The Human Rights Ombudsman welcomes the publication of the European Commission’s 2022 Rule of Law Report. The report addresses four areas in detail: the justice system, anti-corruption, media pluralism and freedom, and other institutional issues that have an impact on national systems of checks and balances in Member States.
This year’s report for the first time contains specific recommendations addressed to each Member State. Slovenia has received a number of recommendations that shine a light on the weaknesses in the functioning of the rule of law in the country. ‘Although the recommendations are not legally binding, I urge all the relevant institutions to study them and enact them into Slovenian law. Expert-level discussions of the report are already under way in a number of countries with a view to improving the rule of law. I hope that Slovenia will also hold public, detailed, expert-level discussions on the Commission’s report. It is only through public discussion and the exchange of opinions between decision-makers, civil servants, judges, academics and representatives of independent institutions that we will be able to implement the recommendations quickly, to the benefit of the country’s citizens,’ said Ombudsman Peter Svetina.
To compile the report, the Commission used information and data from the countries themselves, as well as a range of other sources. A major report on Slovenia was also drafted in English by the Ombudsman’s office and submitted as part of a wider regional report drawn up by the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI).
In its submission to the Commission, the Human Rights Ombudsman gave proposals for improving the rule of law stemming from specific cases it has dealt with, from other activities undertaken by the Ombudsman and from the recommendations that the Ombudsman has addressed to various institutions and that also form part of the annual reports to the National Assembly. In the area of justice, the Ombudsman highlights the need to pass further measures to improve access to legal aid and adopt legislative amendments that will ensure that all victims of crime receive compensation regardless of nationality. It also points out that the state should act urgently to secure sufficient numbers of experts in family law cases, as the shortfall in numbers is leading to a violation of children’s rights. Regarding the workings of the Ombudsman’s office itself, one recommendation relates to amending the legislation in order to strengthen the operations of the institution in line with international standards. The Ombudsman urges everyone involved to comply with the Constitutional Court’s decision regarding the financial autonomy of four independent institutions. It also warned that a growing number of Constitutional Court decisions were still awaiting enforcement and recommended that a mechanism be established, along the lines of the mechanism in place at the European Court of Human Rights, for providing expert support for the enforcement of Constitutional Court decisions. Regarding media plurality and freedom of speech, the Ombudsman highlights the issue of hate speech and the need for amendments to be made to the Media Act that specify the ways in which the public interest can be protected, measures for removing unlawful content or hate speech, and sanctions for media that allow hate speech on their platforms. It also highlights the issue of the rise in strategic lawsuits against journalists and human rights advocates (SLAPP) , and calls for immediate implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive from 2019, which Slovenia is already considerably behind in transposing. The Ombudsman’s office also told the Commission that Slovenia was slipping down the Press Freedom Index, which is published every year by Reporters Without Borders.