U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Slovenia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor|
|Publication Date||6 March 2007|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Slovenia , 6 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f056932.html [accessed 21 October 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007
Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic of approximately two million persons. Power is shared between a directly elected president (head of state), a prime minister (head of government), and a bicameral parliament, composed of the National Assembly (lower house) and the National Council (upper house). In 2004 the country held free and fair multiparty elections for seats in the National Assembly. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Trial delays, indirect government influence on the media, cursory procedure for review of asylum applications, violence against women, trafficking in women and girls, discrimination and violence against Roma and homosexuals, and discrimination against former Yugoslav residents without legal status were problems.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices; on rare occasion police used excessive force such as kicks, punches, and shoves during arrest. Societal violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation was reported (see section 5).
On November 2, the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) ruled that the country failed to conduct an effective investigation into allegations that police mistreated an individual during an incident that took place in 1995.
On November 25, three individuals participating in a protest against the return of a Roma family to their home in Ambrus were injured, though it is unclear how the injuries occurred. Police launched an investigation of the incident that is ongoing.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. A delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment made its third periodic visit to the country from January 31 to February 8. A full report from the visit has not yet been publicly released.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Police are centrally organized under the supervision of the police and security bureau of the Ministry of Interior. The bureau oversees the drafting of basic guidelines, security policy, and regulations governing the work of the police and exercises special inspectorial authority in monitoring police performance, with an emphasis on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The general police administration, headed by the general director of the police, has overall responsibility for the execution of police duties and oversees activities at the national level. Regional police duties fall under the jurisdiction of police administration units, whose directors report to the general director. Local policing is provided by individual police stations, whose commanders report to the director of the relevant police administration. The police provided effective law enforcement.
During the year the independent commission for the prevention of corruption referred five credible reports of police corruption and one credible report of prosecutor corruption to the police and the state prosecutor for further investigation.
The law provides for a method to investigate police abuses. Initial complaints are reviewed by the commander of the local police unit, who provides information to the complainant about the established facts and the powers of the police. If the complainant disagrees, the complaint is assigned to a three-person, government committee to decide if it is founded. The committee includes one member from the Ministry of Interior and two members selected by civil society organizations. Initial complaints that allege a criminal offense bypass the first review and are immediately sent to the Ministry of Interior. The committee relies on an appointed investigator from the Ministry of the Interior or the police to conduct an investigation of the complaint. It is not empowered to conduct independent investigations and is not required to forward its findings to the prosecutor's office.
Arrest and Detention
Persons taken into police custody were generally apprehended openly with evidential warrants issued by either a prosecutor or judge. Persons can be detained for 48 hours before charges are brought. Authorities must also advise detainees in writing within 48 hours of the reasons for their arrest. Upon arrest, detainees have the right to contact legal counsel of their choice, and authorities generally respected this right in practice. The government provides indigent detainees with free counsel, and detainees were generally allowed prompt access to family members. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination.
In 2004 police officers in Koper arbitrarily arrested and detained an individual without informing her of her rights or the charges. The detainee claimed that police treated her inappropriately. A complaint was filed with the Koper police in 2005 and an investigation was completed.
Once charges are brought, pretrial detention may last for up to four months, depending on the severity of the criminal act, and must be certified by an investigative judge. Once trial procedures have begun, the total period of detention may be extended for up to two years. Persons detained more than two years while awaiting trial or while their trial is ongoing must be released pending conclusion of their trial (see section 1.e.). Lengthy pretrial detention was not a widespread problem, and defendants generally were released on bail, except in the most serious criminal cases.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice. Court backlogs sometimes resulted in lengthy delays in trials. During the year the ECHR issued over 100 judgments against the government citing violations of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms due to excessive court delays and the denial of effective remedy. On November 22, the parliament passed changes to the Judicial Services Act and the Courts Act intended to ease restrictions on judges and the cases they can hear. As part of its ongoing project to eliminate backlogs, the Ministry of Justice hired 70 additional judges and court clerks during the year. The number of backlogged cases dropped by 25,069 cases (or 4.8 percent) from a total backlog of approximately 522,000 to a backlog of 497,000 cases in the first half of the year.
