Natisni vsebino

Varuh človekovih pravic, Slovenia

15.06.1999 18:58
Category: articles


The work

The work Annual Report 1997 – discussion in the Slovene National Assembly

The 1997 Annual Report on the state of human rights in Slovenia, prepared by The Human Rights Ombudsman Mr. Ivan Bizjak, was discussed in Slovene parliament (National Assembly) on March 17, 1999. The 200-page report has been waiting on the parliamentary benches for almost a year.

The key, system-related problems that appeared in the 1997 report were still not resolved in 1998, Slovenia's Ombudsman said in his speech in the parliament. There has been no substantial progress in the area of the legislature, and the lengthy nature of legal and administrative procedures remains the feature of the ombudsman's statistics. The situation has improved in the processing of applications for citizenship and some new laws pertaining to human rights have been adopted, but the majority of them are still waiting to be prepared and passed.

Ombudsman's general assessment is that unfortunately no progress has been made in essential and most delicate areas that affect most people. That brings up again the question whether those in charge have not identified the major priority tasks regarding the issue or they have been unsuccessful in implementing them, Mr. Bizjak pointed out. In his opinion both alternatives are unacceptable as that means that the situation concerning the problems he is constantly warning of is in no way improving. At the same time one wonders about the responsibility of those who should contribute to it as it is impossible to accept the opinion that nothing can be done, the ombudsman stated.

Ombudsman does not expect the priorities in adopting the EU's legislation will check other legislation. He stressed the issue of human rights itself was one of the key issues in Slovenia's accession to the Union. It means human rights are no less important in the aspect of integration into the EU as those explicitly mentioned in the European programme. The legislators are obliged to do everything in their power to speed up the parliamentary procedure, Ombudsman said. He expects they will ask the government to prepare the necessary legislation promptly.

Resolutions of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia

The National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia on the occasion of its reading of the 1997 report of the Human Rights Ombudsman, passed the following Resolutions:

1. The National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia has been acquainted with the third regular annual report of the Human Rights Ombudsman for 1997.

2. The National Assembly supports the Human Rights Ombudsman, who with his decisive measures and work within the framework of his powers ensures and encourages a high level of awareness that the respecting and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is one of the most important basic values of every democratic society.

3. The National Assembly supports the Human Rights Ombudsman’s assessments that the functioning of the state as a state governed by the rule of law is still not satisfactory in certain sectors of the life of society, in relation to which it is worth highlighting in particular the unfinished state of legislation and the long duration of legislative, court and administrative procedures.

4. The National Assembly supports the Human Rights Ombudsman’s recommendation that the country should establish a maintenance fund to provide maintenance for children for whom the party liable for maintenance payments fails to pat maintenance, and at the same time provide for the collection of unpaid maintenance from the liable party.

5. The National Assembly proposes that from the point of view of the good of children the possibility should be studied of establishing a special Ombudsman for the Rights of the Child.

6. The National Assembly draws attention to the Human Rights Ombudsman’s finding that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by which Slovenia is bound, is not being observed to a satisfactory extent in the direct practice of bodies deciding on children’s rights. For the protection of children’s rights it would sensible to introduce appropriate forms of representation and advocacy for children. This would also abolish the dual role of social services centres which carry out professional social and protection work and at the same time administrative work on the basis of public authorisations.

7. The National Assembly finds that there is a need for reorganised legal aid for persons who are unable to pay high lawyer’s fees, especially in complaints claims for maintenance or for the division of property after the break-up of a marriage, in labour disputes and in the exercising of the rights deriving from medical and pensions insurance.

8. The National Assembly proposes the preparation as soon as possible of a non-statutory act in accordance with Article 78 of the Law on Environmental Protection which will regulate the liability to pay compensation, or so-called ‘ecological duty’, of persons causing harm to, devaluation of, or danger to the environment and thus to health.

9. The National Assembly finds that given the unemployment situation and the frequency of bankruptcies it will be necessary to devote more attention to the exercising of the right to work.

10. The National Assembly finds that the resolutions passed at the 7th session of the National Assembly on 19 November 1997, on the occasion of the reading of the first and second regular annual reports of the Human Rights Ombudsman for 1995 and 1996 respectively, have not been put completely into effect. It therefore proposes to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia that, with regard to the excessive slowness in addressing certain systemic problems because of which the situation with regard to the protection of human rights in certain areas is not improving, it takes measures as soon as possible in certain areas and prepares a plan of measures for removing the causes of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

11. The Government of the Republic of Slovenia should ensure that the tax administration shortens lengthy tax procedures and consistently observes the prescribed deadlines for making its rulings.

12. The Government of the Republic of Slovenia should ensure that the tax administration rules on appeals against tax rulings of the first instance within the legal deadline, and that the state and taxpayers are in the same position as regards the payment of late-payment interest.

