After a heated debate that lasted almost five hours and focused on the erased, the mosque in Ljubljana and the Roma, parliament confirmed late on Wednesday the report of the Human Rights Ombudsman for 2003. With the exception of the opposition National Party (SNS), all parties agreed with the report although several MPs had remarks about recommendations put forward by Ombudsman Matjaz Hanzek.
Along with the report, which was endorsed by 43 votes against ten, MPs also passed 26 recommendations.
Given the increasing social differences, the government was urged to lead a more decisive policy of comprehensive development of the whole society so that all social groups should benefit from such development.
Parliament also backed the ombudsman's initiative to set up a unit within the office that will specialise in monitoring discrimination and intolerance.
The government should furthermore make the effort to implement Constitutional Court rulings in which laws and bylaws were found to be in violation of the Constitution.
Legislators also urged the government to put forward systemic legislation to recognise those ethnic minorities that are not explicitly named in the Constitution.
The government and the offices in charge should also lead a more coordinated policy in resolving the Roma issue, moreover a comprehensive legislative framework needs to be drawn up on the matter, especially in areas of social security and insurance, health care and insurance, employment and education.
Other recommendations made by parliament deal with personal data protection, crime policy, judiciary, police procedures, administrative affairs, health insurance and health care as well as child's rights and domestic violence.
The report, which the Ombudsman submitted to parliament in April, lists a number of reasons why Slovenia cannot be happy with the state of human rights.
Hanzek identified the major problem of the protection of human rights in a number of outbursts of intolerance, most evident in problems surrounding the erased inhabitants of Slovenia and the planned construction of mosque in Ljubljana.
Hanzek told MPs today that the situation in the field of human rights is developing, yet we cannot be completely pleased yet. Mistakes made in the previous years are being repeated, he said.
There is less ignorance towards requests made by the Ombudsman, yet many institutions still need spurring to respond to our queries, he noted, naming the environment, education and labour ministries as the most problematic departments.
Assessing the document on behalf of the government, Justice Ministry State Secretary Karl Erjavec stressed that the government wants to improve the human rights record and therefore takes the reports seriously.
For the Roma, the government has already drafted a strategic plan, while as far as the funding of religious communities is concerned, the government agrees completely with the Ombudsman, he said. A draft law on religious freedom and religious communities is already in the making.
The MPs were largely satisfied with the result, urging the government to implement the recommendations, with praise coming from the ranks of the coalition Liberal Democrats (LDS), United List (ZLSD), Pensioners Party (DeSUS) and the Youth Party (SMS).
However, the Slovenian Democrats (SDS) said they cannot except the recommendations on the erased due to the "ideological addition on the erased at the request of the intolerant governing majority".
Source: STA, 15 July