13 August 2010
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the sixth and seventh periodic reports of Slovenia on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Presenting the report, Smiljana Knez, Head of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, said that Slovenia consistently included provisions on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial, religious or any other inequality, and inflaming national, racial, religious, or any other hatred or intolerance into positive legislation. It also adopted programmes and took tangible measures in relation to the social inclusion of vulnerable communities. In accordance with the Implementation of the Principle of Equal Treatment Act, the new institution of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality was established as an expert and counselling body of the government. This also facilitated the processing of complaints in cases of discrimination or violations of the right to equal treatment in respect of racial or ethnic origin. The new criminal code included provisions to ensure that the public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion descent or national or ethnic origin was punishable. In addition, to better detect hate speech and hate crimes a special Slovenian hotline was established that enabled Internet users to anonymously report online hate speech.
Ms. Knez told the Committee that the State undertook many measures in the area of awareness raising and human rights education and training. Human rights education and training was a key tool for the efficient protection and promotion of human rights and was a part of all levels of education and training in Slovenia. In recent years, special attention had been devoted to intercultural dialogue at the level of curriculum as well as in education and training of expert staff and this practice would continue in the future. Instruction in the field of human rights, including detailed information on the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, was incorporated into the training of the Slovenian armed forces, the police and the judiciary. Additional courses were organized with the aim of enabling the police to work with the Roma community.
In preliminary concluding observations, Nourredine Amir, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur for the report of Slovenia, was pleased to note that the delegation responded to all the questions of the Committee and there were many difficult and detailed ones put to the delegation. Mr. Amir said the discussion was an exchange of experiences with the country in the field of human rights, but he raised the point that combating discrimination meant fighting inequality and he found that members of former countries such as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were not always seen as minorities and afforded the same protections, despite the fact that they were present throughout countries in sizeable numbers.
Other Committee Experts raised concerns about the statistics available on ethnic minorities in the country, the special collective rights afforded to some minority groups, but not others, and the status of residents who were known as the “erased people”. Several Committee Members raised questions about the status of the Roma community in terms of housing, education, employment, and healthcare and the need to address their issues on a Europe-wide basis and not just country by country. Many questions were also raised about access to bilingual education in the country and the protection and promotion of cultural identities in Slovenia.
The delegation of Slovenia included representatives from several governmental bodies including the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Sport, the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, the Institute for Ethnic Studies, and the Government Office for National Minorities.
The Committee will present its written observations and recommendations on the report of Slovenia at the end of its session, which concludes on 27 August.
When the Committee reconvenes in public at 3 p.m. on Monday, 16 August, it will begin consideration of the combined seventeenth and eighteenth periodic reports of Morocco (CERD/C/MAR/17-18).
Report of Slovenia
The combined sixth and seventh periodic reports of Slovenia, submitted in one document (CERD/C/SVN/7), states that the Ministry of Culture has developed two institutes for the protection of ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups: the institute of special care (positive discrimination based on cultural needs) and the institute of integration aimed at guaranteeing conditions for inclusion and social cohesion, de-marginalization, and broader social integration. The minority cultural policy is aimed particularly at promoting the participation of minorities in deciding on concrete measures, the positive promotion of minority communities, and the process of getting to know and understand one another, which is essential for peaceful coexistence.
Article 61 of the Slovenian Constitution is of particular importance to the members of national and ethnic communities: everyone has the right to freely express affiliation with his nation or national community, to foster and give expression to his culture, and to use his language and script. In order to ensure the exercise of these rights, the Republic of Slovenia supports the activities of organizations and societies that bring together or connect the members of the nations, nationalities and ethnic groups from the former Yugoslavia. The Ministry of Culture allocates funds to these organizations and societies on the basis of regular calls for applications for the allocation of funds for cultural activities. Members of the autochthonous Italian and Hungarian national communities and the Roma community exercise general human rights (like all citizens of the Republic of Slovenia) and individual rights relating to their national affiliation: the right to freely express national affiliation and to foster their culture and language (Article 61 of the Constitution), and the right to use their language and script (Article 62 of the Constitution).
