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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Slovenia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1998
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Slovenia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1c8.html [accessed 23 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.

SLOVENIA

Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic. Power is shared between a directly elected President, a Prime Minister, and a bicameral legislature. Since Slovenia's independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, free, fair, and open elections have characterized the political system. In 1997 elections were held to elect both a president and representatives to Parliament's upper house. Constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary are respected by the Government in practice.

The police are under the effective civilian control of the Ministry of the Interior. By law the armed forces do not exercise civil police functions.

The country has made steady progress toward developing a market economy. The first phase of privatization is now complete, and sales of remaining large state holdings are planned for 1998. Trade has been diversified toward the West and the growing markets of central and eastern Europe. Manufacturing accounted for most employment, with machinery and other manufactured products comprising the major exports. Labor force surveys put unemployment at approximately 7 percent, but registration for unemployment assistance is twice that number. Inflation has remained just below double-digit levels. Real gross national product grew 2.9 percent in 1997. The currency is stable, fully convertible, and backed by substantial reserves. The economy provides citizens with a good standard of living.

The Government respects the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide adequate means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. An Ombudsman deals with human rights problems, including citizenship cases. Minorities are generally treated fairly in practice as well as in law. However, 5,000 to 10,000 non-Slovene (former Yugoslav) residents are without legal residency status due to the Government's slow processing of their applications for Slovene citizenship.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman treatment as well as humiliating punishment or treatment, and there were no reports of such treatment.

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards and were not the subject of complaint by any human rights organization.

The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors and the media. In 1996 the Council of Europe sent a commission to review prison conditions. The Government accepted its report and implemented the recommendations for improvements.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, deprivation of liberty, and the use of exile, and the Government respects these provisions in practice.

The authorities must advise detainees in writing within 24 hours, in their own language, of the reasons for the arrest. Until charges are brought, detention may last up to 6 months; once charges have been brought, detention may be prolonged for a maximum of 2 years. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination. These rights and limitations are respected in practice.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in practice.

The judicial system comprises district courts, regional courts, a court of appeals, and the Supreme Court as the highest court. Judges, elected by the State Assembly (Parliament) on the nomination of the Judicial Council, are constitutionally independent, and serve indefinitely, subject to an age limit. The Judicial Council is composed of six sitting judges elected by their peers and five presidential nominees elected by the State Assembly. The nine-member Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of legislation.

The Constitution provides in great detail for the right to a fair trial, including provisions for: Equality before the law, presumption of innocence, due process, open court proceedings, guarantees of appeal, and a prohibition against double jeopardy. Defendants by law have the right to counsel, without cost if need be. These rights are respected in practice, although the judicial system is so burdened that justice is frequently a protracted process. In some instances, criminal cases have been reported to take 2 to 5 years to come to trial. The problem is not widespread, and defendants are released on bail except in the most serious criminal cases.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the protection of privacy, personal data rights, and the inviolability of the home, mail, and other means of communication. These rights and protections are respected in practice, and violations are subject to effective legal sanction.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of thought, speech, public association, the press, and other forms of public communication and expression. Lingering self-censorship and some indirect political pressures continue to influence the media.

The press is now a vigorous institution emerging from its more restricted past. The media span the political spectrum. The major media do not represent a broad range of ethnic interests, although there is an Italian-language television channel as well as a newspaper available to the ethnic Italian minority who live on the Adriatic Coast. Hungarian radio programming is common in the northeast where there are about 8,500 ethnic Hungarians. Bosnian refugees and the Albanian community have newsletters in their own languages.

Four major daily and several weekly newspapers are published. Two major daily newspapers with overtly partisan stances ceased publication due to a level of readership insufficient to support their costs of operation. The major print media are supported through private investment and advertising, although the national broadcaster, RTV Slovenia, enjoys government subsidies, as do cultural publications and book publishing. There are seven television channels, four of which are independent private stations. Numerous foreign broadcasts are available via satellite and cable. All major towns have radio stations and cable television. Numerous business and academic publications are available. Foreign newspapers, magazines, and journals are widely available.

In theory and practice, the media enjoy full freedom in their journalistic pursuits. However, for over 40 years Slovenia was ruled by an authoritarian Communist political system, and reporting about domestic politics may be influenced to some degree by self-censorship and indirect political pressures.

The election law requires the media to offer free space and time to political parties at election time. Television networks routinely give public figures and opinion makers from across the political spectrum access via a broad range of public interest programming.

The Constitution provides for autonomy and freedom for universities and other institutions of higher education. There are two universities, each with numerous affiliated research and study institutions. Academic freedom is respected, and centers of higher education are lively and intellectually stimulating.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the rights of peaceful assembly, association, and participation in public meetings, and the Government respects these rights in practice. These rights can be restricted only in circumstances involving national security, public safety, or protection against infectious diseases, and then only by act of the National Assembly.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution explicitly provides for the unfettered profession of religious and other beliefs in private and in public, and the Government respects these rights in practice. No person can be compelled to admit his religious or other beliefs. There is no state religion. About 70 percent of the population adheres to the Roman Catholic faith, and 2.5 percent to the Orthodox. There are also Protestant congregations, especially in the eastern part of the country. Clergy, missionaries--some from abroad--churches, and religious groups operate without hindrance.

The appropriate role for religious instruction in the schools continues to be an issue of debate. The Constitution states that parents are entitled to give their children a moral and religious upbringing.... Before 1945 religion was much more prominent in the schools, but now only those schools supported by religious bodies teach religion.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides that each person has the right to freedom of movement, to choice of place of residence, to leave the country freely, and to return. Limitations on these rights may be made only by statute and only where necessary in criminal cases, to control infectious disease, or in wartime. In practice, citizens travel widely and often.

