On 29 December 2021, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia published the first public competition for bachelor's, master's and doctoral theses in the field of human rights. The aim of the competition was to encourage research activities in the field of human rights by students at all three levels of higher education, with an emphasis on the study of the human rights situation in Slovenia and the implementation of international and European human rights standards in the Slovenian legal order. In addition, it also wanted to contribute to the implementation of the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education in Slovenia.
The competition was open to 9 candidates from Slovenia, who in the period from 1 January to 31 December successfully defended their bachelor's, master's or doctoral thesis at a university or higher education institution in Slovenia or abroad. On 29 September 2022, the Human Rights Ombudsman, Peter Svetina, presented the awards to the winners on the premises of the Ombudsman's institution.
He stressed that the competition was just one step towards promoting research on themes related to respect for human rights. "Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is a basic humanist commitment to see and respect our fellow human beings in all their integrity and to act when their rights are violated. However, in order to live up to this commitment, it is essential that we learn about, analyse and become familiar with human rights issues. Learning and raising awareness about them is only the first step towards an inclusive society," said Ombudsman Svetina at the first award ceremony for human rights works. He expressed the hope that the competition would become a tradition and that educational institutions would further encourage students and doctoral candidates to contribute to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. "Although it sometimes seems so, rights are not self-evident. Centuries of struggle and striving for them can be destroyed in an instant, so it is essential that with each new generation, the values that come with knowledge of human rights be rethought and cemented into the mindset of society, so that healthy progress, rather than regression, takes place," the Ombudsman stressed.
All the submitted works were reviewed by an expert committee consisting of the Deputy Ombudsman and Head of the Centre for Human Rights Miha Horvat, the Deputy Ombudsman Dr. Jože Ruparčič and Dr. Simona Drenik Bavdek, Assistant Head of the Centre for Human Rights. The members of the committee assessed the originality of the topic, the comprehensiveness of the approach to the topic, the professionalism and complexity, the relevance of the assignment in terms of addressing current aspects of human rights in the Republic of Slovenia and the overall quality of the work.
They decided that the first prize in the thesis category would go to Noemi Kapelj for her thesis Violence against Migrants (Faculty of Security Sciences, University of Maribor, 2021). The first place among the received master's theses went to Mihael Leban for his thesis Human Dignity and Guardianship for Adults with Dementia (Faculty of Applied Social Studies in Nova Gorica, 2021), second place to Anže Štrancar for his thesis The Life of the Residents of the Ajdovščina Elderly Home in the Time of the COVID-19 Epidemic (Faculty of Social Work, University of Ljubljana, 2021), and third place to Anja Aleksič for her thesis Women and Children – the Most Frequent Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse (Faculty of Law, University of Maribor, 2021).
The expert committee also rated as excellent the doctoral thesis Independent, Impartial, Accountable Judiciary - a Pillar of the Political Future and the Rule of Law in the European Union (European Faculty of Law, Nova University, 2021), authored by Maja Cigoj.
The award-winning works, which were also briefly presented by the winners at the event, are expected to be available to the public at the Bežigrad General Library in Ljubljana, where the Ombudsman opened a special Ombudsman's Corner on 1 June 2022.