Natisni vsebino

3.1. Forms and methods of work

Annual Report

3.1. Forms and methods of work

The Human Rights Ombudsman protects the individual in his/her contacts with state bodies, local government bodies and statutory authorities and supervises their work. He offers protection in the area of the fair and correct behaviour on the part of the authorities in relation to the individual.

The ombudsman does not have the power to make legal rulings and cannot take legally binding decisions backed by measures of legal compulsion. His actions and acts are not authoritative in nature and authority is not implemented through them. He does not issue individual acts in the form of decisions, judgements, resolutions or decrees, in other words in forms which emphasise legal power in the exercise of authority. The Human Rights Ombudsman is an additional means of non-judicial protection of the rights of the individual. The institution was founded for the purpose of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in relation to state bodies, local government bodies and statutory authorities. The ombudsman's task is to identify and prevent violations of human rights and other irregularities and to rectify their consequences.

He does this at two levels. The first level involves dealing with individual reports of alleged violations of the human rights of an individual; the second involves work of a systemic, promotional and preventive nature. The first level means rectifying actual violations and the second means preventing future violations.

Alternatively, if we define the violation of human rights as a social disease and compare the work of the Human Rights Ombudsman to that of a doctor: on the one hand the ombudsman's treats a specific illness and on the other he works preventively and creates conditions which means that the illness occurs as rarely as possible. Often the two levels overlap.

The essence of the ombudsman's work are relations with various sections of the public. Public relations are more than relations with the media. They involve not only communication with the public but also reciprocal influence. The ombudsman has the legitimate right to influence the public through his work so that on the one hand violations of rights are removed and on the other hand they are prevented from occurring. In this process communication is a means of finding a creative solution.

The staff of the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman are, at both levels, in daily contact with various sections of the public – from the general public to various sections of the professional public. These include complainants, representatives of state bodies, local government bodies and statutory authorities, non-governmental and non-profit organisations, underprivileged and marginalised groups and the international public. Of course it would not do to overlook the aspect of relations within the office, which make a creative contribution to the fulfilling of the Human Rights Ombudsman's mission.

3.1.1. Relations with complainants

Complainants are individuals or groups who apply to the ombudsman with their problems either via written complaints or directly in conversation with the ombudsman at the office or elsewhere. As a rule complaints (petitions for the ombudsman to initiate proceedings) are submitted in written form, though we also accept complaints by telephone. Complaints can also be submitted during a personal conversation with the ombudsman. These conversations, which are arranged in advance, are with the ombudsman himself or with his deputies and advisers. In 2001 the ombudsman held personal conversations at the office with approximately 100 complainants.

A free telephone number (080 15 30) is available on working days from 8 am to 4 pm for explanations, advice and information on submitted complaints. Inquiries are dealt with by a member of staff. Complaints can also be submitted by e-mail info@varuh-rs.si or made in person during conversations in regional centres or during conversations with convicted prisoners and detainees during inspections of prisons and detention centres.

Proceedings before the ombudsman are informal and free of charge. Complaints must state the facts and include all evidence important for the initiation of proceedings. They must also state which legal remedies have been used in the case in question.

We are aware that the most important thing for a complainant is that we arrive at a solution of his/her problem. In dealing with complaints this is our starting point in choosing the most suitable measure among those which we are authorised to use. Thus in cases where a procedure has lasted an excessive length of time without good reason, we intervene with the body concerned in order to speed up the case, especially if a reasonable or legal deadline for the decision has already been exceeded and provided this does not mean upsetting the order of precedence for dealing with cases. We can also propose to the body concerned that the problem be resolved by means of settlement, provided the complainant agrees. If it is not possible to rectify the irregularity we propose to the body that it apologise to the complainant for the irregularity that has occurred. At all phases of procedures of any type we may offer bodies recommendations for the solution of the problem, opinions from the point of view of the respecting of human rights and fundamental freedoms, proposals for the improvement of dealings with the parties involved and proposals for compensation. If we find that the problem that has arisen is purely the consequence of unsuitable regulations, we can propose that these regulations be changed. If such a regulation governs an important issue from the point of view of human rights and fundamental freedoms and our proposal for a change to the regulation is not taken into account, we can submit a proposal for a review of constitutionality and legality to the Constitutional Court. We can also submit a constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court.

With the wish of being more accessible to people living in remote areas the ombudsman is also active outside Ljubljana. This has increased the opportunities for talking to the ombudsman or one of his deputies. This form of work means that we are able to cover the entire country (given the nature of the institution of ombudsman it is not possible to set up organisational units in other towns). Judging from the response of individuals who take advantage of the opportunity to talk to the ombudsman in person, people find this method of work very interesting. They are particularly satisfied that it means that they do not have to come to Ljubljana in order to talk about their problems – something which saves them time and money.