Since 2003, projects to sensitise police officers in the fields of human rights and work in a multi-ethnic environment have been carried out by the Police Academy in Ljubljana. Within the framework of workshops for the improvement of police officers’ work and relations with the Roma Community, a female Roma police officer has been employed by the Police since 2006 and takes an active part in workshops and seminars, and also teaches the basics of the Roma language and culture. The projects for the police force also include learning the basics of the Roma language and lectures on police powers in Roma communities.
Presentation of Report
SMILJANA KNEZ, Head of the Human Rights Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, said that the concluding observations of the Committee greatly influenced the adoption of government strategies on the elimination of prejudice and discrimination in Slovenia.
Ms. Knez said that Slovenia consistently included provisions on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial, religious or any other inequality, and inflaming national, racial, religious, or any other hatred or intolerance into positive legislation. It also adopted programmes and took tangible measures in relation to the social inclusion of vulnerable communities. In accordance with the Implementation of the Principle of Equal Treatment Act, the new institution of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality was established as an expert and counselling body of the government. This also facilitated the processing of complaints in cases of discrimination or violations of the right to equal treatment in respect of racial or ethnic origin.
The legal basis for the elimination and prosecution of those committing ethnic and/or nationality-based discrimination was provided for in the new criminal code adopted in 2008, according to Ms. Knez. Laws were adopted to regulate the status of the Roma community, of persons without citizenship and of aliens. The new criminal code, in article 297, included provisions to ensure that the public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion descent or national or ethnic origin was punishable. In addition, to better detect hate speech and hate crimes a special Slovenian hotline was established that enabled Internet users to anonymously report online hate speech.
Ms. Knez informed the Committee Members that the Slovenian Government had been striving, through positive measures, to accelerate the regulation and improvement in the living conditions of Roma, their better social integration, and the preservation of their culture and language. In this respect, in 1995, the Government adopted the Programme of Measures for Assisting Roma. On the basis of the Roma Community Act of 2007, the Government adopted a new, integrated National Programme of Measures for Roma for the period 2010 to 2015. The main strategic goals of the programme included: improving the living conditions of the Roma community and arranging Roma settlements in an orderly manner; improving the educational structure of Roma community members and increasing the attendance of Roma children in schools; increasing the employment rate of members of the Roma community; improving healthcare in the Roma community, for women and children in particular; preserving and developing the cultural, informational, and publishing activities of the Roma community, and preserving different variations of the Romani language; and raising the awareness of the majority population of the existence, culture, customs and traditions of the Roma community, and raising awareness of the minority population of their rights and obligations as citizens of Slovenia.
Competent ministries and government offices were to adopt detailed action plans and provide for the necessary funds earmarked in their financial plans within six months of the adoption of the programme, or 11 September 2010. The implementation of the programme would be monitored by the newly established Government Commission for the Protection of the Roma Community. Members and representatives of both the Roma community and the local communities in which Roma lived were also members of this Commission.
With regards to “erased persons”, Ms. Knez said that the law on citizenship from 1991 allowed all persons that had citizenship in another republic of the former Yugoslavia to obtain Slovenian citizenship under favourable conditions. More than 170,000 people obtained Slovene citizenship under such terms. Those who did not apply, approximately 18,000 persons, were consequently transferred from the register of permanent residence to the register of aliens. Being fully aware of the need to settle the issue of the called “erased”, the Government decided to implement the relevant decisions of the constitutional court in two phases. First, the Ministry of the Interior resumed issuing the supplementary decisions to the so-called “erased people” to everybody that had already settled their status. For everyone else, a special law to remedy inconsistencies with the constitution was prepared. The law regulating the legal status of citizens of the former Yugoslavia living in Slovenia entered into force on 24 July 2010. On the basis of this act, a person would obtain a permit for permanent residence in Slovenia after submitting the application and if they fulfilled the legal requirements. Their legal residence in Slovenia would be retroactive to the time of the “erasure”.