The Constitution provides for a right of political asylum for foreigners and stateless persons who are persecuted for their stand on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Government cooperates with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organization in assisting refugees. The Government provides first asylum (or temporary protection) to refugees, and in 1991 granted this status to 70,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Only 7,000 refugees with temporary protection status remained by July 31. On that date, the Government abolished temporary protection status for 2,303 refugees, requiring them either to return to their homeland or to apply for the status of foreigner (placing on them the burden of financial support). The remaining refugees received extended temporary protection status until April 30, 1998 (or until June 30, 1998 if their residence of origin remains occupied by hostile forces). More than half of the 2,303 refugees whose temporary protection status lapsed have voluntarily returned to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are no reports that the Government returned any refugees against their will.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government, voting by secret ballot on the basis of universal suffrage. Slovenia has a mixed parliamentary and presidential system. The President proposes a candidate to the legislature for confirmation as Prime Minister, after consultations with the leaders of the political parties in the National Assembly.

There are no restrictions on the participation of women or minorities in politics. Of the 90 members of Parliament, 8 are women. There are no women in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister's Office has an active agency for monitoring and promoting the participation by women in public life.

The Constitution stipulates that the Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities are each entitled to at least one representative in the Assembly, regardless of their population.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Independent human rights monitoring groups promote respect for human rights and freedoms and freely investigate complaints about violations. The Government places no obstacles in the way of investigations by international or local human rights groups. The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in 1994 deleted Slovenia from the group of Yugoslav successor states monitored by the UNHRC for human rights abuses.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equality before the law, and the Government observed this provision in practice. According to the 1991 census, the population (excluding refugees) is approximately 2 million, of whom 1,727,018 are Slovenes and the remainder persons of 23 other nationalities. There are 54,212 Croats, 47,911 Serbs, 26,842 Muslims, 8,500 Hungarians, and 3,064 Italians.

The Constitution provides special rights for the autochthonous Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities, including the right to use their own national symbols, enjoy bilingual education, and other privileges. It also provides for special status and rights for the small Romani communities, which are observed in practice.

Women

The awareness of spousal abuse and violence against women is on the rise. There are two shelters for battered women, which are partially funded by the State; a third was expected to open during the winter. The existing shelters operate at capacity (about 30 beds combined) and turn away numerous women every year. In cases of reported spousal abuse or violence, the police are active in intervening, and criminal charges are filed.

Equal rights for women are a matter of state policy. There is no official discrimination against women or minorities in housing, jobs, education, or other walks of life. Marriage, under the Constitution, is based on the equality of both spouses. The Constitution stipulates that the State shall protect the family, motherhood, and fatherhood.

In rural areas, women, even those employed outside the home, bear a disproportionate share of household work and family care because of a generally conservative social tradition. However, women are frequently encountered in business and in government executive departments.

Equal pay for equal work for men and women is the norm. Although both men and women suffer from the loss of work and both sexes have the same average period of unemployment, women are still found more often in lower paying jobs.

Children

The Constitution stipulates that children enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms consistent with their age and level of maturity. Moreover, special protection from exploitation and maltreatment is provided by statute. Social workers visit schools regularly to monitor for any incidents of mistreatment or abuse of children.

The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's welfare through its system of public education and health care. There is no societal pattern of abuse against children

People With Disabilities

The disabled are not discriminated against, and the Government has taken steps to facilitate access to social and economic opportunities. In practice, modifications of public and private structures to ease access by the handicapped continue slowly but

steadily.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Minorities make up about 12 percent of the population; most are nationals of the former Yugoslavia. The Hungarian and Italian ethnic communities (under 1 percent) enjoy constitutionally provided representation in the National Assembly. Minorities are generally treated fairly in practice as well as in law. However, 5,000 to 10,000 non-Slovene (former Yugoslav) residents are without legal residency status due to the Government's slow processing of their applications for Slovene citizenship.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution stipulates that trade unions, their operation, and their membership shall be free and provides for the right to strike. Virtually all workers, except the police and military personnel, are eligible to form and join labor organizations. In 1993 the National Assembly for the first time passed legislation restricting strikes by some public sector employees. However, after government budget-cutting, some public sector professionals (judges, doctors, and educators) have become increasingly active on the labor front.

Labor has two main groupings, with constituent branches throughout the country. A third, much smaller, regional labor union operates on the Adriatic coast. Unions are formally and actually independent of the Government and political parties, but individual union members hold positions in the legislature. The Constitution provides that the State shall be responsible for the creation of opportunities for employment and for work.

There are no restrictions on unions joining or forming federations and affiliating with like-minded international union organizations.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The economy is in transition from the former Communist system, which included some private ownership of enterprises along with state-controlled and socially-owned enterprises. In the transition to a fully market-based economy, the collective bargaining process is undergoing change. Formerly, the old Yugoslav Government had a dominant role in setting the minimum wage and conditions of work. The Government still exercises this role to an extent, although in the private sector wages and working conditions are agreed annually in a general collective agreement between the social partners: the labor unions and the Chamber of Economy. There are no reports of antiunion discrimination.

Export processing zones have been established in Koper, Maribor, and Nova Gorica. Worker rights are the same in these zones as in the rest of the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor, including by children, and there were no reports of forced labor by adults or children.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children. The minimum age for employment is 16 years. Children must remain in school until the age of 15. During the harvest or for other farm work, younger children do work. In general, urban employers respect the age limits.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage is $358 (Sit 59,150) per month effective in July, which provides a decent standard of living for the average worker and family. The workweek is 40 hours. In general businesses provide acceptable conditions of work for their employees. Occupational health and safety standards are set and enforced by special commissions controlled by the Ministries of Health and Labor. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without jeopardizing their continued employment.

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