The phrase “I’m sorry” is beautiful in its very essence. Normally, it is addressed to the person spoken to when we wish to admit to an error or mistake concerning something we have done, said or written – to or about that person. Of course, the use of the phrase extends much further. In everyday communication between people, the phrase is heard quite often. However, while the phrase rolls easily off the tongue for some people, this is not the case for everyone. I myself have never had a problem using that phrase, even during my parliamentary mandate, for I believe that admitting our mistakes is one of the most sincere and honest things we can do.
However, in relations between the state and individuals or in relations between state institutions or other institutions and individuals, the phrase “I’m sorry” is rarely heard. It is obvious that state institutions also make mistake sometimes, and as a consequence, individuals suffer injustices; however, it is very rare to see these institutions apologise. This is especially true of the state administration and the judiciary.
In recent years, I can hardly remember more than two instances where the state, represented by a minister, apologised to an individual who had somehow been wronged. The first such case that I can remember is the case of Martin Uhernik. In 2007, the justice minister, Prof. Dr. Lovro Šturm, issued him a formal apology – Uhernik had been formally proclaimed innocent after more than 30 years of searching for justice, having been charged for manslaughter and sent to prison.
The second case is the case of Robert Fojkar. In 2013, I have, in the role of interior minister, issued him an apology in the name of the state for having been caught in criminal proceedings for over 10 years for an offence of paedophilia. It was finally discovered that he had not even been at the scene of the crime at the time of the criminal offence. However, the prosecutor Branka Oven resorted to all manner of appeals without any evidence. Of course, both in the case of Prof. Dr. Lovro Šturm’s apology to Martin Uhernik and in the case of my own apology to Robert Fojkar, none of those who had caused the injustice were present.
On the left-wing political scene, there has never been a hero ready to apologise in the case of an injustice. Recall the Patria case and the case of the withdrawal of Janez Janša’s mandate. When the Slovenian constitutional court annulled both cases, there was no hero on the leftist political hemisphere who would be ready to issue him an apology. Milan Brglez, in the role of the president of the National Assembly of Slovenia, would not have lost his dignity had he stepped on the podium and issued an apology to Janez Janša. But this simply did not happen. And so little courage and bravery is needed to say this magical phrase that has such a beneficial effect on both parties involved. Even in the case of Franc Kangler, where both the criminal police and the prosecutor’s office literally misused their powers and prosecuted him, as far as I know, with as many as 22 criminal charges, which also resulted in the non-endorsement of his mandate in the National Council of Slovenia, nobody did or probably ever will apologise, despite the fact that, by now, almost all criminal charges have been dropped.
Some are capable of it, others are not. The phrase “I’m sorry” is not a sign of weakness but a sign of courage and fairness on the part of the person using it.
Dr Vinko Gorenak