On the issue of immigrants and their integration, Ms. Knez told the Committee that on the basis of the new Decree on Aliens Integration adopted in 2008, free courses in the Slovenian language and classes in Slovenian history, culture and the constitution were launched in the autumn of 2009. The Ministry of Education and Sport financed the education of children whose first language was not Slovenian in the Slovenian language. Pupils could choose syllabi for language courses from among the obligatory elective subjects in the last three year cycle of the nine year elementary school. Special treatment was provided for difficult to employ groups or vulnerable groups, such a migrant workers, the disabled, the Roma people, and other population groups. Migrant workers represented about 5 per cent of the active population in Slovenia, and mostly worked in construction. Most of them came from areas of the former Yugoslavia, mainly Bosnia and Herzegovina. In order to achieve better implementation of social security rights (i.e. unemployment insurance) for migrant workers, Slovenia was entering into bilateral agreements on social security with Serbia and Montenegro and supplementing the already concluded agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
Turning to the cultural rights of ethnic communities, Ms. Knez told the Committee that for a number of years, the Ministry of Culture had been developing and, on the basis of current evaluations, upgrading and improving the model of cultural rights protection of ethnic communities. Various normative, organizational and financial measures created the conditions necessary for an equal inclusion of members of all minority communities in cultural life and their successful integration by maintaining their own unique identities. Three types of programmes had been developed and implemented for them, i.e. special, integration, and the training and employment programme for the members of minorities financed by European funds.
Ms. Knez told the Committee that the State undertook many measures in the area of awareness raising and human rights education and training. Human rights education and training was a key tool for the efficient protection and promotion of human rights and was a part of all levels of education and training in Slovenia. In recent years, special attention had been devoted to intercultural dialogue at the level of curriculum as well as in education and training of expert staff and this practice would continue in the future. Instruction in the field of human rights, including detailed information on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, was incorporated into the training of the Slovenian armed forces, the police and the judiciary. Additional courses were organized with the aim of enabling the police to work with the Roma community.
A Roma Council was established after the passage of the Roma Community Act of 2007, and it was comprised of Roma representatives from around the country. Slovenia had also been recognized as having one of the best programmes in the European Union for the integration of Roma school children.
Ms. Knez said that the Slovenian Government published material in multiple languages to promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, but also provided information for immigrants and migrants that could be obtained online or in print in various languages.
Questions Raised by the Rapporteur and Experts
NOURREDINE AMIR, the Committee Expert serving as country Rapporteur for the report of Slovenia, said Slovenia had made impressive progress in combating and eliminating forms of racial discrimination since its last periodic report. Mr. Amir said he evaluated the report by comparing the contents of the report with facts brought to their attention by indicators such as the Universal Periodic Review working group and Independent Experts who visited Slovenia and took note of the situation there. Mr. Amir noted that in the first 17 paragraphs there were replies to questions raised by the Committee at the last consideration and that all of the replies had been provided and this follow-up would be brought to public attention to show Slovenia’s capacity to move forward in implementing the Convention.
Mr. Amir observed that the baseline in terms of the protection of human rights was established at Slovenia’s independence in its constitution, which was important given the experience of other countries in the region after independence. The criminal code defined racism as a criminal offence.
Mr. Amir then asked why there were so many people still without documents and who were not counted during the last census. Also, only Italians, Hungarians and Roma minorities were registered on the electoral rolls. Were there other minorities in the country who could or could not vote?
In terms of education, Mr. Amir asked how it was financed and what the education policy was regarding Roma children.
Another area of the report stated that incitement to violence and strife was unconstitutional. Could the delegation clarify what it meant by this?
Religious hate crimes on the Internet were also being investigated by the police and monitored by authorities, and Mr. Amir said this was to be applauded.