13. The Government of the Republic of Slovenia should ensure that the tax administration explains its rulings on the rejection of requests for the writing-off of tax debts in such a way as to permit the understanding of the criteria on the basis of which the positive or negative ruling was arrived at.

14. The National Assembly proposes to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia that in preparing measures for greater efficiency of the courts it should study and propose forms and methods of transferring certain cases from the courts to other institutions, including non-judicial forms of resolving disputes.

15. The National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia proposes to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia that it prepare and send to the National Assembly as soon as possible a draft of the national housing programme, the first reading of which was completed by the National Assembly at its 6th regular session on 11 September 1997.
Annual Report 1998

On April 29, 1999 Slovene Ombudsman Mr. Ivan Bizjak presented the 1998 Annual Report to National Assembly Speaker Mr. Janez Podobnik, wishing the parliament would debate it as soon as possible. It is the fourth annual report since the institute of ombudsman was established in 1994.

As he presented the 1998 Annual Report at the press conference Mr. Bizjak said that a poor response of the government and parliament to the warnings of the ombudsman's office urging them to address the known systemic problems relating to human rights in Slovenia is actually a form of systematic violation of those rights, as problems in exercising human rights result from inadequate functioning of the state.

As in the past, the ombudsman again pointed out the slowness of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government, which renders the exercising of certain human rights and their protection difficult or even impossible.

Apart from warning of most problematic and recurring issues (social problems, independence-related problems etc.), the latest report focuses on legal security, public administration functioning, accessibility of information that is in the interest of the public and establishing of effective complaint procedures. An unreasonable length of time needed for a ruling to be made in numerous court and administrative procedures is still a major problem.

The ombudsman's office received 3,448 complaints in 1998 or by 16 percent more than a year before. As in the past, the majority of cases again related to legal and police procedures (26.3 percent) and administrative matters (20.8 percent). Last year the highest increase was recorded in the complaints pertaining to personal freedom restriction, which went up by over 66 percent, while the complaints in the area of employment increased by over 60 percent. There were by 21 percent less complaints pertaining to the environment than in 1997.

Table shows the number of complaints received in 1998 by individual area. For the sake of comparison, the table also shows data for individual years for the period between 1995 and 1997.

Area of ombudsman's work

Registered complaints

Index
(98/97)

1995

1996

1997

1998

Numb.

Share

Numb.

Share

Numb.

Share

Numb.

Share

1. Constitutional rights

37

1.6%

37

1.5%

43

1.5%

58

1.7%

134.9

2. Restriction of personal freedom

74

3.1%

145

5.8%

128

4.4%

213

6.4%

166.4

3. Social security

251

10.7%

302

12.0%

397

13.8%

404

12.1%

101.8

4. Labour relations

125

5.3%

88

3.5%

138

4.8%

221

6.6%

160.1

5. Administrative affairs

565

24.0%

521

20.7%

663

23.0%

697

20.8%

105.1

6. Court and police procedures

478

20.3%

761

30.3%

776

26.9%

881

26.3%

113.5

7. Environment

61

2.6%

75

3.0%

71

2.5%

56

1.7%

78.9

8. Public services

27

1.1%

33

1.3%

26

0.9%

37

1.1%

142.3

9. Housing matters

204

8.7%

141

5.6%

126

4.4%

158

4.7%

125.4

10. Others

530

22.5%

410

16.3%

518

17.9%

623

18.6%

120.3

TOTAL

2,352

100.0%

2,513

100.0%

2,886

100.0%

3,448

100.0%

116.0



Together with cases left from previous years, the ombudsman's office dealt with 3,980 cases and concluded 3,505 by the end of 1998, recording an increase of 4.9 percent from 1997. The fourth annual report is also available on the Internet: http://www.varuh-rs.si.

Special Report on Situation in Psychiatry

At the beginning of February 1999 Slovene Ombudsman Mr. Ivan Bizjak presented 'Special Report on Problems Faced When Dealing with Persons Experiencing Mental Problems'.
The report analyses the situation in some psychiatric clinics and social institution Ombudsman has visited. Persons with mental problems are of particular interest to the ombudsman because of their being marginalised and especially vulnerable and at times helpless. In addition, their lives as a rule unfold in psychiatric clinics and behind closed doors.

Mr. Bizjak has pointed out how insufficiently defined the legal framework is and how inappropriate implementation of the existing pieces of legislation is in the filed of non-voluntary detention in health and social institution. For instance, the beginning of the involuntary detention is not regulated in national legislation at the moment. It is not defined what to do when a patient refuses to be institutionalised. Neither doctors' authority is regulated nor the assistance of police when it would be necessary to enter the patient's apartment. The existing legislation is lacking about the rights of patients in mental hospitals and of those in social institutions.