The judicial system consists of district courts, regional courts, courts of appeals, an administrative court, and the Supreme Court. The local and district courts serve as courts of first instance, whose decisions may be appealed to the courts of appeal. The Supreme Court hears appeals of rulings by the courts of appeal. A labor court and an administrative court hear cases within their substantive areas of jurisdiction. A nine member constitutional court rules on the constitutionality of legislation, treaties, and international agreements and is the highest level of appeal for administrative procedures. Judges, elected by the National Assembly upon the nomination of the judicial council, are constitutionally independent. The judicial council is composed of six sitting judges elected by their peers and five presidential nominees elected by parliament.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are generally public and are conducted by jury; however, judges may decide to close trials to the public when the defendant is a juvenile or details of the personal life of the accused may be disclosed. Defendants have the right to be present during the trial and to consult with their attorney in a timely manner. An attorney is provided at public expense only if the defendant faces serious criminal charges. Defendants may confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have a right of appeal.
The judicial system was overburdened and lacked administrative support; as a result, the judicial process frequently was protracted. In many cases during the year, criminal trials lasted from two to five years.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. As with criminal matters, court backlogs sometimes resulted in lengthy trials.
The government has brought the vast majority (93.5 percent) of property restitution cases to conclusion (37,027 cases have been resolved of 39,606 filed) with approximately 2,000 more cases resolved this year. However, administrative and judicial processes continued to slow resolution of the 2,579 remaining cases, including cases brought by foreigners and cases involving Jewish communal and heirless properties. During the year the Ministry of Justice's department for restitution and national reconciliation issued and awarded a tender to compile an inventory of Jewish private properties nationalized or confiscated after World War II. The project was ongoing at year's end.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice; however, there were reports of indirect government influence on the media.
Individuals could criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal, and the government did not attempt to impede criticism.
The independent media were active and expressed a variety of views without significant restriction. The major print media were supported through private investment and advertising; however, the government owned substantial stock in many companies that were shareholders in the major media houses. Public Broadcaster Radio Television Slovenia operated two national television channels and two regional channels funded from household subscriber fees and commercial revenue. There was one national commercial channel and four regional channels.
On July 22, several journalists reported that police used undue force against them, including pushing and shoving, while covering a demonstration at the detention center for foreigners, including illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, near Postojna. The complaints had no apparent effect on the media's reporting on the demonstration.
On August 7, the higher court of Maribor upheld the 2005 acquittal of five persons accused of participating in the 2001 attempted murder of investigative journalist Miro Petek.
There were reports that indirect political and economic pressures and partial government ownership of media companies influenced journalists and the media. Managers reportedly protected their own interests and the interests of those in government with whom they were affiliated. There were reports that self-censorship was practiced in some media outlets.
A 2005 law regarding national radio and television came into effect establishing a programming council of 29 members that directly oversees the public radio and television network. Parliament appointed 21 of the members after receiving nominations from political parties, civil society groups, and individuals. Three members were elected by the employees of national radio and television, two members were appointed by the president after being nominated by registered religious groups, one member each was appointed by both the Italian and Hungarian minority groups, and one member was appointed by the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences. The parliament appointed five members, the government appointed four members, and the employees of national radio and television elected two members to the 11 member supervisory board. In May the National Assembly adopted amendments to the Act on Media. New provisions included a media pluralization fund and an expanded right to corrections.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail. Internet access was widely available and nearly one-half of citizens used the Internet at least once per month.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The law prohibits a group from registering if the group's activities "promote the illegal destruction of the constitutional order; promote the execution of criminal acts; encourage national, racial, religious and other intolerance; spread national, racial, religious and other hatred and intolerance; or encourage violence and war."
c. Freedom of Religion
The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Religious communities must register with the government's office for religious communities if they wish to be legal entities, and registration entitles such groups to value-added tax rebates. Approximately 42 religious communities registered with the government, most of them Christian denominations. During the year the office registered applications from the Muslim community and the Church of New Life. No applications were outstanding at year's end.