On the issue of “erased people”, there was a reaction to this when the report arrived at the Office of the High Commissioner in July 2010 because it contained information that was new and needed to be discussed.
Mr. Amir said the 2008 consultation between the Foreign Ministry and non-governmental organizations, which resulted in a report submitted by non-governmental organizations, was helpful because it illuminated the need for a national strategy to combat racism and the public was able to follow-up on the progress being made by the Government by checking the website. But how could one monitor the impact and progress of measures taken when there was no concrete information offered in terms of numbers of people helped or affected by the initiatives?
The Rapporteur requested more information on what was done with funds earmarked to help the Roma community. Was this money used for grants or investment or training?
Mr. Amir also asked for more detailed information on the demographic makeup of the country as there were many minority groups living there, but no precise numbers for them. Italians and Hungarians were mentioned in the constitution, and this was because historically these groups had held autonomous regions in the country. There were also 90 laws or decrees governing these communities, and there were 14 laws for the Roma community.
The country had made significant efforts to promote cultural diversity and to facilitate the participation of the Roma in the decision making process, but there was nonetheless discriminatory attitudes that persisted toward them. Mr. Amir asked what the phrase “the new Roma” meant.
The Rapporteur asked for more information on neo-Nazi and skinhead groups in the country and he noted that not all minority groups were represented in parliament so he asked for clarification on this.
Mr. Amir asked about the problems surrounding the building of a mosque in Ljubljana and asked whether this reflected Islamaphobia in the public sphere.
The Rapporteur ended his intervention with the recommendation that efforts be undertaken by Slovenia to find a European solution to the Roma problem, not just a Slovenian solution, so that there could be constructive cooperation among all the States in the region.
A Committee member asked the delegation why there had been such dramatic decreases in the numbers of certain ethnic groups. Had members of these groups left or had they started indentifying as other nationalities?
The Expert then asked several questions regarding the Roma and their way of life, including whether the Roma language was taught in schools as an elective course for those who were interested in learning it? What was the representation of Roma on the police force, what types of jobs did they traditionally do, were they itinerant or sedentary, and what was their employment and housing situation? Were they consulted on the preparation of the Roma Community Act of 2007? Also, were other minority groups such as Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians recognized in Slovenia? Some people would say this did not matter because they did not get any additional rights, but it could be useful in certain areas, such as education for example. Almost 10 per cent of the population did not answer a survey asking them to identify their ethnicity. Was this because they were afraid to identify their ethnicity?
Another Expert asked what affirmative action measures had been taken with regards to minority communities and what did they entail?
A Committee member asked for more details about the Slovenian model to prevent segregation of Roma children in schools. On another topic, were there stateless people in Slovenia and what was being done to overcome this situation? The Committee was told these people did not have the right to work or to social or medical assistance because they did not have the right documents.
The next speaker requested more information on prosecutions and convictions of racial discrimination cases and asked how the new criminal code adopted in 2008 strengthened or furthered the implementation of the Convention. The Universal Periodic Review working group had recommended that Slovenia adopt measures to integrate “erased people”, as well as strengthening the functions of the Slovak mediator. Could the delegation elaborate on the progress that had been made in these areas? The Review had also recommended that the State take action against stereotypical or demeaning images of ethnic groups in the media and also reduce human trafficking, particularly of women and children from vulnerable groups. What was the State doing to follow-up these recommendations?
One Committee Expert wanted to know how Bosnians declared themselves and what did it mean to be regionally declared.
Another Committee Member asked whether Slovenia had ratified the optional protocol on cyber crime and where did they stand on the issue of Holocaust denial. The Committee Member also commented on the rising number of people who left their ethnicity as undeclared and the fact that the number of people identifying as Yugoslav had decreased dramatically.
