“I believe the report is written with a clear purpose and, as such, biased. It is almost impossible for any security operation, any action, especially one of a large scale, not to have some irregularities. The aim of the report is purely and simply to fulfil certain political promises,” Olaj, former Director-General of the Police, was recently critical of the controversial conduct of Acting Minister of the Interior Sanja Ajanović Hojnik.
With the blessing of her boss, Prime Minister Robert Golob, the Acting Minister of the Interior, Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, has embarked on a political inquisition of police officers who, during the epidemic, when stricter rules of public assembly were in force, performed their duties diligently and even sacrificed their own health in order to protect the health and lives of their fellow citizens. It is also worth pointing out that the epidemiological measures in Slovenia were much milder than in many Western countries. In some places, even leaving home was strictly restricted. But this is not good enough for the current rulers and their anarchist street supporters. What is more, we should also not forget about their intention to grant indulgences to all the hooligans who had been diligently disrupting the work of the government of Janez Janša (and looting the capital), without overlooking the obvious political bias. At the same time, the lives of police officers who were merely carrying out their duties diligently are about to be destroyed. According to the Slovenian Press Agency, on the basis of the report concerning the extraordinary professional supervision of the police in the case of the protection of protest events in 2020 and 2021, the Ministry of the Interior expects the police to carry out internal security procedures with the intention of verification and, on the basis of the findings, to initiate labour law proceedings.
The deadline for the implementation is set at the end of the month. On the basis of the report, Acting Minister Ajanović Hovnik (who is otherwise the Minister of Public Administration), who is temporarily in charge of the ministry following the resignation of Tatjana Bobnar, has already provided guidance and guidelines for the police to act accordingly. She declined to say how many transfers and replacements are planned. The police intend to report their findings on the 31st of January, when the number of persons who did something wrong identified in the police ranks and in the competent ministry will be known. Ajanović Hovnik: “Our report is very precise, it clearly shows where we have identified problems, and we expect the police to also find these same problems and to take appropriate follow-up action.” She added that she was appalled by the report’s findings and intended to ensure that such abuses never happen again. Further instructions should lead to systemic measures in the police to prevent future abuses of the institution. Amendments to laws on the organisation and work of the police and on the tasks and powers of the police are also being prepared. According to the Acting Minister of the Interior, the future amendments are also to be based on what the monitoring report will reveal and, at the same time, will come as a consequence of the removal of the Schengen border from our border with Croatia.
We asked the former Director-General of the Police, Anton Olaj, for his opinion on the matter, and he told us: “I believe the report is written with a clear purpose and, as such, biased. However, I am very negatively surprised by the fact that, in this day and age, there are still some real aspirations to carry out some kind of purge. Even some deadlines have been set for the end of January. This is essentially an employer’s instrument, not a politician’s.” Olaj believes that it is the employer who assesses whether or not there has been a breach of an employment contract, not politicians. And all of this points to the fact that this is a political report. On the 6th of December, the then-Minister of the Interior stated that “we all know” that “the police used excessive and disproportionate force” at “those protests”, and she publicly promised that an internal investigation would follow. And if the top of the governing body – the Minister – publicly says that “we all know that the measures were disproportionate and excessive,” it is clear that there is political pressure being exerted. Supervisors were not able to write the report in any other way than exactly how they did, and they were purposely looking for reasons to show that “some irregularities” had occurred. “It is almost impossible for any security operation, any action, especially one of a large scale, not to have some irregularities,” added Olaj.
“The blanket criminalisation of the police, just because they worked under the previous government, is misguided.”
“And nobody claims or denies this, which is why the police themselves were audited to see if anything went wrong,” Olaj further explained. And in the event of mistakes, mechanisms were put in place to ensure that next time there would be none or as few mistakes as possible. A mistake is far from being a criminal act or being criminalised in itself. It is a crime when something is done with a reprehensible intention, deliberately to harm someone. However, if someone has assessed a situation in accordance with the law and that situation is now different from the assessment of the Minister and the supervisors, then that is not a criminal act. Olaj: “We have two lawyers and two different legal opinions – which is the correct one, the first or the second? It’s the same with assessments. And as far as the assessment of the correctness and legality of official powers goes – it is a legal category (the Police Tasks and Powers Act), and the head of the unit assesses whether something is legal or not. That is his or her assessment to make, and the law requires him or her to make it. The law does not impose this assessment on supervisors or some inspectors, but, for example, on this head of the unit.”
As Olaj further explained, the officer made his assessment on the basis of the official note on the use of coercive means and probably (given that the police officer was in his unit) also after a conversation with a specific police officer, if he deemed that necessary. The officer’s assessment is undoubtedly an important indicator of the credibility of the assessment/non-assessment of something. However, politically based questioning of an assessment or describing it as wrong (because it does not fit with a certain policy) is completely misguided. “The report is purely and simply aimed at fulfilling a political promise and dogma – that it should not be checked and that everything was wrong, but it was not. The police have been very successful under my leadership. The results have shown that,” Olaj added. Slovenia is also known to be the safest country in the European Union, and the police have played one of the most important roles in ensuring our security. “The blanket criminalisation of the police, just because they worked under the previous government, is misguided,” Olaj believes.
Olaj: “I am negatively surprised at the announcement of what seems to be some kind of purge. It does not get much more despicable than this!”
This is a way of denying the existence of a plural society, where something can be “right” only on the basis of someone’s assessment, and everything else can only be “wrong”. Such thinking is only possible in a one-party system. We should instead start from the results, which prove that there is little crime in Slovenia. Under Olaj’s leadership, people’s trust in the police was returning (although the propaganda of the mainstream media made it seem like the opposite was true), despite the limited number of police staff, the pandemic and having to provide security for the duration of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and so on. All this was, nevertheless, done very successfully. Finally, Olaj provided further evidence that this was a politically biased report: “The mandate of this commission is laid down in Article 5(2) of the Police Tasks and Powers Act… Its task is to monitor legality, professionalism, respect for human rights and compliance with the Minister’s directions. And the commission has declared in its report that the visit of the Minister and the Secretary of State to the operational headquarters is not contrary to the law.”
“The law does not forbid it, and so on. But she still said it was “something negative,” because it was a kind of “disturbance.” They have completely exceeded their mandate and the powers they have under the law,” Olaj explained. The intention behind this is to negatively portray something that the law does not mandate them to do at all. They found out that it was legal, and that should be enough. But they still made it seem as if “everything was wrong.” Which is yet more proof that the report is absolutely biased. And with that, the popular phrase about the ‘depoliticisation of the police’ falls. The key point is that the police act in accordance with the law, and it is the Constitutional Court that decides on (dis)proportionality, not the police officers, who do not have this knowledge. Then, too, any traffic offence could be disproportionate, and a police officer could be suspended for alleged abuse of office. This is an extreme form of policy adaptation. Olaj extends his full support to all his colleagues who did their best, and sacrificed their work and their health during the protests. At the same time, he is critical of the current government’s treatment of policemen and policewomen. Olaj: “I am negatively surprised at the announcement of what seems to be some kind of purge. It does not get much more despicable than this!”