While there are no governmental restrictions on the Muslim community's freedom of worship, services were commonly held in private homes for lack of a larger venue. In September long stalled plans for building a mosque on city-owned land that was subject to a denationalization claim by the Catholic Church were dropped when the city council delayed a vote on a budgetary appropriation to provide compensation to the church and clear the land for sale to the Muslim community. Several city councilors received death threats before the September meeting when they publicly supported the project to build a mosque in Ljubljana. In December new city leadership introduced plans for another location for the mosque on city-owned land close to the city center; both city and Muslim community officials approved the site. The Ljubljana City Council was expected to discuss the issue in January 2007 and local officials said that after public discussion and zoning changes, the site could be ready for sale by June 2007.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The Jewish community in the country was very small. Jewish community representatives reported some prejudice, ignorance, and false stereotypes of Jews propagated within society. Reportedly, negative images of Jews were common in private commentary and citizens generally did not consider Jews to be a native population, despite their uninterrupted presence in the country for many centuries. There were no reports of anti-Semitic violence or overt discrimination.
The government promoted antibias and tolerance education in the primary and secondary school curricula and the Holocaust is a mandatory topic in the contemporary history curriculum. On September 3, for the first time, the country marked the European Day of Jewish Culture with programs and events organized by the Jewish community with the support of local government officials.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The constitution and law provide for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice. The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided some protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. During the year the government received 579 requests for refugee status or asylum and granted refugee status or asylum in nine cases.
During the year the government did not provide temporary protection to persons who may not have qualified as refugees under the 1951 convention or the 1967 protocol.
The government cooperated with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
On February 6, the National Assembly passed a law amending the government's asylum procedures. The law empowers border police to perform an initial screen of asylum seekers and to possibly find some applications "manifestly unfounded." The expedited procedures could prevent the applications of some asylum seekers from receiving a thorough review. The new law restricts refugees' ability to work in the country for one year. On December 7, the Constitutional Court ruled that asylum seekers should be allowed to change their asylum application if there were considerable changes in their circumstances. The court gave parliament one month to correct the discrepancy in law.
The law provides asylum seekers with the right to appeal decisions on their applications, but many asylum seekers were not informed of this right. The independent ombudsman for human rights and several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the government put excessive restrictions on refugees' freedom of movement by requiring asylum seekers to sign a statement renouncing their claim to asylum if they left the premises of the asylum center.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution and law provide citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
In 2004 the country held free and fair elections for seats in the National Assembly.
There were 14 women in the 90-seat National Assembly and three women in the 40-seat National Council. There were two women in the 17 member cabinet.
There were two members of minorities in the 90-seat National Assembly and none in the 40-seat National Council or in the cabinet. The constitution provides the "autochthonous" (indigenous) Italian and Hungarian minorities the right, as a community, to have at least one representative in the parliament. However, the law does not provide any other minority group, autochthonous or otherwise, the right to be represented as a community in parliament.
In October the country held free and fair elections for mayoral offices and seats in municipal councils that were the first elections that included legally mandated gender participation quotas.
Twenty distinct Romani communities, each designated autochthonous at the local level, are entitled to a seat on their local municipal councils. At year's end one municipality-Grosuplje-was not in compliance with this law. Although both the government office of nationalities and the Romani community submitted proposals to freeze the municipality's budget until it complies with the law, at year's end no action had been taken to do so.
A July 11 amendment to the general elections law created a quota program to promote more balanced participation of women and men in the political system. The law requires 20 percent of each political party's list to be women and for one of the top three candidates on each list to be of the opposite sex of the other two. The quota for women will rise to 30 percent for elections in 2010 and 40 percent in 2014; a similar quota system will be in place for the 2008 and 2012 national elections.
Government Corruption and Transparency
Corruption was perceived by the public to be a widespread problem. The independent commission for the prevention of corruption received 263 cases of suspected corruption and found 140 out of the 158 cases that were assessed during the year to be credible reports of possible corruption. The remaining cases have not yet been assessed.
The commission played an active role in educating the public and civil servants about corruption; however, it claimed it had neither adequate staff nor funding to fulfill its mandate and assess all cases of suspected corruption that it received during the year. On February 10 the National Assembly approved the law on incompatibility of official position and profitable activity, which terminated the independent commission for the prevention of corruption and replaced it with a parliamentary anticorruption commission. The law was set to enter into force in May, but the constitutional court stayed the provisions abolishing the commission on April 26. The law remains in review at the end of the year.