Response by Delegation
Addressing concerns expressed by Committee Members about the Roma community, the delegation said that Slovenia had made huge steps forward with the adoption of the Roma Community Act of 2007, the most vulnerable community in Slovenia. Certain strategic areas included improving the living conditions of Roma, improving education, employment, healthcare, preserving their culture and raising awareness of the majority population.
Specifically regarding Roma education, the delegation said that the strategy of education was prepared in close collaboration with the Union of Roma Slovenia and the measures included a project to end segregation of Roma children, the formation of a network of schools with Roma pupils which enabled teacher training and the exchange of good practices, the development of a curriculum for Slovenian as a foreign language, and intercultural dialogue. Standardization of the Romani language was carried out for the basis of its teaching, the Ministry of Education had been co-financing the education of adult Roma, and money was provided for scholarships and the financing of nutrition in schools, free text books and school trips. An evaluation of the effectiveness of this strategy suggested further improvements and additions to these programmes.
The delegation went on to reply to questions regarding the meetings between the Foreign Minister and non-governmental organizations. The delegation said this meeting occurred annually and it usually involved foreign affairs, but many issues were also raised about human rights in Slovenia and the comments made by non-governmental organizations were taken very seriously.
Regarding Holocaust denial, because the Jewish community in Slovenia was very small and had been so since the sixteenth century, the delegation said that it hoped the Holocaust educational group would continue with its research and activities to teach about the Roma in the genocide.
Regarding the ratification on the optional protocol on cybercrime, the delegation was pleased to note that Slovenia was among the countries that had ratified the optional protocol.
On the question of the building of a mosque in Slovenia, the Islamic community needed to obtain building permits for their mosque after publicizing their construction plans, but in the meantime they held services in other houses of worship or other locations until the mosque was built.
In terms of the new criminal code, the delegation said that the code was designed to bring it into harmony with a European Union directive which required that incitement to racial hatred or discrimination and Holocaust denial be criminalized.
Turning to the Roma issue, the delegation said that Slovenia did advocate a European wide solution and was more than happy to provide its best practices in this regard. The Roma community was considered at the national and European levels as an ethnic community that enjoyed a special status because of the discrimination, segregation and poverty it faced. This status also derived from the fact that the community did not have a mother state to care for its needs. Non-governmental organizations estimated that the number of Roma living in Slovenia was between 7,000 and 10,000, but some estimates put the number as high as 12,000. The official census put the number at approximately 3,800 people. The Roma community was the group most vulnerable to discrimination and had the hardest time in obtaining housing, education, employment and healthcare and these areas had been identified as priority sectors and effective short and long term measures had to be put into place to address these problems. The preservation and development of variations of the Roma language and culture, integration into social and political life, and awareness raising campaigns for both minorities and the majority population on how to fight discrimination, particularly among public servants, was already in the new action plan for 2010 to 2015, which was prepared by the special working group appointed by the government. For the 2010 budget, 15 million Euros were earmarked for improving the condition of the Roma, and this money was spent on education, cultural activities, and awareness raising campaigns.
In terms of Roma participation in public life, this right was guaranteed and it was also very successful in practice. The umbrella organization of the Roma community could submit suggestions and opinions to local and national governments and they were consulted on issues that affected them. They also had the right to elect their representatives to their municipal boards. Regarding housing for Roma, they lived in areas of settlement isolated from the rest of the population on the edge of inhabited areas in situations far below the living standards of others. There were approximately 130 Roma settlements with 9,000 inhabitants, one third of which would face significant difficulties in meeting housing standards. About 10 per cent of the settlements would have to be relocated altogether.
The police had a plan to extend its educational process to more members of the Roma community to develop more police recruits from the Roma community. In terms of other vocations, many still worked in the traditional fields of picking produce and collecting iron. Healthcare for the Roma population was changing, according to the delegation. Recent data showed the most frequent diseases in the population were respiratory diseases followed by urinary diseases. Smoking and poor eating habits were also high in the community. The delegation said that the Roma living in Slovenia had the opportunity and possibility of integrating into the wider community and the State was trying to help this community with different programmes to do just that.
