Croatia’s top judge sues national ethics panel after it finds him guilty of plagiarism

Science | AAAS | 2/22/2018 | Staff
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One of Croatia’s top judges is hitting back at the country’s national research ethics panel after having been found guilty of plagiarism. Miroslav Šeparović, president of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia, announced last week that he has filed criminal complaints against all five members of the Committee on Ethics in Science and Higher Education (CESHE), after it concluded that Šeparović’s 2013 doctoral thesis about children’s rights in EU and Croatian law contained repeated instances of “incomplete and opaque citations” of other people’s work.

Šeparović confirmed to Science that he is suing the CESHE members—as a private citizen, not in his capacity of a judge—for misusing their positions and overstepping their jurisdiction, which his own court limited last year. “I am not happy for having to sue, but I have had no alternative,” says Šeparović, who says he seeks to “protect my right to honor and reputation.” Šeparović says he filed the charges on 28 November 2017, days after CESHE ruled against him, and decided to make them public last week after the committee’s unpublished report leaked to the press. Šeparović’s legal team has also called on the CESHE members to resign immediately.

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Members of the committee say they have only heard about the case from the press so far. “It is crazy that some team of lawyers is asking for members of a national ethics body to resign just for doing their job, for which they have a parliamentary mandate,” says CESHE Chairman Ivica Vilibić, a researcher at the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split, Croatia. Vilibić says he worries about ending up in prison—the charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 years—and says Šeparović’s suit is a dangerous new development in an ongoing effort to weaken or end the committee.

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