when explaining the course of his internship and the state legal exam. Everything he said is supposed to be evident from the evidence – which he did not show, but he has “carefully saved.” If the Supreme Court does not have these documents, it would, of course, be right to clarify where the documents are supposed to be located. But the Judicial Council is probably not the right address for this question, although that would be the expected answer. Namely, the President of the Judicial Council, Vladimir Horvat, pointed out at the extraordinary session of the Committee on Justice that the Judicial Council tried to find certain information about Masleša and Judge Jasminka Jaša Trklja, but they did not find any information on the two in the archives – and Horvat does not know who has this information. “This remains unresolved,” he said, adding that the Council would once again address this issue at the forthcoming meeting.
Did the Internal Audit Service of the University of Sarajevo receive a request for a diploma from its Faculty of Law, no. 3227, which contains a typographic analysis?
Journalist Luka Perš has also been working on the case of judge Branko Masleša’s diploma for a while now – for which we believe that Masleša actually has it; however, it is pretty unusual that three different versions of it have appeared already. This is also why Perš wrote to the University of Sarajevo with some questions, including whether the seal on the third version of Masleša’s diploma is credible. The blind seal on the (supposedly) original diploma allegedly does not have the letter Z in it but the inverted number 2. The seal also does not have a visible star or university year. Experts pointed out that during the times of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the seal always contained the name of the faculty in Latin and also the Latin name of Universitas Sarajevo, including the year. Perš is also suspicious of the inscription “Sarajevo” and the words written in the date.
In the copies of the diplomas of the Faculty of Law in Sarajevo from 1974, 1977 and 1978, the words read “In Sarajevo,” and then the date was written in words. The same is true for the diplomas of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Sarajevo from the year 1973 and the diploma from 1085, which also read “In Sarajevo.”
The journalist from the media outlet Pravo.si was therefore interested in whether during the time of the SFRY there was a line, saying “In Sarajevo,” on all diplomas of the then-faculties in Sarajevo, and if the date was always written in numbers; whether there was a uniform seal for all diplomas of all faculties of the University of Sarajevo during the time of SFRY; which seal was used for the Faculty of Law in Sarajevo in the period 1973-1980; whether the seals contained a star or faculty year; whether it is true that their internal audit service received a request for a diploma from the Faculty of Law, no. 3227, which contains a typographic analysis; whether the internal audit service has initiated the appropriate procedures, and if so, which, and what are the results of the previous research that has been done and what has already been verified. It will be interesting to see the response of the University – if there will be one at all.
Perš has already mentioned several times before that Masleša belongs to the influential wing of justice from the Coast, just like his boss, Florjančič. Both started their careers in Koper, like many other Supreme Court judges. Judges in question actually became a tandem, and like Florjančič, Masleša was also the President of the Supreme Court at one point. The influential Koper branch of justice also included or still includes Gregor an Jožica Velkavrh, Karel and Milan Štrukelj, Janez Brank, Nataša Butina Mrakić, Majda Žužek, Boris Sušec, Jana Petrič, Kristina and Darja Ožbolt, Francka Strmole Hlastec, Boris Strohsack, Danijel and Janez Starman, Bogomir Horvat, Vitomir Bohinec, Darja Srabotič and Samanta Nusdorfer.
From forgery of official documents to illegal, biased and unfair trials and impersonation of an official
Active citizen Vili Kovačič and former journalist Mitja Lomovšek have filed a criminal complaint against Masleša, accusing him of several criminal offences, from falsifying official documents, to illegal, biased and unfair trials, as well as falsely posing as an official. Unfortunately, the matter has come so far that only law enforcement can resolve it now. We can only hope that the Director-General of the Police, Dr Anton Olaj, and the head of the Ljubljana Prosecutor’s Office, Katarina Bergant, will make sure that a comprehensive and professional investigation will be done, which will bring us the appropriate conclusions, the journalist pointed out. On Monday, Minister of the interior, Aleš Hojs, also pointed out that forgery of documents was a criminal offence. “After everything we have seen in recent weeks, it is obvious that the judiciary alone is not able to unequivocally confirm the authenticity of some documents and certificates. It is time for the police to check the suspicions of forged documents and finally disprove them and prepare a criminal complaint,” he wrote.
Before going to the European Court of Human Rights, there is also the option of the Constitutional Court
In the end, however, the most effective option might be for this matter to be forwarded to the European Court of Human Rights – and one of the people that were tried under Masleša could file it there. Namely, the judgment could be challenged on the grounds that it was made by a judge who does not have the appropriate education. However, the appellant must first use all possible domestic options, which means that the appeal must first be lodged with the Constitutional Court of Slovenia. According to the convention, the state must first be given the option of remedying the violation itself.
Slovenia is ranked at the very top in terms of the share of judgments with at least one human rights violation
“When people without qualifications and integrity are the ones making the rulings in our courts, comparable data for the Slovenian judiciary at the European Court of Human Rights are as follows,” Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote on Twitter on Monday, adding a table to illustrate his point, which shows that Slovenia is ranked at the very top in terms of the share of judgments with at least one human rights violation. Numbers show that the share of non-infringement judgments is only 8.31 percent. The Prime Minister also commented on Florjančič’s statement, asking whether it is really so difficult to actually verify Masleša’s diploma and bar exam and write that both documents are authentic and legal. “Apparently, everything is wrong,” he added.