This legislative void and lacking legislation made Ombudsman point out in the special report how vital it was for Slovenia to draft a bill on mental health as soon as possible.
'Special Report on Problems Faced When Dealing with Persons Experiencing Mental Problems' has been sent to two parliamentary committees (for justice and health and labour), to the speaker of parliament and to three ministers. The National Assembly is also expected to discuss it. The special report is also available on the Internet: http://www.varuh-rs.si.

Special Report on Treatment of persons in custody

At the beginning of March 1999, Slovene Ombudsman Mr. Ivan Bizjak presented a Special report on Treatment of persons in custody, an analysis of the state of affairs in the area of the implementation of detention and criminal sanctions. The report has been submitted to the parliament.

The situation in Slovene prisons and other detention institutions is satisfactory, no major or mass violations of human rights have been recorded, stated in the report Ombudsman.
Although the general situation in prisons is good, there are cases of unacceptable treatment which can lead to humiliation of prisoners. Individuals who are imprisoned are not interested in the general situation, it is their case that matters, therefore the actual respect of human rights is demonstrated by the concrete treatment of each individual.
The number of imprisoned convicts has been rising in the recent years. In the beginning of 1999 they were 564, while the average number of prisoners in Slovenia ranges between 480 and 500. Ombudsman last year talked to 161 prisoners in different institutions; in addition, 132 convicts and 51 detainees contacted his office. The special report is also available on the Internet: http://www.varuh-rs.si.

Ombudsman lodged a request for an assessment of constitutionality and legality

The second paragraph of Article 107 of the Notaries Act stipulates that the Notaries’ Association of Slovenia shall set the rates for the remuneration of notaries by agreement with the minister responsible for justice. The legislator wished in this way to ensure that the setting of notaries’ rates would not only take into account the interest of the notaries but also public interest. The office of notary is a public service, while notaries are persons holding public confidence who provide their services on the basis of a licence from the state. In certain cases when arranging his legal affairs the individual has to make use of the services of notaries, who thus have a kind of monopoly in the area of their activities. Setting notaries’ rates cannot therefore be free or left merely to notaries themselves or to their professional association. The cogent provision of the law requiring the agreement of the Minister of Justice in the setting of rates for the remuneration of notaries is an expression of a social country governed by the rule of law that the accessibility of notaries as a public service is guaranteed under equal conditions for all citizens.

Notary’s services are evaluated and calculated according to the notary’s tariff. The price of notary’s services is determined in the tariff by the number of points. It is measured by taking into account the value of the point such that the amount of points for an individual notary’s service is multiplied by the value of the point. The value of the point is therefore one of the elements for setting the notary’s tariff. The price of a service carried out by a notary thus depends on the value of the point, which is determined in the third paragraph of Article 11 of the notary’s tariff.

Setting the tariff for the remuneration of notaries as per the second paragraph of Article 107 of the Notaries Act thus also includes changing the value of the point which according to the notary’s tariff serves to fix the price of notary’s services, i.e. the fees for work done by a notary. This means that the law also requires the consent of the Minister of Justice for a change in the value of the notary’s tariff point.

The fifth paragraph of the notary’s tariff does not stipulate that the executive committee of the Notaries’ Association of Slovenia shall rule on changes to the value of the point in agreement with the minister responsible for justice. For this reason this provision of the general act of the notaries’ association is in our opinion incompatible with the second paragraph of Article 107 of the Notaries Act.

The executive committee of the Notaries’ Association has passed two resolutions on changes in the value of the point, which were published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, No. 6/97 (an increase to 76.50 tolars) and No. 65/98 (an increase to 87.40 tolars) respectively. By changing the value of the point the resolutions set the notary’s tariff, but they were not passed with the consent of the minister responsible for justice. The change in the notary’s tariff was made without his consent, which is contrary to the second paragraph of Article 107 of the Notaries Act. Thus the resolutions are also incompatible with this provision of the law.

According to the third paragraph of Article 153 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia executive regulations acts and other general acts must be in accordance with the constitution and laws. Since the fifth paragraph of Article 11 of the notary’s tariff and the resolutions on changes to the value of the point are not in accordance with the law, neither are they in accordance with the constitution.

Ombudsman warned the Minister of Justice and the Notaries’ Association of Slovenia of the questionable constitutionality and legality of the cited provision of the notary’s tariff and the resolutions on the change to the value of the point. Unfortunately there was no response in the shape of changing the general acts mentioned. The Human Rights Ombudsman therefore lodged a request for an assessment of constitutionality and legality, with a proposal that the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia rule on the constitutionality and legality of the fifth paragraph of Article 11 of the notary’s tariff and the executive committee of the Notaries’ Association’s two resolutions on changes to the value of the point, and annul them.


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