Working away from the office has several effects. The first is undoubtedly the fact that it gives individuals who live far from Ljubljana the opportunity of a personal conversation in which they can explain their problem in detail. The second effect is that some difficulties linked to the unsuitable work of state bodies or local bodies in the place being visited can be rectified through immediate intervention during the visit itself. These visits also have a preventive effect on the work of the state bodies and local bodies in the visited location. The problems which individuals bring to the ombudsman during field work of this type are similar to those we encounter in written complaints. We also find that there are no special differences between regions with regard to the issues involved. It can be noted, however, that in certain regions where state bodies deal promptly with matters we do not receive complaints relating to the excessive slowness of official procedures.

Figures show that during these visits two thirds of conversations with complainants relate to advice and assistance in solving a problem. With some conversations we find that the matter does not fall under the ombudsman's jurisdiction. Even in these cases we try to help the complainant with advice. Many of those who take advantage of the opportunity for a personal conversation are individuals who have already submitted a complaint to the ombudsman and wish to explain it in more detail or merely want information about its progress. Even more, however, are individuals who have not yet submitted a complaint. Many of these merely want advice. Approximately a third of conversations end with a new complaint to be dealt with by the ombudsman.

During our visits away from Ljubljana we also organise press conferences at which we present the themes of the problems we have dealt with. In 2001 we visited Maribor (twice), Celje, Novo Mesto, Murska Sobota and Koper. We received applications for conversations from 394 people, about half of whom were able to talk to the ombudsman in person.

A special form of work conducted away from the office consists of visits to prisons and other facilities housing people deprived of their liberty and other institutions where freedom of movement is restricted. The visits involve an inspection of premises and familiarisation with living conditions. During these visits we hold private conversations with people held in these premises and institutions.

3.1.2. Relations with state bodies and other bodies

The ombudsman works with state bodies, local government bodies and statutory authorities at both the preventive/promotional level and the curative level. In the case of the latter, a good cooperation with state bodies and other bodies is reflected by these bodies heeding the ombudsman's proposals and opinions, correct responses to his inquiries and a readiness on the part of the responsible officers for a direct discussion of problems in the area of the protection of human rights.

Working meetings can expand relations with state bodies and other bodies from the curative to the preventive level. At the curative level they speed up movement in addressing issues and enable the faster and better quality exchange of information about problems and possibilities for their solution. They are an opportunity to confront potentially different views on the way to overcome problems. At the preventive level they enable the possibility of drawing up joint strategies for preventing the violation of rights and a joint approach to raising awareness of the respecting of rights both among the employees of the bodies over which the ombudsman has jurisdiction and among the wider public. Preventive discussions enable the removal of ambiguities in specific regulations and/or laws before their adoption and implementation.

As a rule state bodies heed the ombudsman's proposals, opinions and findings relating to the addressing of problems and are ready to take part in discussions. In the case of communication difficulties the ombudsman will turn to public pressure as a last resort, and only after issuing several warnings to the body concerned.

The ombudsman's observations at the July press conference about the ignorance of certain state institutions and the often discriminatory practice of various government offices met with a significant response in the media. He admonished the Ministry of Defence, which was failing to pay conscripts doing civilian service in place of military service and was also late in paying annuities to those injured while doing military service. The ombudsman discussed these open questions with the defence minister in November.

The ombudsman also used the July press conference to draw attention to the ignorant attitude of the spokesperson of the DURS (the national tax office) towards the media and criticised both the DURS and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport for their chronic lateness in replying to the ombudsman's questions. He was compelled to repeat his reprimand to the latter at the September press conference, where he also outlined the nonobservance of certain laws in the area of education and social security. He managed to get over the deadlock and clear up ambiguities with the minister in December.

Following complaints from various religious communities about the work of the government office for religious communities, the ombudsman had a meeting with the director of the office. Among other things he drew his attention to irregularities in relation to the allocation of funds among religious communities and to the need for equal treatment of all religious communities in Slovenia. He reported on this at the September press conference. In November he warned the government that the provision of budget funds for the social insurance of priests in Slovenia was not legally regulated. To date we have not received information about any drawing up of criteria for the allocation of funds or the legal regulation of the social insurance of priests.

In relation to the attack on the journalist Miro Petek, the ombudsman condemned 'violent methods of polemicising with journalists' and immediately met with representatives of the office of the police directorate in Slovenj Gradec and then with top officials from the Slovene police, headed by the general director. All assured him that they had 'tackled the investigations seriously and thoroughly'. Since after seven months the investigation of the case had still produced no results, the ombudsman lent his support to Association of Journalists of Slovenia in its efforts to obtain a clarification of the circumstances surrounding the attack and through personal contacts called on those responsible to clear up the case and protect the freedom of expression.