The commission continued to perform its charter duties, including: implementing the resolution on the prevention of corruption; developing plans for ensuring integrity in the public and private sectors and ensuring their implementation; establishing basic rules relating to conflicts of interest for those holding public office; supervision of government rules regarding the receipt of gifts; supervision of the financial situation of officials and contracting authorities under the regulations on public procurement with business entities where an official or family member is involved; monitoring and analyzing statistical information related to corruption; and cooperating with public authorities to draft and coordinate regulations relating to the prevention of corruption.
During the year the commission forwarded 64 suspected cases of corruption to police and the prosecutors, and 83 cases to other state institutions.
The law provides for free public access to all government information, and the government provided access for citizens and noncitizens alike, including foreign media. The government may deny public access only to classified information, personal data protected by privacy laws, and other narrowly defined exceptions.
The office of the government information commissioner reported that while the overall number of complaints went down, the number of complaints related to non-responsiveness of state institutions increased. During the year the office received 385 complaints about non-responsiveness of state institutions, and 102 complaints under the Law on Access to Public Information, and publicly called on government ministries to cooperate more transparently.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these provisions in practice. However, violence against women and children, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against homosexuals and Roma were problems.
Although no accurate statistics were available, violence against women, including spousal abuse, occurred and was generally underreported. Although domestic violence was not specifically prohibited under the law, it could be prosecuted under statutes criminalizing assault and providing for penalties of up to 10 year's imprisonment in the case of aggravated and grievous bodily harm. SOS Phone, an NGO that provided anonymous emergency counseling and services to domestic violence victims, received approximately 5,000 calls during the year. SOS Phone estimated that 25 percent of women had experienced domestic violence. In 2005 the United Nations Human Rights Committee announced its concern about the high rate of domestic violence and the lack of specific legal provisions and government programs to address the problem. The government partially funded 11 shelters or safe houses for battered women, (nine run by NGOs and two run by government organizations), which offered 171 total beds. Some victims of domestic violence also sought assistance at maternity homes and social work centers, although staff at these locations were not always specifically trained to work with victims of violence. When police received reports of spousal abuse or violence, they generally intervened and prosecuted offenders. The NGOs SOS Phone and Kljuc provided hotlines. The police academy offered training on domestic violence. The Council of Europe 2006 Report "Combating Violence Against Women" praised the country for training nursing staff in all hospitals to screen patients for domestic violence.
Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal; however, it was a problem. Spousal rape, in particular, was rarely reported. Amnesty International (AI) and SOS Phone estimated that one in seven women was raped during her lifetime but that only 5 percent sought assistance or counseling. Police actively investigated reports of rape and prosecuted offenders. The penalty for rape was one to 10 years in prison. During the year there were 46 criminal acts of rape, 51 criminal acts of sexual violence, 14 criminal acts of sexual abuse of the weak, and 157 criminal acts of sexual attack on a minor (under the age of 15). Police conducted several public awareness campaigns to familiarize society with the problems of rape and domestic violence.
Prostitution is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition. Antitrafficking authorities and NGOs informally estimated that as many as 80 bars and clubs across the country could be engaged in facilitating or promoting prostitution.
Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
The law explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the civil service; however, it does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment for the overall workforce. Incidents could be prosecuted through a criminal code prohibiting violation of sexual integrity through abuse of office and there were 16 reported criminal acts during the year. Sexual harassment remained a widespread problem.
The law provides for equal rights for women, and there was no official discrimination against women in family law, property law, or the judicial system. The office of equal opportunities protects the legal rights of women. Although both sexes had the same average period of unemployment, women frequently held lower paying jobs. On average, women's earnings were 90 percent of those of men.
The government was committed to protecting children's rights and welfare.
The government provides compulsory, free, and universal education for children through grade nine and up to four additional years of free, voluntary secondary school education. The Ministry of Education reported an attendance rate of nearly 100 percent of school age children, with most children completing secondary school. The government provided universal health care for all citizens, including children.
A November 16 report from AI noted that Roma children are enrolled in 40 nursery schools throughout the country but that school attendance varies widely by region, (39 percent of Roma children attend school in the southeastern Dolenjska region and 70 percent attend school in the northeastern Prekmurje region). Poverty, discrimination, and language problems continue to be the main barriers to the participation of Roma children in education programs. AI reported that the Roma literacy rate is 10 percent. A number of Roma reported that their children attended segregated classes and were selected by authorities in disproportionate numbers to attend classes for students with special needs. In 2004 the government provided funding for a regional program to desegregate and expand Romani education by training Romani educational facilitators and creating special enrichment programs in public kindergartens. Other school districts hired Romani facilitators at their own initiative and expense. A March 29 report from the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights reported that de facto segregation continued to exist in the Brsljin school district in Novo Mesto. An evaluation of Brsljin's program was currently underway by education authorities.