There were also media programmes geared toward the Roma community, produced and broadcast by young Roma journalists trained in media production. The show was bilingual and broadcast in Romani and Slovenian. There was also a special cultural centre with a Roma radio station that broadcast programmes in Roma and Slovenian throughout the country.
The delegation then turned to the questions surrounding statistics and data gathering and tried to elaborate on these numbers. The constitution in Slovenia said that everyone had the right to declare or not to declare their ethnicity and this was defined as sensitive personal data in the national data protection act, so it was very difficult to collect data on ethnic backgrounds because it had to be gathered with the consent of people. During the census, some people were absent from their homes so 250,000 special questionnaires were sent to these people and about 75 per cent returned the forms. The people who did not return the forms were listed as undeclared, so this was why the Experts saw such high numbers for undeclared ethnicities and the numbers of ethnically declared Slovenes decreased. Declared Bosniacs actually meant Muslims and it was not possible to declare the ethnic group of Bosniac before the 2002 census, but when this option was offered 21,000 people declared as Bosniac which explained why the number of declared Muslims then decreased from 26,000 to 10,000. The number of people who declared as Yugoslavs also declined because after the dissolution of Yugoslavia people stopped declaring this ethnic group and were listed as undeclared. People in mixed marriages had the right to declare or not to declare and this had to be respected.
The delegation said that minorities had the same voting rights as the majority ethnic Slovenes, and Italians and Hungarians were positively discriminated with and had double voting rights. The definition of minorities had to be viewed from a historical perspective. The autonomy of Hungarian and Italian national communities had been incorporated into the constitution because that had been the situation for centuries. They were also guaranteed collective rights, including the official status of their language and guaranteed political representation in the parliament. A new approach had been developed for ensuring the rights for national minorities in Slovenia, and this included guaranteeing individual rights and providing support for the realization of cultural projects and the protection and promotion of their cultures and identities.
There were also bilateral agreements with Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and other countries to preserve the language and culture of so-called new minorities. The delegation turned to concerns raised about preserving the culture of minorities and said that slow improvement had been made in the communication between representatives of minority communities and government officials in the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education to reach shared goals on promoting, protecting and preserving minority cultures.
Regarding education of children from various ethnic groups, the delegation said children had the right to compulsory education and children had the right to supplementary education in their native languages, financed by the diplomatic missions of their native countries. The number of students taking advantage of these supplementary lessons had risen from 16 to 200. Foreign languages could also be taken as elective courses. Since 2007 schools were obliged to offer additional Slovenian language instruction to children who needed it. In 2009, nearly 8,000 additional hours of instruction were provided for nearly 600 students in secondary schools. The National Education Institute had developed curricula for minority children so that they could study their native language as an elective.
On the question of “erased people”, the delegation felt that after 17 years of dealing with this issue, it was finally taken care of now. It was a complex issue that was taken seriously by the Government. The history behind this erasure was that in June 1991 Slovenia declared its independence and the citizenship and aliens acts were passed. People from former Yugoslavian republics could obtain Slovenian citizenship under favourable conditions if they applied for citizenship within six months of the passage of the act and if they met other criteria. More than 200,000 people applied and more than 170,000 people received citizenship. When the act was renewed in 2002 another 2,000 people applied and received citizenship. For those who failed to apply or were not granted citizenship, they became aliens under the aliens act and their citizenship returned to that of their previous country, even if that country did not exist anymore. In 2003, a constitutional court decision led the Ministry of the Interior to issue supplementary decisions to residents to help them establish permanent residence in Slovenia effective from 1992 to the date they obtained permanent residency. More than 6,400 of these supplementary decisions had been issued. The new Government sought to regulate the status of the erased with a new act that entered into force on 24 July 2010, and was retroactive to the date of erasure. The Government had distributed pamphlets in six languages to non-governmental organizations, consular posts and online to publicize the fact that the erased could receive their permanent residence or citizenship. In this way, the problem of the erased had been resolved.