In 2001 the ombudsman had several meetings with representatives of the police both in relation to concrete cases and the education of police officers in the area of human rights and the formation of strategies to improve the work of the police. The ombudsman highlighted as a fundamental criterion for the assessment of the work of the police the force's attitude towards violations of human rights in police procedures and above all, whether the police force tolerates violations or whether it is prepared to prevent, discover and punish them. At one of these meetings, at the collegiate body of the general police directorate, police chiefs assured him that in the area of addressing complaints in the future, every complainant whose complaint is considered unjustified will be given a written explanation of the reasons for this decision, and that all the ombudsman's suggestions will be given serious consideration in the day-to-day work of the police.

The ombudsman has kept the public regularly informed of his findings on the work of the police. At the February press conference, for example, the deputy ombudsman Aleš Butala spoke about various cases relating to the police. During the discussion of the reports for 1999 and 2000 the ombudsman drew attention to ineffective complaints procedures and to the increase in violence on the part of law-and-order bodies.

In March the ombudsman met the minister of the interior to talk about the implementation of police powers, the use of coercive measures and complaints procedures, the reform of the state administration, the issue of administrative procedures in the area of administrative internal affairs, the premises-related problems of the asylum centre and the centre for aliens, the work of the administrative inspectorate and other current topics.

In June he drew attention to the ignorance of the Ministry of the Interior which, more than a month after his visit to the deportation centre in Postojna, had done nothing to improve conditions and only began to act after a description of the conditions appeared in the media. A month later the ombudsman was able to inform the public that the regulation of conditions as per the assurances of the general director of the police was in full swing.

During the reading of the annual reports for 1999 and 2000 in the National Assembly the ombudsman warned that in the area of the regulation of the status of aliens too little effort was being made on the part of the ministry in ruling on asylum and citizenship, since although by law the ruling should be made within two months, in reality it takes a year for decisions to be issued. The minister of the interior explained that backlogs in the area of asylum policy and the majority of backlogs in the area of granting citizenship would be removed by the end of 2001.

In 2001 the ombudsman also met representatives of SOVA, the national security and intelligence service. He familiarised himself with the work of the service and discussed current issues.

He had several discussions with his predecessor, now the justice minister, about the operation of the judicial system. He also talked to the president of the Constitutional Court about issues in the area of justice, particularly the duration of judicial procedures.

At the September press conference he drew attention to a number of unlawful practices on the part of judicial bodies in extending security and penal measures – for example detention not covered by a court order and compulsory psychiatric treatment and care in a health care institute. Such practices constitute a violation of the fundamental human right to personal freedom.

During the reading of the reports for 1999 and 2000 in the National Assembly he drew attention to the nonimplementation of the Enforcement of Judgements and Insurance of Claims Act and to the urgent problem of court backlogs which in his opinion do not only arise because the work of the courts is too slow but also because the work of the courts is poor. He also drew attention to the above-average number of cases remanded to the court of first instance.

The ombudsman held a number of discussions with the public prosecutor general about the work of the prosecution service.

During the preparations for the referendum on the amendment to the act regulating the medical treatment of sterility and biomedical fertilisation, the ombudsman met the health minister. In the autumn they discussed the Health Care Act.

At a meeting with the minister for labour, the family and social affairs the ombudsman discussed, among other things, complex issues from the area of employment and unemployment, the work of social services centres and the protection of the rights of children.

With representatives of the Ministry of External Affairs he highlighted the complications suffered at the 'Schengen border' by citizens of Slovenia who had had their passport stolen. He presented his findings at the September press conference.

In direct talks with a number of mayors the ombudsman attempted to resolve certain open questions from the area of local communities.

The ombudsman submitted the Annual Report for 2000 to the president of the National Assembly on 25 May. The president of the National Assembly promised the immediate reading of both the report for 2000 and the report for 1999. The expectation that the National Assembly would hold a thorough discussion of the ombudsman's reports for 1999 and 2000 was also expressed by the president of the republic when the report was submitted. President Kučan expressed his hope that the National Assembly would take into account in its discussion the observations on the state of the protection of human rights made by Amnesty International, the Helsinki Monitor and other civil society organisations, and his belief that other bodies of the republic including the judiciary, the state prosecution service and the police would also wish to discuss the ombudsman's report.

