JUDr. Rastislav Kaššák, PhD
Judge of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic
The conference was organised as part of the Central European Professors’ Network 2021 event coordinated by the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law.
The Central European Professors’ network, with the active participation of experts from seven countries (i.e. Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia), organises events with the primary aim of drawing the attention of European citizens to significant topics concerning the future of Europe, with a focus on Central Europe.
Considering that a constitution is the basis of the legal framework of every state regardless of its form, the Faculty of Law of the Pan-European University, Slovakia, as part of the Central European Professors´ Network, chose the material core of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic as the topic for its dissemination event within this conference.
The choice of topic was also influenced by the fact that one of the judges of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic is a member of the teaching staff of the Faculty of Law of the Pan-European University. JUDr. Rastislav Kaššák, PhD was very supportive of the choice. The lecture was delivered exclusively online because of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lecture ‘Interpretation of Human Rights in the Judiciary of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic’ about the material core of its Constitution was delivered on 11 March 2021.
Dr Kaššák’s presentation included three parts. He first focused on the concept of origins and content of the material rule of law and that a constitution is a product of ideas incorporated therein. He first reviewed the provisions of the first written constitutional document within the European territory, the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, according to which ‘a society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.’ Dr Kaššák emphasised that in the Declaration, its authors indicated two main principles as the basis of a democratic constitution: the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms and an organisational set-up in the form of separation of powers. It is generally acknowledged that if the principle of separation of powers of a state is violated, the resulting concentration of power often leads to intrusion on fundamental rights and freedoms. In the Slovak Republic, the principle of separation of powers is part of the Slovak Constitution´s material core, as is the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. In general, ordinary citizens are interested in the real enforceability of rights, particularly as it relates to the constitutional protection of fundamental rights and freedoms—as was presented further in the lecture. As for Slovakia, Dr Kaššák underlined that the constitutive values of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic that make up its unwritten material core are usually interpreted by the Constitutional Court according to its international commitments, including those made to the regional system of protection of human rights. Article 1, paragraphs 1 (the principle of a democratic state governed by the rule of law) and 2 of the Slovak Constitution work synergistically and dynamically to support the continuous development of the Slovak legal order to meet international commitments and to protect human rights at the international level.
Second, Dr Kaššák highlighted case law related to environmental rights that is interesting in its interpretation. This part of the presentation was delivered passionately, perhaps because Dr Kaššák was a judge-rapporteur in this recently decided case. The complainant in the case (the civil society Lesoochranárske zoskupenie VLK) claimed that the Supreme Court´s procedures violated fundamental rights under the Slovak Constitution, the right under Article 6, paragraph 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 9, paragraph 3 of the Convention on Access to Information, the Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). This civil society represented the public interest in deciding upon the legality of a ministerial decree, even if the latter had already expired. Moreover, the decision, in this case, had to unify conflicting decisions of the Constitutional Court in this area.
Finally, Dr Kaššák reviewed interesting recent Constitutional Court rulings relating to fundamental rights and freedoms stemming from the constitutional provisions for dignity as a fundamental value worthy of protection within the Slovak constitutional order.