The Slovenia Times

Judge wins case against Slovenia at Strasbourg court

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Photo: dpa/STA

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has unanimously ruled that Slovenia breached judge Milko Škoberne's rights to a fair trial and privacy in 2013 when the Ljubljana District Court found him guilty of taking bribes.

Škoberne was the first Slovenian judge to be found guilty of corruption and disbarred. He started serving his five-year prison sentence in January 2015. Having served more than half of the sentence, he was released on parole in 2018.

He went to prison for revoking an international arrest warrant against Esad Čahajić, who was sought on prostitution and fraud charges, in exchange for a bribe in 2010 as a judge at the Celje District Court.

After all of his appeals at Slovenia's appellate courts were turned down, including two at the Constitutional Court, Škoberne turned to the Strasbourg court in April 2020.

Issuing the ruling on 15 February, the court said Škoberne's conviction was based on statements by Esad Ramić and Marjan Salobir, his two co-defendants, who had admitted to being go-betweens, and on traffic and location data obtained under the data-retention regime in force at the time in Slovenia.

The court holds that Škoberne's right to a fair trial was violated when the judge denied him the right to put questions to the two co-defendants in court as part of his trial after the pair were excluded from it.

Škoberne was thus "deprived of the opportunity to effectively adduce witness evidence which would have been important in arguing his case, therefore rendering the trial proceedings unfair".

Milko Škoberne, a former judge at the Celje District Court, pictured in 2013. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

As for the right to private life, the court found that the rules governing telecommunications data retention at the time of Škoberne's conviction went beyond "the bounds of what was necessary in a democratic society".

"Consequently, the retention of, access to and processing of the data in the context of the criminal proceedings against the applicant had breached his privacy rights."

The court adds that, at the time, service providers had to retain telecommunications data "systematically and indiscriminately for a period of 14 months".

The rules have since changed, as only telecommunications data needed for billing and commercial purposes can now be kept.

The court ordered Slovenia to pay Škoberne €5,000 for non-pecuniary damage and €5,000 to cover his costs and expenses.

Slovenian citizens filed 978 new applications against the state with the Strasbourg court last year, which puts the country on top per capita among the 46 member states of the Council of Europe.

At the rate of 4.62 new applications per 10,000 residents, Slovenia was well above the CoE average of 0.4, according to the court's annual report.

Of the 1,014 judgements issued by the ECHR in 2023, two were against Slovenia. In both at least one violation of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to fair trial - was established. The court rejected or declared inadmissible 203 cases against Slovenia last year.


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