During the reading of the reports in the National Assembly on 28 September the ombudsman thanked the National Assembly for keeping its promise and including the reports of the Human Rights Ombudsman among the priority areas it aimed to tackle. He expressed his belief that the reading of the reports is not merely an action by which a certain task is ticked off and left to rot in a draw until the following year, when the new ombudsman's report once again makes it necessary to express support for human rights. He welcomed the efforts of the government, the internal policy committee and parliament in preparing opinions on the reports and criticised their general and non-binding nature. Both the internal policy committee and the National Assembly supported the ombudsman's proposal for the employment of three experts to work in the area of children's rights and social affairs.

3.1.3. Relations with the media and public relations

On beginning his six-year term of office, the second Human Rights Ombudsman repeatedly emphasised that in his work he would rely on the media. In both the preventive and curative phases the ombudsman pressures state bodies, local government bodies and statutory authorities to do their work correctly, which means rectifying violations of rights and seeing that other violations do not occur. The same function is, in essence, performed by the media, with even wider powers. The cooperation of the ombudsman and the media can noticeably increase the pressure on state bodies, local government bodies and statutory authorities and contribute to the more rapid addressing of difficulties affecting the broader masses, the removal of systemic irregularities and the overcoming of established perceptions and behaviour. The media accepted the hand offered by the ombudsman in 2001.

The ombudsman decided to inform the public about his work and about violations and their solutions on a monthly basis via the media. He began in June and by the end of the year had held four regular press conferences (June, July, September, December). Before he began his term of office a press conference was held in February by deputy ombudsman Aleš Butala.

In the light of the tragic events of September 11 in the USA he drew attention to the potential abuse of the concept of security (under the pretext of protecting somebody or something an encroachment on freedom and thus on human rights can swiftly occur) and the need for public figures to be careful about making statements which could encourage discrimination.

He repeatedly spoke about his work at press conferences held during visits outside Ljubljana, during numerous appearances on national, regional and local radio and television programmes and in interviews with various sections of the print media.

In 2001 the ombudsman gave a series of interviews and appeared on numerous national and regional television and radio programmes. The media summarised information about the work of the ombudsman, his findings and statements in approximately 330 articles, something which made a significant contribution to raising awareness of human rights, rectifying certain violations and improving the flow of communication between the ombudsman and certain bodies.

Various sections of the media invited the ombudsman to collaborate with them. He currently publishes a fortnightly column in the daily newspaper Dnevnik.

At the initiative of the Information and Documentation Centre of the Council of Europe the signatories of a letter on the preparation of a series of broadcasts on human rights met on 15 October. This idea had still not been realised by the end of the year.

The ombudsman has an 'identity card' in the form of a leaflet containing essential information about the institution, its purpose, methods of work and goals. The great accessibility of the institution of ombudsman has also been helped by the rapid spread of information technology, especially the internet. Between 2 November 2000 and 12 October 2001 the ombudsman's website www.varuh-rs.si received 19,7000 visitors. E-mailed complaints were received from 149 individuals, while a significant number of people used the ombudsman's e-mail address info@varuh-rs.si to ask general questions, make comments or request various types of information.

The website also provides basic information about the organisational structure of the ombudsman's office, the legal basis of the institution and up-to-date information about the work of the ombudsman. Regular reports from press conferences and articles by staff enable users of the website to obtain basic or in-depth information about violations of rights and ways to rectify them. The website has both a promotional and an educational function. It also has a children's corner and is a useful source of links to other, related websites.

The communication tools and methods of communication available do not however make it possible to reach every target public. In 2001 we at the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman began formulating strategies of approach to various groups (above all the underprivileged and marginalised). This includes the vital question of the recognisability of the institution of ombudsman. Although the institution of Human Rights Ombudsman enjoys considerable recognition among the majority of citizens of Slovenia, some people overlook its independence and continue to classify it under the wing of the government. They believe that the ombudsman's office is merely another government office or, in fact, a kind of state service. The independence of the institution is too little highlighted – something which could be achieved with an effective 'brand identity', the concept for which was initiated in 2001, with realisation to follow in 2002. This 'brand identity' will contribute to the greater recognisability of the Human Rights Ombudsman and will stop people mistakenly believing that it is part of the apparatus of the State.

A clear definition of the role of the Human Rights Ombudsman will help us in our attempt to bring human rights closer to those groups with less awareness of their rights and the rights of others. We will help people tackle their difficulties more effectively. Confidence in the system and its ability to rectify violations can only be improved through constant cooperation with the State.

3.1.4. Relations with underprivileged and/or marginalised groups

As stated above, certain groups – for various reasons – only rarely turn to the ombudsman. For this reason one of the ombudsman's first acts on taking up office was to commit himself to more intensive approaches to these groups and to the formulation of strategies for more effective and direct access to them.

