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TITLE: SLOVENIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 SLOVENIA Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic which declared its independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991. The President serves as Head of State and commander in chief of the armed forces. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek of the Liberal Democratic Party leads a coalition Government formed after free and fair elections. The Ministry of the Interior supervises the police. The security services report to the Prime Minister. There were no reports of human rights abuses committed by police or security services. The armed forces do not exercise civil police functions. Since independence, the economy has made steady progress in developing a market economy. Most housing and 20 percent of state-owned firms have been privatized. Trade has been reoriented to Western markets, with less than 25 percent still going east. The gross domestic product increased for the second year since 1990. Manufacturing and mining employ 46 percent of the labor force, and agriculture 2 percent. Major exports include machinery, transport equipment, and other manufactured products. There were no major human rights problems in 1994. The Constitution and actual practice accord protected status to the small Italian and Hungarian communities, as well as to the Roma. The President named a national ombudsman in 1994, with the specific mandate of monitoring human rights. The ombudsman, recently appointed, so far has not played a particularly active role. A vigorous, but at times not fully responsible, free press and an independent judiciary serve to some extent as human rights "watchdogs." The legacy of the Communist past, however, makes this a new and unfamiliar role for the press. 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 such killings. b. Disappearance There were no reports of disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman treatment as well as "humiliating" punishment, and there were no reports of such treatment of detainees or prisoners. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest or deprivation of liberty. The detaining authority must advise the detainee in writing within 24 hours, in his own language, of the reasons for his detention. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination. The detainee has the right to legal counsel of his choice and may appeal his detention, on which the court must decide within 48 hours. The authorities may hold a detainee with cause for a maximum of 3 months, and the Supreme Court may extend detention for another 3 months. In practice, the authorities fully respect these rights and limitations. In a highly publicized as well as politicized event in March, the Defense Minister was forced from office after active members of a military unit pulled a former Defense Ministry civilian employee from his car and beat him. The individual was suspected of illegally holding classified documents. The circumstance and legality under Slovene law of his arrest in a nonmilitary place and his subsequent treatment at the hands of the soldiers have not been fully explained, but the actions of the military unit appeared arbitrarily to contravene civil authority. There is no exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Constitution provides that a defendant's rights include equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, due process, open court proceedings, guarantees of appeal, and a prohibition against double jeopardy. These rights are respected in practice. There are no political prisoners. The judicial system comprises local and district courts, with 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 has 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. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Constitution provides protection for privacy and the inviolability of the home, mail, and other means of communication. These rights and protections are usually respected in practice. However, in March parts of a university professor's private correspondence, critical of a minister in the Government, were read out in a broadcast on a government-controlled television station. The issue is now in the courts. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press. The press is a vigorous and at times free-swinging institution, spanning the political spectrum. Although Slovenia is ethnically very homogeneous, there is an Italian-language radio and television station as well as a newspaper serving the Italian minority on the Adriatic coast. The volume of programming in the Italian language has been an issue. Some in the Italian community, particularly in the television station, have complained that Italian-language programming has been reduced. Hungarian radio programming is common in northeast Slovenia. Bosnian refugees and the Albanian community publish newsletters in their own languages. Slovenia has five major dailies and several weekly newspapers. There are three television channels, one of them independent of government control. All the major towns have radio stations. Two of the newspapers and one television station are privately owned. The major print media are supported through private investment and advertising, although some of the electronic media enjoy indirect government subsidies. Foreign newspapers, magazines, and journals are available in the larger towns. After 40 years of authoritarian one-party rule, self-censorship in the media is a way of life for journalists brought up and supported by the Communist regime. Long accustomed to getting articles published under the old system, these journalists have been cautious about expressing criticism. Print and broadcast journalists who have taken up the profession more recently, however, are less inclined to engage in self-censorship. The election law requires the media to offer free space and time to political parties at election time. Universities and other institutions of higher education are constitutionally autonomous, and academic freedom is respected. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly and association, and the Government respects these rights. By law, the Government may restrict these rights, but only in circumstances involving national security, public safety, or protection against infectious diseases. 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 this provision. Clergy, churches, missionaries, including some from abroad, and religious centers of all faiths operate without hindrance. Some parents, relying on the constitutional provision of a "right...to educate and guide their children" have, with the backing of the Roman Catholic Church, argued for some form of religious education in public schools. 