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2020 opened cracks in respect for human rights, says Ombudsman Svetina at the submission of the reports

“2020 had a profound impact on people’s lives. In such circumstances, the institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman received as many as a third more cases than in previous years. We processed 6,852 cases and detected violations of human rights or fundamental freedoms and other irregularities in approximately 500 initiatives,” said Ombudsman Peter Svetina when submitting the 26th Ombudsman's annual report and 13th report of the National Preventive Mechanism to the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Igor Zorčič.

He assessed that the Government of the Republic of Slovenia had to react as quickly as possible in the given emergency situation for the protection of public health, so interference with rights was inevitable. “In many cases, it seemed that the measures were taken without an in-depth assessment of their impact on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law or democratic standards. This is one of the reasons why I have always emphasised the need to tackle the epidemic in accordance with certain standards, which means that the measures taken should be legitimate, i.e. proportionate, non-discriminatory, necessary to achieve the goal, professionally justified, legal (and adopted transparently and in accordance with the appropriate procedure) and of limited duration. I also emphasised the importance of building general confidence in the conduct of the authorities and pointed out that the measures introduced must be clear, properly explained and widely accessible. And I am glad that the Government examined the opinions or critical remarks of the Ombudsman and in many cases also considered them, which ultimately resulted in corrections of individual measures or ordinances,” said Peter Svetina.

He recalled that he was, in a year that many found extremely difficult, in regular personal contact with the responsible institutions from various branches of power, reminding them of the importance of respecting international and constitutional human rights standards. “In 2020, our colleagues and I addressed 43 different inquiries, opinions, proposals, calls, critical remarks and recommendations to the Government alone. Many more were addressed to the ministries, and almost all of them concerned measures related to the protection of rights during the epidemic. Despite numerous restrictions, the Ombudsman continued to carry out the tasks and powers of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), visited 51 places of detention, monitored two returns of foreigners and issued 329 recommendations,” said Ombudsman Svetina.

“The cracks that have appeared in the field of human rights over the years and have not been resolved have deepened even further in the last, pandemic year. COVID has brought them to the surface, and people’s hardships have increased in many areas, even though we do not acknowledge them or do not even know about them. The Ombudsman’s office, however, deals with them on a daily basis, and the fact is that we will all have to step out of our bubbles and take action if we truly and sincerely want a faster, better and higher-quality recovery for society as a whole and a fairer future for all. As Ombudsman, I hope these were not just empty words. I wish we were finally guided by actions. This is my sincere wish upon this year's submission of the Ombudsman's annual report to decision-makers,” Ombudsman Svetina emphasised upon the first submission of the annual reports.

The Ombudsman, who will also submit the report to the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor tomorrow, on 1 July, also believes that the level of respect for human rights must rise to the pre-epidemic level or even higher. 

Annual report of the Human Rights Ombudsman for 2020

Report of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia on Implementation of the Tasks of the National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for 2020