Because these groups are often without even the basic conditions for the exercising of their rights, violations in these areas are more frequent and, because of the conditions mentioned above, less attention is drawn to them. The sensitivity of the area attracts the media, which are likewise sensitive to violations and irregularities, and thus cases of violations of the rights of the underprivileged and/or marginalised groups usually cause a reaction in the media, which has a number of effects, among them the following:

    * the diffusion of technology means that information can also reach 'inaccessible groups';

    * drawing attention to the violation of rights and methods of preventing violations is slowly but surely raising people's awareness of human rights;

    * the ombudsman's warnings, findings and statements usually trigger various responses which enables the formulation of appropriate guidelines for work in the future.

Precisely because of the small number of complaints reaching the ombudsman from groups of this type in 2001, the ombudsman had frequent meetings with representatives of various underprivileged and/or marginalised groups. He familiarised himself with conditions relating to their life and work and tried to find solutions to their difficulties. He continued to draw the attention of the general public to the problem of intolerance and the evil of discrimination, the need to respect difference and the necessity of equal treatment for all, and in particular the need to pay special attention to the weakest group among them – children. He also drew attention to the problem of poverty or the economic and social sidelining of certain groups, and the prevalence of 'existential' fear.

In the first year of his term of office the ombudsman devoted considerable attention to warning about the need to increase tolerance. Immediately after taking up office on 27 February he addressed a call to tolerance to the Slovene public in relation to the 'prank' in which persons unknown painted over the Italian inscriptions on the bilingual signs in Koper. He also expressed his dismay at the increasingly evident intolerance shown by individuals and individual groups towards difference, be it nationality, religion, sex, sexual orientation, social or economic status, life style or something else. He therefore called on citizens of all nationalities to show greater mutual respect, cooperation and respect of differences, and reminded citizens of Slovene nationality that as the majority community they are the most responsible for the wellbeing of all inhabitants of the country.

Concerning the May protests in Šiška against foreigners he criticised the State, which by failing to prepare for the problem of asylum seekers had 'generated intolerance'. 'Regardless of what I think about intolerance,' observed the ombudsman, 'the fact is that even the most tolerant people become intolerant if they find themselves in a minority in comparison to asylum seekers and aliens. The State should not have allowed such a situation, which forces people into xenophobia, to occur. The State must listen to the concerns of both parties.'

The ombudsman also took the opportunity to draw attention to people's opposition to schools and nursery schools for children with special needs or facilities for treating drug addicts. 'This is not merely a question of xenophobia but a question of general intolerance, the problem of allowing difference!'

He warned that the rights of every individual are limited by the rights other individuals, and repeated this warning on several occasions during 2001. Before the June referendum on the act amending the Medical Treatment of Sterility and Biomedical Fertilisation Act he called for tolerance in the name of the protection of the rights of the child; at the Peace Festival in Slovenj Gradec in October he emphasised the need to learn about difference, different peoples and their cultures, since only in this way can a person avert the fear of the unknown and become tolerant.

The ombudsman also called for tolerance and recognition of difference in relation to a racially-oriented case in July and an overt and illegal expression of homophobia in a public place the same month. In both cases he identified the causes of the action and, following inquiries, reacted. In the latter case he drew attention to the inadmissibility of discrimination using the excuse that the area is not regulated by law. He pointed out that the Constitution is a fundamental legal act which must be respected by all. Article 14 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of personal circumstances of whatever type. This provision is applied directly and cannot be restricted even by statute. The lack of appropriate laws does not permit discriminatory behaviour by individuals and consequent violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, he continued.

At the end of July the president of the republic invited the ombudsman to a discussion of cases of intolerance in Slovene society. The incentive was the case mentioned above in which skinheads attacked a black inhabitant of Slovenia. The meeting was also attended by the interior minister and the deputy general director of the police. After the discussion the president of Slovenia emphasised that such phenomena, though for the time being still on a small scale, cannot leave us unaffected, and added that it would be an extremely bad thing if we were to become tolerant of intolerance.

The deputy general director of the police presented an analysis of ten years' work in this field and drew attention to the police's relatively limited scope in creating an atmosphere of tolerance in society. There was also some discussion of the number of complaints about police behaviour and the method of addressing and dealing with these complaints on the part of the police.

The president of the republic also stated that the right to difference is not an abstract or formal right but can only be concrete, daily and exercisable always and everywhere.

During the discussion of his annual reports in parliament in June 2001, the ombudsman presented members of parliament with his working priorities. He placed special emphasis on greater efforts for the protection of children and their interests.

Even before the new ombudsman took up office, deputy ombudsman Aleš Butala attended a session of the children's parliament. In 2001 the ombudsman attended numerous events at which he spoke to young people on racism, homophobia, drugs and other current topics.

