Constitutional Judges Clash Over Alleged Lies, Political Bias in Ruling on Foreigners Act

By , 16 Oct 2019, 11:43 AM Politics
DDr. Klemen Jaklič, left, and Prof. dr. Matej Accetto, right DDr. Klemen Jaklič, left, and Prof. dr. Matej Accetto, right

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STA, 15 October 2019 - The Slovenian public has been able to witness an unprecedented exchange between two Constitutional Court judges in a row over political bias after the court released the long-expected ruling on the foreigners act yesterday (details).

In a dissenting opinion opposing the court's decision to annul the controversial provision creating a legal basis to trigger a mechanism that would effectively suspend case-by-case handling of asylum seekers under special circumstances, judge Klemen Jaklič exposed his colleague Matej Accetto for trying to exert pressure on him, accusing him of lies and political bias.

He alleged that he had been pressured over his dissenting opinion "with suggestions that I change it", and that Accetto had announced he would counter in his own opinion Jaklič's claim that the judges had aimed for a certain result, in the "sense this is the right result, it only remains to ascertain the easiest way to arrive at the decision".

Jaklič accused Accetto of lying when he said that no judge had spoken about the result in that sense.

In his opinion endorsing the court's decision yesterday, Accetto denied "politically-motivated result bias" in any of the judges.

Jaklič also accused Accetto of lying in denying his being involved in the creation of the political platform of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) when the court was deliberating on a petition challenging the result of a 2017 referendum against the Koper-Divača rail project.

The referendum petitioner Vili Kovačič had called for Acetto's recusal at the time, arguing that Accetto had collaborated with the SMC of the then PM Miro Cerar in compiling the party's platform.

Accetto denied being involved in the creation of the platform, which is why the judges voted against his recusal at the time.

The web portal Požareport yesterday released correspondence between Accetto and senior SMC members allegedly confirming that Accetto made quite extensive and detailed proposals in the SMC platform compilation process.

Jaklič, said that he had known about the correspondence beforehand, so he voted in favour of his recusal. He said that in the correspondence Accetto expressed his "tacit support" for the SMC.

Both Acetto and Constitutional Court President Rajko Knez denied the allegations on Tuesday with Knez saying that Accetto did not mislead the court about his ties with the SMC. Knez found the attempt to publicly discredit Accetto unacceptable.

Knez explained that Accetto's role at the time before the SMC's foundation prior to the 2014 general election had been subject of deliberations at the court several times. "The judges always reached a majority decision that there were no reasons for his recusal." he said.

The SMC said in a statement that Cerar invited Accetto to help draft some opinions, but this was before the party was established, as part of a civil movement. Accetto had never been a SMC member and had never consulted the party or Cerar.

Describing Jaklič's accusations as an attack on his integrity as a judge, Accetto underscored today that he had never lied or misled the court, explaining that the correspondence dated back to the time before the formation of the SMC party.

"I never denied my being a good personal acquaintance of Miro Cerar nor that before his entering politics I had worked with him as part of a civil society he gathered to advance debate on topical issues," said Accetto.

However, he said that he had not opted to enter politics, also because he had lived and worked in Portugal between September 2013 and September 2016. "I was hence not involved in the foundation of the SMC, nor became its member or ran with it in the 2014 general election race."

He attributes the situation prompting Jaklič's accusations to his own objection at a court session "against - in my opinion - too light and inappropriate making of value judgements and attribution of political bias to other judges in dissenting opinions".

In response to the exchange, Ernest Petrič, the former president of the Constitutional Court, said that the Constitutional Court should be as unbiased and unblemished as possible and comprised of mature personalities.

When an individual becomes a constitutional judge, "it is right they ask for their recusal for the sake of the court's good name even if there is only a possibility that their biased is questioned by sound arguments".

He believes that this depends on the individual's maturity, so "it is better for constitutional judges to be persons in mature age than a young person who has other ambitions".

Petrič was critical of the way constitutional judges are selected: "There is too much looking for judges who may be ours, negotiation on how many of them will be ours and how many yours. The result is far from having a balanced court. This is not the right path, the right path is aspiring for the best."

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