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NGOs Welcome UN Observations on Human Rights in Slovenia

7 September 2005

European Roma Rights Centre and Amnesty International Slovenia Urge Slovene Government to Act on Key Concerns Identified by the Human Rights Committee

Budapest, Ljubljana, 6 September 2005. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Amnesty International Slovenia (AIS) today jointly welcomed the Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on Slovenia's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the central elements of international human rights law.

"Amnesty International Slovenia remains deeply concerned especially regarding the 'erased' permanent residents of Slovenia, who were legally residing in Slovenia as citizens of ex-Yugoslavia, and many of whom have after the unlawful 'erasure' still not yet been able to regularize their status," stated General Secretary of Amnesty International Slovenia Natasa Posel. "We urge the government to devote its attention to the issue of 'erased' immediately and to explicitly and publicly recognize the discriminatory nature of the removal from the population registry of the individuals concerned and to ensure that their status of permanent residents is retroactively restored."

"The Committee's findings bring much-needed light on a number of unresolved issues in Slovenia, particularly as they relate to Roma," said ERRC Programmes Director Claude Cahn. "The government has not yet managed to tackle very high levels of racial antipathy in Slovenia. This results in a number of systemic abuses, including the deprivation of Slovene citizenship to Roma who should have access to it, arbitrary expulsion from the country, racially segregated schooling arrangements, and a number of extremely substandard slum settlements."

The UN Human Rights Committee convened in July to review Slovenia's second periodic report on measures to implement the Covenant.

The Committee praised progress achieved by Slovene officials in the field of reforms since its independence in June 1991, notably the adoption of a democratic Constitution in December 1991 and its recent amendments to enhance protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Committee also welcomed the fact that the provisions of the Covenant are directly enforceable as part of the domestic legal order and that they have been directly enforced by the Supreme and the Constitutional Courts, and praised several other advances in the area of law and institutional development undertaken by the Slovene government since it last reported to the Committee.

The Committee was however concerned about a number of issues in Slovenia, and brought recommendations in these areas. Key matters of concern included domestic violence, human trafficking, the participation of women in public affairs, violence by law enforcement officials, the deprivation of Slovene citizenship or other durable legal residence status to persons who should otherwise have access to that status, an excessive backlog in the courts, the proliferation - facilitated by some media organs - of public expressions of hatred against certain groups, a number of areas with respect to the treatment of Roma, as well as other issues.

With respect to issues on which Amnesty International Slovenia and/or the European Roma Rights Centre have undertaken documentation work, the Committee took the following positions:

* On "the high rate of domestic violence" in Slovenia, the Committee "regrets the lack of specific legal provisions and governmental programmes to prevent, combat and eliminate domestic violence" and urged that "the State party […] adopt and implement appropriate laws and policies to prevent and effectively combat violence against women, especially domestic violence, and programmes to assist the victims. In order to raise public awareness, it should initiate the necessary media campaigns and educational programmes."

* The Committee expressed concern "about reported cases of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials and the lack of thorough investigations and adequate punishment of the responsible officials and non-payment of compensation to the victims. The Committee is also concerned that legal assistance may not be available from the beginning of detention for those who do not have the means to pay for it". On these matters, the Committee recommended that the Slovene government "take appropriate measures to prevent and punish all forms of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials to ensure the provision of legal assistance to all from the beginning of detention and prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of violations of human rights. It should prosecute perpetrators of such acts and ensure that they are punished in a manner proportionate to the seriousness of the offences committed by them, and grant effective remedies, including compensation, to the victims."

* On the issue of arbitrary deprivation of durable status in Slovenia to persons who should otherwise have access to it by dint of acknowledging their real and effective ties to Slovenia, an issue of particular concern to a number of categories of persons including Roma in Slovenia, the Committee stated, "the Committee remains concerned about the situation of those persons who have not yet been able to regularize their situation in the State party" and recommended that "the State party should seek to resolve the legal status of all the citizens of the successor States that formed part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia who are presently living in Slovenia, and should facilitate the acquisition of Slovenian citizenship by all such persons who wish to become citizens of the Republic of Slovenia."

* The Committee expressed concern "at the reported neglect of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum or illegally residing in the territory of the State party. The Committee, while recognizing that registration is distinct from conferral of nationality, is also concerned that some children are registered at birth without a nationality". In this vein, the Committee recommended that "the State party should develop specific procedures to address the needs of unaccompanied children and to ensure their best interests in the course of any immigration and related proceedings. The State party should also ensure the right of every child to acquire a nationality."

With respect particularly to Roma in Slovenia, the Committee addressed the following specific areas of concern:

* "The Committee is concerned about the difference in the status between the so-called 'autochthonous' (indigenous) and 'non-autochthonous' (new) Roma communities in the State party [..] The State party should consider eliminating discrimination on the basis of status within the Roma minority and provide to the whole Roma community a status free of discrimination, and improve its living conditions and enhance its participation in public life."

"While noting measures undertaken to improve the living conditions of the Roma community, the Committee is concerned that the Roma community continues to suffer prejudice and discrimination, in particular with regard to access to health services, education and employment, which has a negative impact on the full enjoyment of their rights under the Covenant […] The State party should take all necessary measures to ensure the practical enjoyment by the Roma of their rights under the Covenant by implementing and reinforcing effective measures to prevent and address discrimination and the serious social and economic situation of the Roma."

AIS and ERRC urge Slovene authorities to implement the Human Rights Committee's recommendations in full.

The full text of the Human Rights Committee's Concluding Observations on Slovenia is available at: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CCPR.CO.84.SVN.En?OpenDocument

Amnesty International is independent and impartial from any government, political parties, economic interest, ideologies and religions. It is a world movement of individuals, seeking to protect and promote human rights around the world.

Amnesty International Slovenije
Beethovnova 7
1000 Ljubljana
Slovenia
Tel: (386 1) 426 93 77
Fax: (386 1) 426 93 65
E-mail adress:
Office: amnesty@amnesty.si

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The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organization engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of Romani activists. For more information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC website at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

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