In terms of obtaining Slovenian citizenship, the delegation said you could acquire it by birth through a parent, by birth in the territory, by naturalization, and by international agreement. For naturalization one had be at least 18 years old, living in the country for 10 years, 5 years continuously, had the regulated status of foreigner in Slovenia, had a means of subsistence, could speak Slovenian and had no criminal record. There were also measures for refugees or people who had special skills to contribute.
The delegation had been asked how to enhance the work of the ombudsman, and it said that the Human Rights Ombudsman Act was enacted in 1993 and based on the Scandinavian model. In order to be elected ombudsman, one had to be a citizen of Slovenia and they must be elected by a two thirds majority vote of the national assembly for a period of six years. The delegation said that in the interest of time it would refer Committee members to its website and various printed material that outlined the duties and obligations of the ombudsman and how the office worked with the various branches of government to protect and promote human rights and anti-discrimination.
Regarding the African descended community in Slovenia, the delegation said two non-governmental organizations were involved in their representation and were active in awareness raising and intercultural understanding. According to the Ministry of the Interior, since 1995, 23 people from African countries were granted asylum and there were also African residents who had studied in Slovenia and stayed on after the completion of their studies.
The delegation said that in terms of human rights education, some of the measures that had been taken included adding topics on the Holocaust in the curriculum for seventh and eighth grade students under the framework of human rights in civics and homeland education, and the establishment of an international teacher training seminar in the field of human rights.
On the issue of human trafficking, the delegation told the Committee this was a priority for the State and the latest action plan was adopted for 2010 and 2011. It included a communications strategy targeting vulnerable groups such as women and children to raise awareness, victim assistance, and police work in detecting and investigating human trafficking for the purpose of exploitation and abuse.
Further Questions Posed by Experts
A Committee Expert asked a follow-up question about affirmative action and the fact that Italians and Hungarians had a double vote. What were the practical repercussions of this and how did it work in practice? The Expert suggested that the State pay close attention to the International Year of Afro-Descendents, even though their population in Slovenia was small.
Another Committee member asked how the State determined when and how to move a Roma settlement.
A Committee member commented that the problem of the Roma was a European problem, not just a problem for individual countries. They were living in precarious economic and social conditions and facing discrimination everywhere they lived and frequently authorities faced the problem of recognizing respect for lifestyle and culture on one hand and the need to integrate them and making sure they respected the standards and norms of the countries receiving them. It would seem better to try to come up with solutions on a European wide level, as it was no longer the question of just one State.
The next Committee member asked about “erased people” and whether their compensation included reparations for rights they might have lost during their erasure, such as a loss of property rights. In the Universal Periodic Review there were recommendations for the protection and promotion of the culture of national minorities as well as strengthening the economic, social and cultural rights of these groups. Had the delegation accepted those comments and recommendations? In terms of collective rights, the German population was small and it did not enjoy the collective rights that Italians and Hungarians enjoyed. Also, Croats, Serbs and Bosniacs were now minorities so perhaps the State needed to re-examine their situation in the State and whether they should be granted guaranteed representation in parliament.
A Committee member asked when mixed marriages took place, how did the State classify these ethnically mixed families? Were they considered Slovenians or ethnically Slovenian? How did this affect voting rights and elections for example? For “erased people”, how did they participate in the educational, cultural and economic life of the country if they had no legal status? The Committee member also asked for a clarification on the numbers of people living in Slovenia from the former Yugoslav republics.
A Committee member asked what the criteria were for determining who was Italian or Hungarian to get the double vote.