The government has not developed a bilingual curriculum for Roma on the grounds that there is not a standardized Romani language. However, the government was currently funding research into codification of the language. Romani facilitators were working in some schools.
Child abuse was a problem. During the year there were 301 criminal acts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 15. The law provides special protection for children from exploitation and mistreatment, and the government generally enforced the law in practice. The law criminalizes the sale, purchase, and propagation of child pornography.
Child marriage occurred within the Romani community; however, it was not a widespread problem.
Trafficking in girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, and through the country.
The country was primarily a point of transit, and secondarily a source and destination country for women and teenage girls trafficked from Southeastern, Eastern, and Central Europe to Western Europe. Trafficking in persons through the country was a problem. Victims were trafficked primarily for purposes of sexual exploitation. Those at particular risk of being trafficked were teenage girls and young women who lived in impoverished areas with high unemployment.
Organized criminal groups, nightclub owners, and local pimps were primarily responsible for trafficking. A 2003 study by the International Organization for Migration reported that traffickers lured victims from Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries through advertisements promising high wages, offers of marriage, offers of employment as entertainers and dancers, and offers of employment without indication that it would involve the sex industry. Harsh economic conditions in some women's home countries also made them vulnerable to enter prostitution; many of these women lacked awareness of what trafficking was and they were unaware of the risk that they might become trafficking victims or be subjected to severe working conditions.
Penalties for trafficking range from one to 10 years imprisonment. Authorities can also prosecute persons for rape, pimping, procurement of sexual acts, inducement to prostitution, sexual assault, slavery, and other related offenses.
The government demonstrated significant progress in its efforts to apprehend, investigate, and prosecute traffickers using a 2004 law criminalizing trafficking. Police investigated three cases of human trafficking, 17 cases of forced prostitution, and found 20 victims of forced prostitution and nine victims of human trafficking. During the year there were three reported criminal acts of trafficking. There were five trafficking convictions this year from crimes committed in previous years. Regional police directorates had departments that investigated trafficking and organized crime.
The government actively cooperated with NGOs and Interpol in project "Red Routes" by sharing information about traffickers and patterns of illegal migration. Police training was conducted during the year to improve officers' awareness of trafficking laws. One prosecutor in each regional state prosecution office was dedicated to trafficking cases.
In November 2005 parliament adopted a law on the protection of witnesses in order to prosecute trafficking cases more effectively. In general authorities did not treat trafficking victims as criminals; however, they usually were voluntarily returned to their home country either immediately upon presenting themselves to authorities or following their testimony in court. In 2005 the UNHCR reported that asylum caseworkers paid insufficient attention to identifying victims of human trafficking.
The government's national coordinator for trafficking in persons served as the head of the interagency working group on trafficking in persons, which is responsible for the government's long-term national strategy to combat trafficking. The working group, which included representatives of ministries, NGOs, international organizations, and the media, established, among other things, standard operating procedures for first responders to ensure that victims receive information about the options and assistance available to them. The group met more than six times during the year and in June established an action plan against trafficking for 2007.
In June the NGO Karitas won a one-year contract from the Ministry of Labor to provide secure shelter and assistance to trafficking victims. Karitas hired two new employees including a professional social worker, set up a safe house, and established three locations for short-term emergency housing. Karitas assisted three victims of trafficking this year with food, shelter, counseling, translation services, and transportation.
Kljuc, previously the country's sole NGO providing support to trafficking victims, continued to work on trafficking issues including programs for prevention, education, detection, and prosecution, as well as on the long term reintegration of trafficking victims.
The project against trafficking and sex- and gender based violence continued to provide information and assistance to the asylum seekers at greatest risk of being trafficked, especially single women and children separated from their parents. Key elements of the project included information about where potential victims could access assistance, access to specialized assistance and protection for victims identified in the asylum procedures, and access to asylum procedures for identified trafficking victims. All at-risk asylum seekers receive a book containing trafficking information and assistance contacts throughout Europe. The project was jointly administered by the asylum section of the MOI, two local NGOs (Kljuc and Slovenksa Filantropija), and the UNHCR.