At a meeting with scouts and on a one-day excursion from children disadvantaged families he talked about the importance of human rights and their protection.

He dealt with the issue of the right of children to have both parents and in this connection met representatives of the Podos society and the Ostržek society. He familiarised himself with the rare publicly reported cases of violence in the family and with conditions in the area of sexual abuse.

He did not reject the idea of a children's ombudsman which has been put forward but stressed the need for immediate action in the area of the protection of children's rights. Founding a special institution for the protection of the rights of children could have the effect of postponing action indefinitely.

In the Week of the Child the ombudsman invited children to take advantage of the open day and come to the ombudsman's office for a chat. He told a packed gathering of children, parents and mentors about his work and called on them to cooperate actively in learning about and exercising their rights and the solutions to employ should their rights be violated. The children brought up a number of queries relating to the protection of their rights. They also wanted to know how to apply to the ombudsman and made some concrete suggestions. They expressed the hope that there would be more open days and committed themselves to close cooperation with the ombudsman. The desire for guidance and education in the protection of the rights of children was also expressed by adults at the gathering.

The ombudsman called on the children's newspapers Ciciban and Cicido to cooperate in the promotion of rights and the provision of information about rights. He also talked with other sections of the media about violations of children's rights.

3.1.5. International relations

International relations play an important at both levels of the ombudsman's work. The experience of institutions with a longer tradition is of great importance in his daily work, as indeed is the experience of institutions with a short history. The Human Rights Ombudsman has also been successful in transferring his own experience to countries which do not yet have the institution of ombudsman or similar institutions for the protection of human rights. The transfer of experience consequently contributes to the effective addressing of cases of violation of rights and the prevention of phenomena of this type even beyond Slovenia's borders.

With the aim of presenting the work of the Slovene Human Rights Ombudsman to the ombudsmen of other countries and to related institutions and other sections of the professional public working in the area of the protection of human rights, we once again prepared an English summary of the report on the ombudsman's work. The office also published three numbers of the European Ombudsmen Newsletter, which it has been publishing since February 1999. The texts can be found on the English version of the Human Rights Ombudsman's website.

In November 2001 the ombudsman was elected one of the four European directors (for central and eastern Europe) of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI). This appointment gives him additional responsibilities in the area of international work. Because of complications with the elections the vote was repeated in 2002. The result of the second vote confirmed Slovene ombudsman Matjaž Hanžek in the position. For more information about the IOI, visit the following website: www.law.ualberta.ca/centres/ioi/ brochure.htm

Among the most important international events organised by the Human Rights Ombudsman in 2001 was the international conference 'The Relationship between Ombudsmen and Justice Bodies' which took place in Ljubljana on 12 and 13 November. The meeting was the Slovene ombudsman's contribution to the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The event saw representatives of ombudsmen and justice bodies from transition countries and other countries present their experiences and practical ways in which ombudsmen can influence the work of justice bodies and change problematic legislation, not least in relation to constitutional courts. The conference was also attended by representatives of the Council of Europe. The participants expressed the opinion that for countries in transition, which include countries with an unstable legal system, countries in which an independent judiciary only has a short tradition and countries in which constant reforms of state bodies are taking place, it is especially important to see the formulation of a national policy of protection and promotion of human rights through legal and other mechanisms, in accordance with recommendations R (85)13 and R (97) 11 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the institution of ombudsman and on the founding of independent institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights, and recommendation R (94) 12 on the independence, efficiency and role of judges and the court practice of the European Court of Human Rights.

The resolutions contained in the annex to this report were adopted.

Between 25 February and 3 March 2001 the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman was visited by a group of experts from the office of the Albanian ombudsman responsible for police, penal and security matters.

In February the Council of Europe, in conjunction with the Croatian ombudsman, organised in Zagreb a round table of ombudsmen from south-eastern Europe. Ombudsmen from the transition countries of south-eastern Europe and experts from the Council of Europe used the occasion to present their experiences. The experiences of the Slovene ombudsman and the common characteristics of the work of ombudsmen in countries in transition were presented by deputy ombudsman Jernej Rovšek. Earlier the same month the deputy ombudsman outlined the experiences of Slovenia's Human Rights Ombudsman at the presentation of the newly-elected ombudsmen of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka (Bosnia-Herzegovina). The presentation came into the framework of Stability Pact activities, specifically the project on the promotion of ombudsmen and national institutions for the protection of human rights. Mr Rovšek also attended a meeting organised by the Council of Europe in Salzburg and talked about the experience and work of ombudsmen in transition countries.

In November deputy ombudsman Aleš Butala received a delegation from the Walloon Parliament led by its president Robert Collignon. Their discussion covered the work of the ombudsman and Slovenia as a state based on the rule of law.

