Varuh človekovih pravic

Speech at the news conference – international day of human rights (December 1997)

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

May I offer a very warm welcome to all of you who responded to the invitation to our meeting today on the international day of human rights. I firmly believe that all of us gathered here may be united in a brief thought expressed by a great Slovene, Anton Trstenjak: This is about people! I am also convinced that this is the most concise definition of the purpose contained within the general declaration of human rights. And this definition may even serve to encapsulate briefly the role and substance of the efforts undertaken by the human rights ombudsman, as well as the efforts of each one of you, who through your work or at your work are committed to observing and respecting the equal dignity and rights of each person.

We are entering the fiftieth year since the general declaration of human rights was made. As we celebrate this important anniversary, special attention will be paid to a review of the situation in the area of human rights. I am convinced that this jubilee year will also provide an opportunity to eliminate a great many problems which still exist in our country.

One event this year, which was especially important in the area of protection of human rights, was the first reading of the annual reports of the human rights ombudsman for 1995 and 1996 in the National Assembly, where deputies were acquainted with numerous problems encountered by individuals in their dealings with the state. From a great many specific cases, it is possible to establish as the recurrent and overriding theme the fact that individuals are too often powerless in their relations with the inadequately functioning state. The two reports draw attention to numerous tasks which await all three branches of power. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the representatives of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power for their cooperation thus far in resolving problems which affected individuals have addressed to us, and to call on you to work with us in resolving all open questions in the spirit of the general declaration of human rights, the Slovene Constitution and international legal acts to which we are bound.

The commitment to respecting human rights has represented an essential contribution towards the recognition and position Slovenia has gained, and our observance of the international conventions we have signed is one of the fundamental conditions for our intended inclusion in international processes of association. I therefore take great pleasure on this occasion in welcoming here the high representatives of numerous countries. I am convinced that our cooperation in the area of respect and protection of human rights will be strengthened and intensified in the future.

I also extend a welcome to the distinguished representatives of the church, universities and scientific community, the representatives of non-governmental organisations which are committed to the respect and observance of human rights and the representatives of public media. The cooperation of all these different fields of activity and institutions in the protection of human rights is irreplaceable. Tragic experiences teach us that the subordination of human rights to other, supposedly higher and brighter goals, leads only to violence against people. For this reason I should reiterate that various interpretations of expedience cannot be allowed to prevail over the consistent respect of human rights, and in the same way the interests of the state cannot be set above the rights of the individual. Only the consistent respect of personal dignity in the broadest sense of the word can be the path that will inspire us with confidence that our common future will be more human and more peaceful.

I hope that here, in a pleasant atmosphere, you will be able to offer some words regarding the important issues I have mentioned, and to strengthen the foundations for effective mutual cooperation in resolving day-to-day problems.

And as we are rapidly approaching the festive season, may I wish you all a very merry Christmas holiday and much happiness, success and satisfaction in the coming year.

      Ivan Bizjak, ombudsman