The government, in cooperation with an NGO, continued the programs "Vijolica" and "Caps," which provided trafficking awareness classes for elementary and secondary school students.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other government services, and the government generally enforced these provisions in practice. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and modifications of public and private structures to ease access by these persons continued, although at a slow pace. However, most buildings were not accessible in practice. The Ministry for Labor, Family, and Social Affairs has primary responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and in February the ministry established a working group to implement national guidelines for improving access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. On July 11, the national assembly passed a law mandating that at least one polling station in every district must be accessible for the disabled. The change was observed during local elections in October.
According to the 2002 census, minorities made up approximately 17 percent of the population and included approximately 39,000 Serbs, 36,000 Croats, 22,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), 10,000 Muslims, 6,000 Hungarians, 6,000 Albanians, 4,000 Macedonians, 3,000 Montenegrins, 3,000 Roma, and 2,000 Italians. Observers noted that Roma frequently do not report their nationality accurately to census takers, and AI estimated that the true number of Roma was 7,000 to 12,000.
The law provides special rights and protections to autochthonous Italian and Hungarian minorities, including the right to use their own national symbols and have bilingual education and the right for each to be represented as a community in parliament (see section 3). The Romani minority does not have comparable special rights and protections. On November 23, parliament passed a law on the protection of the Roma community that outlined how the government will regulate the status of the Roma community and fulfills the requirements of the constitution. The law focuses on the integration of the Roma community, in particular in the areas of education and employment, as well as efforts to legalize Roma settlements. It also calls for the formation of a Roma Council, made up of representatives from different Roma communities, which will serve as the chief partner of the government on Roma integration issues. Government officials reported progress on Roma integration since the adoption of a National Action Plan for the education of Roma in 2004 and an Action Program for employment of Roma 2003-2006. The education plan's priorities include early inclusion and integration of Romani children into pre-school education; introduction of Roma assistants in kindergartens; Slovenian language lessons for Romani pupils; introduction of Romani language; teaching of Romani culture, history and identity; employment of Roma assistants; review of school placement procedures; and establishing a network of schools with Romani pupils for the exchange of experience and good practice. The employment plan's priorities include inclusion of young, unemployed Roma in primary and vocational schools; the inclusion of adult Roma in subsidized jobs programs; job creation through public works; and the employment of Roma advisers at employment service offices.
In a 2003 report, the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination expressed concern that discriminatory attitudes and practices against the Roma persisted and that the distinction between "indigenous" Roma and "new" Roma could give rise to new discrimination. Ethnic Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Kosovar Albanians, and Roma from Kosovo and Albania were considered "new" minorities; they were not protected by the special constitutional provisions for autochthonous minorities and faced some governmental and societal discrimination with respect to employment, housing, and education.
A 2005 report by the UN Human Rights Committee and a November report from AI noted that the Roma continue to suffer prejudice and discrimination, in particular with access to health services, education, and employment.
Many Roma lived in settlements apart from other communities that lacked basic utilities such as electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation. A November 28 report from the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia noted the problem of Roma exclusion in the housing market in all countries with sizable Romani populations. A Council of Europe report stated that local authorities have addressed the situation of Roma settlements poorly. According to government officials, 70 percent of the approximately 100 Roma settlements are illegal. The Roma also reported discrimination in employment, which complicated their housing situation. A March 29 report from the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights noted that the unemployment rate among Roma was 90 percent.
On September 8, the Novo Mesto District Court sentenced two men to 30 years in prison for the murder of two individuals at the Dobruska vas Roma community in June 2005. The two threw a bomb from their car that killed two women. A third individual was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison for acting as a driver in similar incident at the Brezje settlement in May 2005 that did not result in any deaths. Two other suspects were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
On October 28, a Romani family living near the village of Ambrus left their homestead with assistance from government officials amidst intense pressure from the local community. Approximately 30 people were temporarily relocated to a former army barracks in Postojna, which the government improved to meet basic living standards. The government condemned the family's home in Ambrus because of illegal construction and demolished it on December 21. On December 24, the Romani family was relocated to a temporary location near Ljubljana. At year's end the government was working with the family and local communities to find a suitable location to permanently relocate the family.