On 28 and 29 May the Human Rights Ombudsman and his deputy Jernej Rovšek attended the annual meeting of ombudsmen from central and eastern Europe with the Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles. The meeting took place in Warsaw. The commissioner presented his activities and his views on cooperation with national ombudsmen. The Hungarian commissioner for national and ethnic minorities, Jeno Kaltenbach, opened a discussion on the difficulties affecting the Roma community. The issue of illegal migrations was also discussed.

From 22 to 25 November the Human Rights Ombudsman attended the 7th round table of European ombudsmen in Zurich. The members of the European section of the IOI used the occasion to meet and confirm the election of the Slovene ombudsman as the fourth European director of the IOI, with responsibility for southern and eastern Europe. The ombudsman presented the results and conclusions of the international conference 'The Relationship between Ombudsmen and Justice Bodies'. Plans were drawn up for future regional conferences on various topics relating to human rights and participants were acquainted with the resolutions of the meeting of all IOI directors held in Seoul from 29 to 31 October.

Within the context of the first topic of the 7th round table, concerning the key principles of good administration in the light of the court practice of the European Court of Human Rights, the ombudsman spoke about the work of the courts in Slovenia in relation to the protection of human rights and in the light of the reform of public administration in Slovenia offered some views on transforming public administrations into human-friendly administrations. The participants also discussed the respecting of human rights by the police and other bodies of supervision and control and exchanged experiences in relation to the Council of Europe.

On 19 and 20 November the ombudsman attended a meeting of ombudsmen with Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg. He presented the Roma issue in Slovenia and offered some practical general pointers for addressing the issue, which were welcomed by participants. The meeting also considered the possibility of including the social charter in the European Convention on Human Rights, something which would give the charter greater strength because of the direct applicability of the convention. It would enable appeals to be made to established rights in specific social areas where legal vacuums exist or where statutory regulation is still lacking. The meeting also discussed the possibilities of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2001 the ombudsman also met several ambassadors.

In April the ombudsman talked to representatives of the Ministry of External Affairs about guidelines for human security and development, and with the UN Assistant Secretary-General, Mr Danilo TĂĽrk, about human development and human rights at the international level. In June he met a representative of the European Commission, Mr Eric van den Lind, and in September welcomed his Czech counterpart Motejl Otakar to Portorož. In November he was visited by the Swedish Ombudsman against Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation.

In September 2001 a delegation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment made its second scheduled visit to Slovenia. The members of the delegation visited prisons in Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper. The report of the European Committee, with findings and recommendations, will be an opportunity for a comparison of the harmonisation of conditions in Slovene prisons with European standards.

On Human Rights Day (10 December) the ombudsman held his traditional reception. It was attended by the highest representatives of the government, the church, universities and science and by representatives of non-governmental organisations and other organisations and societies involved in human rights, representatives of organisations, religious communities and minorities. In his statement the ombudsman talked about the situation of human rights in Slovenia and the adoption of the General Declaration on Human Rights adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. At that time, he said, the adoption of the document was of vital importance, just as today respect for this declaration and other documents, both international and domestic, which build on the general declaration is of vital importance. He explained that he was referring in particular to the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Social Charter, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and a range of other documents which provide a basic framework for a better life for all people. The reception was also attended by accredited diplomatic representatives of other states.

3.1.6. Internal relations

As stated in the introduction, the new ombudsman was appointed by the National Assembly at the end of last February. The mandate of the previous ombudsman expired on 29 September 2000. Until the appointment of the new ombudsman by the National Assembly, the ombudsman's functions were discharged by deputy ombudsman Aleš Butala. The institution functioned normally throughout this period, although, in addition to a fall in the number of complaints, a fluctuation in employees was noted. No new staff were employed before the appointment of the new ombudsman but following his appointment, in order to fill vacated positions and as a result of new responsibilities under the statute amending the Protection of Personal Data Act and the increase in the amount of work several new members of staff were taken on. The resolution of the National Assembly calling for a special group in the office to deal in depth with the protection of children's rights did not begin to be implemented until the beginning of 2002. As a result of the numerous applications we received (325 candidates) it was not possible to complete the selection procedure in 2001. The candidates were chosen but they did not begin work in the office in 2001. As at 31 December 2000, a total of 21 staff (including the three deputy ombudsmen) were employed at the ombudsman's office. By 31 December 2001 this number roseto 28.

