Justice Minister: Nobody intends to destroy Conflict of Interest Commission

NEWS 05.02.2021 21:25
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Ivan Malenica
Source: Luka Stanzl / Pixsell

Responding to accusations by the GONG NGO in a letter to GRECO, Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica says that nobody in Croatia, least of all the government, wants to "destroy" the Conflict of Interest Commission and that this body has adopted practices that have no basis in law.

The commission is necessary in Croatia’s society and it needs to execute its function without disruptions, and that is to prevent conflict of interest, Malenica wrote in a letter to the president of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), Marin Mrcela.

Responding to GONG’s accusations in its letter to GRECO, that a ruling by the High Administrative Court had stripped the commission of its most vital power, Article 5, which regulates rules of conduct, Malenica said that these claims were absolutely false.

Malenica noted that rules of conduct were regulated by just one article of the Conflict of Interest Prevention Act which does not regulate conflict of interest and whose violations are not necessarily conflict of interest.

He said that the authority of preventing or identifying conflict of interest, which is why the commission was established, has not been brought into question by anyone. However, he added, the commission was not established to act as an ethical body.

Had the law intended for the commission to conduct special procedures due to violations of general rules noted in Article 5, the law would have contained at least some provisions that determined that intention, claimed Malenica.

He concluded that the commission had taken on the role of an ethical body through its practice, which he said is not based in law, and that judicial bodies responsible for checking the legality of the commission’s decisions in this case ruled that it was unlawful.

Malenica added that by taking on the role of an ethical body, the commission filled a void that relates to the conduct of officials, which does exist in Croatia’s legal framework.

That is one of the deficiencies that you too warn of in your report, and also a recommendation that the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration will deal with and promptly adopt a code of ethics for officials, clearly defining ethical standards, sanctions and a competent body to act in cases of violation of the code, Malenica wrote in his letter.

False information and accusations against impartiality of the judiciary

Malenica added that GONG’s letter contained false information and grave accusations regarding the impartiality of Croatia’s judiciary and the government’s intentions to “destroy” the commission, which he said is completely false and in fact damaging.

The GONG NGO on Tuesday warned GRECO that Croatia’s Conflicts of Interest Prevention Commission must not be destroyed after the High Administrative Court quashed a ruling by the Administrative Court in Zagreb from May 2018 and a decision by the commission of 29 November 2017.

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