Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 22:55:52 -0500 (CDT)
From: Greek Helsinki Monitor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [balkanhr] 1999 IHF Annual Report: Slovenia
Although Slovenia has been included in the first round of negotiations for accession to the European Union, numerous human rights violations, particularly in the field of citizenship, continue. In certain fields, the human rights situation actually deteriorated in 1998. An example of this was the increasing number of forced evictions of non-Slovene families.
International pressure on Slovenia following the January 1998 publication of a report by Maggie Gillian Grace for the European Parliament, which cited IHF information on the citizenship problems in Slovenia, gave some hope for improvements in the situation of some 130,000 former permanent residents of Slovenia, who, following the secession from Yugoslavia, were illegally erased from the register of permanent residents due to their non-Slovene or mixed ethnic origin.
The Ministry of the Interior was delegated to prepare a new law on citizenship to correct the fate of non-citizens, to enable some to become citizens, and to grant others permanent residence permits or visas. The law was scheduled to be adopted in December 1998, but was delayed. In the meantime, authorities continued to reject non-citizens' residence and visa applications and even deported some who had lost their resident's rights. All such measures questioned the genuineness of the government's will to protect the rights of non-Slovenes.
According to Helsinki Monitor of Slovenia, in 1998 the Ministry of the Interior dealt primarily with residence permit, visa, and citizenship applications submitted during the period the new minister Mirko Pandelj of interior has been in office, while the backlog, dating back up to seven years, remained untouched. This action signaled an apparent unwillingness of the government to solve the problem on a collective basis, though it appeared to be impossible for the ministry to process the pending applications individually within a reasonable amount of time, due to restrictive and obstructive legislation. As of the end of 1998, the ministry had been able to process less than 1,000 cases annually. Helsinki Monitor of Slovenia estimated that approximately 40,000 cases were still pending.
Of a total of 130,000 former permanent residents erased from the resident records, some 90,000 had left Slovenia, seeking refuge abroad. The remaining 40,000, including children and youths born in Slovenia, lived virtually outside law. Being non-citizens, they had no right to education in state-run schools, social and health insurance, employment, pensions, property, privatization shares, and other social and political rights. Nor were they entitled to social welfare benefits or state-allocated humanitarian aid. As a result, they were pushed outside society and human solidarity. The problem was particularly acute among the Roma, many of whom did not possess any valid identification documents.
Helsinki Monitor of Slovenia called for the harmonization of Slovene legislation with European standards, in order to make it transparent and functional, and to grant non-Slovenes who were long-term residents either citizenship, legal permanent residence, or visas. This would enable citizens of former Yugoslav republics, who had their roots in Slovenia, to legally live and work in Slovenia, and enjoy basic human rights.
On the basis of former Yugoslav legislation, only the Hungarian and Italian minorities were officially recognized in Slovenia. Ethnic minority groups originating from other former Yugoslav republic had lost the various rights they had enjoyed previously, and faced discrimination. For example, ethnic Croats, Bosniaks, or Serbs erased from the residents' records no longer had the right to enjoy primary education in their mother tongue. In many cases, children of the non-citizens were excluded from obligatory primary, as well as secondary and higher education, even in the Slovenian language.
An attempt by the Ministry of Interior to prohibit the use of letters c and D of the alphabet, letters which are typical in Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian names, were unsuccessful.
In the summer of 1998, a new discriminatory law on military pensions was adopted. It virtually legalized the practice of not paying legally earned military pensions to officers of the former Yugoslav army, most of whom were non-Slovenes. The decision to adopt such legislation was based on the assumption that non-Slovene military personnel were “aggressors” during the former Yugoslav crisis, and therefore deserved to remain without pension and health services. As a consequence of the new law, some 200 military pensioners lost their pensions, in addition to some 90 former military officers who, since the independence of Slovenia, had lived without pensions, social and health insurance and humanitarian aid. Others received only part of their legally earned pensions. A high official of the Institute for Pension and Disability Insurance of Slovenia (ZPIZ) stated that some political parties secretly demanded the withdrawal of pensions according to their list of unwanted pensioners. According to him, there was no need for the ZPIZ to speed up the handling of applications from non-Slovenes to secure their income, despite the fact that processing so many applications would last approximately three years. Helsinki Monitor of Slovenia has prepared a case to be filed to the Constitutional Court of Slovenia to challenge the law.
Some 23 other employees of the former Yugoslav army equipment service, “Remontni zavod,” located in Bregana, were without their allowances after having been dismissed because they were ethnic Croats. It was estimated that approximately 300 non-Slovene workers of other firms in the border territory had been dismissed and stripped of their pensions because they were now regarded as foreigners. The paying of pensions was dependent on negotiations on the succession of former Yugoslavia. However, the people affected cannot wait for the results of these negotiations, as they are already living on the verge of destitution. To help them over the worst, Helsinki Monitor of Slovenia was able to distribute international humanitarian aid to these people.
Forced evictions continued despite the March 1995 government declared moratorium. Since Slovenia became independent, some 1,200 non-Slovene families have been waiting to be evicted from apartments built by the former federal Yugoslav People's Army. In December 1998, the situation escalated after the government issued criteria for forced evictions from military apartments, in contradiction to the moratorium. These criteria virtually “legalized” the ongoing eviction practice.
These military apartment buildings were partially financed through obligatory 6-7 percent contributions from each monthly salary of army employees who, after a certain number of years, became shareholders of the apartments, with tenancy rights as regulated by the law.
In the privatization process, tenants of publicly owned apartments were offered the right to buy the apartments they were living in. At the same time, however, non-Slovene tenants living in former army-owned apartments have been evicted from their homes as illegal tenants. To circumvent the law, the Ministry of Defense has also sold apartments with tenants to third persons—apparently to transfer the burden of forced evictions from the state to individuals. This all was done pending succession negotiations, the results of which affected and will continue to affect the ownership of former federal real estate.
On 8 January 1999, the Ministry of Defense ordered the eviction of the Koren family. The police first removed journalists and two representatives of Helsinki Monitor from the premises. Charges were filed against the president of Helsinki Monitor of Slovenia on unknown grounds. The incident was broadcast on national TV, with a commentary that this was how the Ministry of Defense should proceed with another 600 forced evictions.
Similar evictions were in progress, regarding people living in janitors' apartments and workers' homes.