Human Rights Day is one of the opportunities for debate on human rights and fundamental freedoms to take place. The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia prepares a vast report each year on his/her work, and suggests what else should be done to make the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms more effective.
Slovenia belongs among those states that mainly ensure basic citizens’ rights, but the demands for the assurance and respect of socio-economic rights and the right to a healthy living environment are coming more and more into focus. There are more and more demands for the more adequate assurance and treatment of the rights of individual minorities.
The statistical overview of the accepted initiatives in the last three years does not show any essential changes. In the past, these demands were more explicit, for example regarding the procedures of acquiring citizenship, problems with foreigners, denationalization and erased persons. The set of violations is slightly changing with regard to the priorities of politics. For example, the proposed family code opens up certain topics – and therefore initiatives that are not otherwise so frequent.
We conclude that there the most massive violations still occur in the strongly exceeded deadlines regarding the proceedings of individual matters in the framework of the judiciary, and also in the framework of administrative proceedings, mainly on the second level. It is precisely this slowness regarding the decision making process in many cases that leads to serious violations of human rights in the areas of social care, spatial planning and management, environmental protection, and also in the area of health care, presenting simultaneously a serious threat to the principals of state government by the rule of law.
There are also numerous violations in the area of employment relationships in the public sector; among them we highlight several types of violations: inadequate working conditions, inadequate employment law, and harassment or torture in the workplace.
We estimate that the most problematic incidents are those violations that happen to the most vulnerable population groups, i.e. children, the elderly and sick people, and those with special needs, disabled and handicapped persons. We also conclude that those individuals who are socially or economically weaker have large difficulties in accessing efficient information and legal protection, and also quality education. There are also more and more violations of the right to a healthy and clean (non-polluted) environment. One of the most urgent areas to be addressed is still violence - in all manifestations and all environments, not just in the family.
We assume that more massive violations of social-economic rights will mainly appear in the future. Poverty, and consequently the impairment of human dignity is without doubt a violation of human rights. The economic crisis must not be used as an excuse for the reduction of human rights in any area, especially in the social area. The state must ensure that the inhabitants of this country can make, through their work, a reasonable income to maintain a decent lifestyle.
Due to less and less trust in state institutions, the effective protection of human rights is consequently reduced. I am talking about the judiciary, health care, and social care. Therefore, as the ombudsman, I pay special attention to changes in the legislation in these areas.
There is still not enough done in the area of protection of children’s rights, and the rights of the elderly and disabled people. The fact is that we have extremely bad conditions in our prisons, we have inefficient environmental legislation, and Slovenia has found itself at the European Court of Human Rights as one of the states that has the largest number of complaints according to the number of inhabitants.
On Human Rights Day, we also should report on some of the good news. They derive from some changes in the legislation, mainly in relation to the Family Violence Act, and partly to the Patients Rights Act that were both adopted last year. The manner of adoption of the legislation is also changing; it binds the proposers to public debate and to the consideration of observations. We can say that Slovenia has made a big step in the right direction in the area of protection of the rights of the Roma community, and can also set an example for some more developed states.
All of us should together pay more attention to the manners of solving disputes and misunderstandings, not only through judicial proceedings, where we have a new normative arrangement of this area, but also in all other ways, where we could, with the use of mediation, settlement, or simply by means of tolerant conversation, solve many problems more effectively, quickly and at a much lower cost, and most of all in a more friendly manner for all participants concerned. For the coming year, I hope that I will be able to report on how the state is having more understanding in solving the distress of individuals.
M.D. Zdenka Čebašek-Travnik,
Human Rights Ombudsman