Our participation in the Bratislava conference on “Building and Strengthening Alternative Dispute Resolution through Mediation and Effective Use of Restorative Tools in Slovakia”

Our Slovak partner in the JUSTIN project (more below), the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic, invited us to a mid-April conference concluding a multi-year Slovak plan for the analysis and integration of alternative approaches to its criminal and civil proceedings. At this conference, we had two opportunities to talk about restorative practice in the Czech Republic. In the first contribution under the title: “Restorative justice as an impetus for a paradigmatic change in criminal justice systems”, our chairwoman Petra Masopust Šachová called for a shift of optics through restorative thinking to a new perspective on the intention and purpose of the criminal process. 

The second contribution took the form of a workshop with our program director, Tereza Řeháková, and focused on our practical experience with the Restorative Platform. She also included essential information about mediation in context of serious crime which is in its infancy in both the Slovak and Czech Republics. Thanks to the mentioned JUSTIN project, we will have the opportunity to deepen and improve the implementation of this practice in both countries. The partnership project of our Institute and Slovak Ministry of Justice was launched in Bratislava last June with a joint workshop with the screening of the Finnish documentary Eye to Eye (2020) which depicts survivors sit for restorative dialogue with the prison-held murderers of their loved ones. This was followed in August by a joint study trip to Finland with colleagues from the Slovak Ministry of Justice. The final part of the
project is the upcoming training in May in Prague which is to be attended by seven Slovak probation and mediation officers. With the support of Finnish and Belgian lecturers, together with their Czech colleagues, they will be trained to hold restorative meetings for serious crime. 

Around sixty criminal justice professionals attended our workshop at the April conference. The presentation of the content of the JUSTIN project opened a lively discussion on the possibilities and pitfalls of implementing mediation or similar restorative programmes in cases of serious crime or, more precisely, in cases of serious impact on those involved. Due to the expected amendment to the Slovak Criminal Code, the debate also adressed the inclusion of restorative principles in the modern criminal justice environment.

“It was stimulating and enriching for us to discuss the possibilities and differences of the current criminal law in the Czech and Slovak Republics in cases of the application of restorative programmes, where, also in view of the upcoming amendment to the Criminal Code, our colleagues in Slovakia see great potential for development,”

says Tereza Řeháková, IRJ’s Programme Director, about the workshop.

We are very pleased by the interest and by the cooperation with our Slovak colleagues, and we have no doubt that the Bratislava concluding conference has helped to fulfill the stated goal of this Slovak national project, which is to increase the use of out-of-court forms of dispute resolution in the criminal and civil spheres and to move closer to European Union standards in restorative justice.

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