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 choose his or her place of residence, to leave the country, and to return as desired. The Government respects these rights in practice. The Constitution provides for the right of political asylum for foreigners and stateless persons "who are persecuted for their stand on human rights and fundamental freedoms." Slovenia since 1991 has taken in refugees from the fighting in Croatia and especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has dealt with them humanely and expeditiously. There are some 35,000 registered refugees. The number of refugees reported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees decreased significantly in 1994 after an official registration drive. Some refugees have blended into the local population, and others have resettled out of Slovenia. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Citizens have the right to change their government. They last participated in free and fair parliamentary elections in 1992 when 10 political parties competed. They elected a 90-member State Assembly (legislature) for a 4-year term as well as a 40-member National Council, an organization representing social, economic, trade and professional, and local interests. The Constitution provides that the Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities, regardless of their total population, are each entitled to at least one representative in the State Assembly. There are no restrictions on women or minorities voting or participating in politics; the Prime Minister's office has a watchdog agency for monitoring and promoting participation by women in public life. There are 12 women in the Parliament. The Cabinet has two female Ministers, those of Justice and Labor. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights The independent Council of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, founded in 1990, investigates complaints about violations of human rights and governmental responsibility without official interference. The Government places no obstacles in the way of investigations by local or international human rights groups. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution, buttressed by actual practice, guarantees equality before the law. Slovenia has a population (excluding refugees) of approximately 2 million, 91 percent of whom are Slovenes, 3 percent Croats, 2 percent Serbs, and 1 percent Muslims. Of the remainder, some 8,500 are ethnic Hungarians, and 3,100 are ethnic Italians. The Constitution guarantees special rights to the "autochthonous Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities," such as the right to use their own national symbols, establish organizations, enjoy bilingual education, and other privileges. The small Roma communities also have special status and rights, which are observed in practice. Women The Government does not discriminate against women in the provision of housing, jobs, education, or other services. The Constitution stipulates that marriage is based on the equality of both spouses and that the State shall protect the family, motherhood, and fatherhood. In practice, women, even those employed outside the home, bear a disproportionate share of household work and family care, resulting, particularly in rural areas, from a generally conservative social tradition. Slovenia generally provides equal pay for equal work for men and women. Emerging from an economic recession with unemployment rates close to 14 percent, both men and women have suffered from loss of work, and both have the same average period of unemployment. Women, however, still are found more often in lower paying jobs. At the same time, women are frequently encountered in business, academia, public life, and government. It is difficult to determine with specificity the extent of violence against women in Slovenia. In general, the level of personal crime and violence is relatively low. The problem of spouse abuse and violence against women exists, and police are not reluctant to intervene in such cases. Crimes of abuse of women are dealt with in accordance with the Penal Code. There is no special legislation on crimes against women. Children The Constitution stipulates that children enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms consistent with their age and level of maturity and are assured special protection from exploitation and maltreatment. Child abuse is rare, and the authorities take action against perpetrators. People with Disabilities Slovenia has taken steps to provide social and economic opportunities for the disabled. The law mandates access to public facilities for the disabled, and, in practice, modifications of public and private facilities and structures continue slowly but steadily. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association All workers, except for the police and military, may form and join labor organizations of their own choosing. The Constitution provides that trade unions, their operations, and their membership shall be free. Slovenia now has two main labor groupings, with constituent branches throughout the country, as well as a third, much smaller, regional labor union on the Adriatic coast. Unions are formally and actually independent of government and the political parties, but individual unionists may and do hold positions in the legislature. The Constitution provides for the right to strike, but in 1993 Parliament for the first time passed legislation restricting strikes by some public sector employees. A number of strikes occurred in 1994, largely over wages and working conditions. There are no restrictions on joining or forming federations and affiliating with like-minded international organizations. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively Slovenia's economy is in transition from the command economy of the Communist system, which included some private ownership of enterprises along with state and "socially owned" enterprises. In the transition to a fully market-based economy, the collective bargaining process is undergoing change. The Government still exercises a role in setting minimum wages and conditions, although private businesses, growing steadily in number, set pay scales directly with their employees' unions or employee representatives. There are no reports of antiunion discrimination. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor There is no forced labor. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The minimum age for employment is 16 years. Children must remain in school until age 15. Some farm communities employ younger children during the harvest or for other farm work. In general, urban employers respect the age limits. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Slovenia has a minimum wage of $240 (gross wages) per month. The workweek is 40 hours, with a 24-hour rest period, as well as 12 hours' rest after each 8-hour period of work. Occupational health and safety standards are set and enforced by special commissions controlled by the Ministries of Health and Labor. (###)
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