In late October and November, local citizens in and around the village of Ambrus staged demonstrations in opposition to the return of the Romani family. On November 25, over 100 police were sent to handle protests and the media reported that three protesters were hurt during the demonstration. Protesters on several occasions blocked roads near the former Roma family homestead with people, vehicles, and trees in an attempt to keep the family from returning to their home. Members of the Romani family were threatened with violence numerous times. Similar demonstrations occurred in at least one other location in the country.
Regularization of status for non-Slovenian former Yugoslav citizens remained an issue. Approximately 18,000 persons, mostly Yugoslav citizens residing in the country at the time of independence, did not apply for citizenship in 1991 92 and subsequently found their records were "erased" from the population register in February 1992. The deletion of these records has been characterized by some as an administrative decision and by others as an ethnically motivated act. In 2003 the constitutional court ruled unconstitutional portions of a law governing the legal status of former Yugoslav citizens because the law neither recognizes the full period in which these "erased" persons resided in the country nor provides them the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. On February 21, a group representing "erased" citizens staged an act of civil disobedience in front of the National Assembly to protest the government's failure to implement the constitutional court's 2003 ruling. On November 29, the same group visited the European parliament to protest the government's lack of action. At year's end the government had not completed legislation to resolve the court's concerns.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, such societal discrimination was widespread, and isolated cases of violence against homosexuals occurred. A 2004 poll conducted by the Peace Institute of members of the gay and lesbian community found that 53 percent of respondents had experienced verbal, sexual, or physical harassment because of their sexual orientation.
On June 30, multiple assailants attacked activists of Lingsium, an advocacy group for homosexuals, who had set up a stand and were distributing leaflets in Maribor saying, "Action for tolerance: gays and lesbians wish you a good day." Members of the Maribor city council published a statement condemning the attack.
On July 1, the sixth annual gay pride parade in Ljubljana took place without incident with the support of local government officials. However, on the evening of July 1, multiple assailants attacked two individuals in the vicinity of the Ljubljana train station and were reported to have shouted anti-gay comments. The police investigation was ongoing at year's end.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law allows workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and they did so in practice. All workers, except police and military personnel, are eligible to form and join labor organizations. Approximately 35 percent of the workforce was unionized.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government protected this right in practice. The law provides for the right to bargain collectively, and it was freely practiced; however, the law requires that 10 percent of the workers in an industry sector be union members before collective bargaining can be applied to the sector as a whole. All workers were covered by either a general collective bargaining agreement or a collective bargaining agreement that focused on a specific business segment.
The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right in practice. The law prohibits retaliation against strikers, and the government effectively enforced this provision in practice. The law restricts strikes by some public sector employees, primarily the police and members of the military services, and provides for arbitration to ensure due process and protect these workers' rights.
There are no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in the country's sole export processing zone at Koper. The other two export processing zones in Maribor and Nova Gorica were eliminated in 2005.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see section 5).
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
There are laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace and to set forth acceptable working conditions; the government effectively implemented and enforced these laws and policies in practice.
The minimum age for employment is 15; however, rural younger children often worked during the harvest season and on other farm chores. The law limits working hours and sets occupational health and safety standards for children; the government effectively enforced these provisions in practice. Urban employers generally respected the age limits.
Trafficking in children for sexual exploitation was a problem (see section 5).
The Ministry of Labor, Family, and Social Affairs is responsible for monitoring labor practices and has inspection authority; police are responsible for investigating violations of the law. Enforcement practices were generally effective.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The national monthly minimum wage of approximately $662 USD (125,052 tolars) provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The law limits the workweek to 40 hours and provides for minimum annual leave of 20 days and a mandatory rest period of at least one day per week. Premium pay for overtime was regulated by collective agreements and was not standardized, and maximum overtime was limited to 8 hours per week, 20 hours per month, and 180 hours per year. The Ministry of Labor, Family, and Social Affairs is responsible for monitoring labor practices and has inspection authority; police are responsible for investigating violations of the law. The laws were enforced effectively.
Special commissions under the ministries of health and labor, family, and social affairs set and enforced standards for occupational health and safety. Workers had the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their continued employment; however, it was not clear to what extent they could do so in practice.