Twenty members of staff hold university degrees (three also hold master's degrees), three have diplomas of higher technical education, two have college diplomas, two have certificates of secondary education and one has completed an abridged programme of secondary education. Like last year the office offered students the opportunity to obtain work experience. A third-year student from the Faculty of Social Sciences and a second-year student from the School of Public Administration both completed a three-week period of work experience, while a two-week period of work experience was completed by two fourth-year law students from abroad, one from Yugoslavia and one from Germany. This was arranged through the European Law Students' Association (ELSA).

Internal communication is both horizontal and vertical. Technical staff and advisers, together with the ombudsman and his deputies, cooperate in all areas of communication with various sections of the public (conversations with complainants outside the office, visits to refugee centres, police stations, psychiatric hospitals etc., participation in preventive campaigns, media appearances, lectures, etc.).

Technical staff and advisers hold a weekly meeting chaired by the director of the technical service. This is followed by a weekly session at which the ombudsman, his deputies, the general secretary, the director of the technical service and a public relations representative discuss cases indicating a systemic violation of rights, plan approaches to addressing them, and seek appropriate ways of working.

The office is equipped with an intranet system which makes reviewing the work of the office easier thanks to its sector-based structure. Another very useful tool in internal communication is a database of media clippings. All staff have direct access to this database. Additionally, staff have access to all cases of violations of rights or irregularities covered by the media. This enables them to receive direct information about media coverage of the work of the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman.

In 2001 staff training mainly took place at home in Slovenia. Staff members attended seminars and professional meetings organised by other institutions. Some members of staff participated actively by contributing to training sessions for various sections of the professional public. Deputy ombudsman Jernej Rovšek, in his capacity as a Council of Europe expert, contributed papers on the experience of the Slovene ombudsman and other ombudsmen in the setting up of ombudsman offices in the countries of eastern Europe. Deputy ombudsman Aleš Butala contributed papers to training sessions for various sections of the domestic professional public.

Letno poročilo 2001 - Poglavje 3.1.

3.1. NAČINI IN OBLIKE DELA

Varuh človekovih pravic varuje posameznika v stikih z državnimi organi, organi lokalne samouprave in nosilci javnih pooblastil ter nadzira njihovo delovanje. Gre za varstvo na področju pravilnega in korektnega ravnanja oblasti v razmerju do posameznika.


Varuh nima pristojnosti oblastnega odločanja in ne more sprejemati pravno obveznih odločitev, ki bi bile sankcionirane s sredstvi pravne prisile. Njegova dejanja in akti niso oblastne narave in z njimi ne izvaja oblasti. Posamičnih aktov ne izdaja v obliki odločbe, sodbe, sklepa ali odredbe, torej v oblikah, ki sicer poudarjajo avtoritativnost v izvajanju oblasti. Varuh človekovih pravic je dodatno sredstvo zunaj sodnega varstva pravic posameznikov. Bil je ustanovljen z namenom varovanja človekovih pravic in temeljnih svoboščin v razmerju do državnih organov, organov lokalne samouprave in nosilcev javnih pooblastil. Njegova naloga je ugotavljati in preprečevati kršitve človekovih pravic in druge nepravilnosti ter odpravljati njihove posledice.


To počne na dveh ravneh. Prva raven je ukvarjanje s posamezno prijavo zatrjevanega kršenja človekove pravice posameznika, druga pa delo sistemske, promocijske in preventivne narave. Prva pomeni odpravljanje konkretne kršitve, druga pa preprečevanje bodočih kršitev.

Ali če kršenje človekovih pravic opredelimo kot socialno bolezen in delo varuha človekovih pravic primerjamo z delom zdravnika: varuh po eni strani zdravi posamezno bolezen, po drugi pa deluje preventivno in ustvarja pogoje, da bi se ta bolezen pojavljala čim manj. Pogosto pa se obe ravni prepletata.


Bistvo varuhovega dela so odnosi z različnimi javnostmi. Odnosi z javnostmi so več kot odnosi z mediji. Ne gre zgolj za komuniciranje med javnostmi, ampak tudi za medsebojno vplivanje. Varuh ima legitimno pravico s svojim delom vplivati na javnosti, da na eni strani odpravijo kršitve pravic in na drugi da preprečujejo njihovo nastajanje. Komunikacija je pri tem sredstvo za tvorno iskanje rešitev.


Zaposleni v Uradu varuha človekovih pravic so tako na prvi kot na drugi ravni vsak dan v odnosih z različnimi zunanjimi javnostmi, vse od najširše, splošne javnosti, do številnih strokovnih. To so pobudniki, predstavniki državnih organov, organov lokalnih skupnosti, nosilci javnih pooblastil, nevladne in neprofitne organizacije, deprivilegirane in marginalizirane skupine, mednarodna javnost. Seveda pa ne gre zanemariti vidika odnosov znotraj urada, ki tvorno pripomorejo k opravljanju poslanstva VČP.

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