Replies by Delegation
Responding to those questions and others, the delegation said it would most certainly pay attention to the International Year of Afro-Descendents and listen closely to what this community had to say and find ways to commemorate this year. With regard to Italian and Hungarian double voting rights, they had individual and collective rights and these special rights included the ability to vote for a special representative and they were not subject to their numerical strength. These voting laws were applicable at both the local and national levels. In the constitution it was provided that representatives of Italian and Hungarian minorities had guaranteed seats for at least one seat each in the parliament. So they exercised their right to vote in national elections, but there was also a special list of candidates from which they could choose their representatives in the parliament. So they got to vote twice; in the national elections, but also for their special representative. This rule was challenged in court and the constitutional court declared that Slovenia was obliged to respect these collective rights.
The delegation said that any movement of Roma settlements would be done with consultation of the community and the Ministry of the Environment. But the delegation emphasized that the policy was not just about relocation and resettlement, but providing for the legalization of existing illegal settlements.
The delegation shared the Committee’s view that the question of the Roma was a wider European issue. Their first task was to focus on the needs of the Roma living in Slovenia, but at the same time they were aware of the wider dimension. The Government had been advocating for stronger language and stronger solutions at the European level and it was willing to share its good practices in this area.
The delegation said Slovenia had accepted most of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, but it could not accept the recommendation by Austria to strengthen the rights of German speaking people because these rights were already regulated by a bilateral agreement between Austria and Slovenia and these citizens also enjoyed all rights under the constitution.
The rights of the “erased” were retroactive to the date of their erasure, but the act regulated their legal status so they could then make claims before any constitutional court for reparations for any costs associated with the so-called erasure.
The delegation said that they used the term Bosniac because that was the term used in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it covered Muslims, so they had to use the ethnic definition that was laid out by the country of origin of these people. Bosnia and Herzegovina had three ethnic identities which were Croats, Serbs, and Bosniacs as well as Roma, so Slovenia has to respect these designations when counting people from this country within their borders. Regarding mixed marriages, many children of these unions classified themselves as undeclared and the State had to respect that. In terms of percentages of certain ethnic minorities, more than 10 per cent were from countries of the ex-Yugoslav Federation.
Turning to the rights to social security, healthcare and education of the erased, the delegation said they could enter the employment market as other Slovenians and the State was required to offer compulsory education to anyone who was of school age. Permanent residents had rights to social security and social assistance. Emergency healthcare was provided for the uninsured in Slovenia and for regular healthcare there were two health centres in the country that provided healthcare for the uninsured.
The delegation said that subjective and objective criteria were used to determine who belonged to Italian and Hungarian minorities to get the double vote. The communities had to accept the person as a member and their name had to be added to the voting lists by these communities. Determining membership and voting rights was not based on territorial criteria.
Preliminary Concluding Observations
In preliminary concluding observations, NOURREDINE AMIR, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur for the report of Slovenia, was pleased to note that the delegation responded to all the questions of the Committee and there were many difficult and detailed ones put to the delegation. Mr. Amir said the discussion was an exchange of experiences with the country in the field of human rights, and he was pleased that he had been provided with information on the national programme of measures adopted by the parliament for improving conditions in the Roma community for 2010 to 2015. The programmes were not only in place, but also financed. Mr. Amir raised the point that combating discrimination meant fighting inequality and the Rapporteur found that members of the former countries such Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were not always seen as minorities and afforded the same protections, despite the fact that they were present throughout countries in sizeable numbers.
SMILJANA KNEZ, Head of the Human Rights Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, in concluding remarks said that it had been a very fruitful exchange of views and the delegation agreed with many of the Committee Members’ comments and observations. The Slovenian constitution guaranteed all rights to all citizens and a considerable amount of money was devoted to the realization of projects that supported these rights. Due to some historic circumstances, two national minorities were so called positively discriminated which did not mean that other groups were negatively discriminated against. Ms. Knez said she understood this issue was difficult to grasp, but she hoped the Committee understood the background for such a solution. Ms. Knez said she hoped to see concrete, positive developments emerge from their programme to address the needs of the Roma community and to report back to the Committee with these results. The delegation looked forward to the Committee’s concluding comments and observations.
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