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Slovenia started refunding fines imposed during Covid-19 lockdowns to more than 60,000 citizens this week, in an effort to reconcile the public with the state, the BBC reported.
The move was an electoral promise made by the left-wing Prime Minister Robert Golob, who won last year’s general election. The government led by his right-wing predecessor, Janez Janša, had implemented strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Between 2020 and 2022, authorities handed out fines totalling $6.6 million to people for breaching Covid rules, including the obligation to wear a mask both in- and outdoors, a ban on protests, and night-time curfews.
Enforcement of these measures sometimes reached extreme points. A well-known symbol of that period was the $440 fine given to a food delivery courier who lowered his mask to have a snack in the capital Ljubljana. Following the new legislation, he will receive his money back and have his criminal record cleared.
Janša’s decrees lacked a legal basis, an activist told the BBC. So thought the Constitutional Court, which annulled them last year.
By following up on the Court’s decision, the government hopes to restore trust in the rule of law. Justice Minister Švarc Pipan said the new law would address “the abuse of criminal law and unconstitutional and excessive encroachment on human rights” carried out by the previous administration, Euractiv reported.
Nonetheless, the refund campaign faced protests from the opposition, who argued the fines were necessary to respond to the health crisis and satisfy requirements from the European Union and the World Health Organization. One lawmaker said it “spits in the face” of health workers.