Slovenija pred Evropskim sodiščem za človekove pravice (1994–2016) / Slovenia before the European Court of Human Rights (1994-2016)

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Knjiga »Slovenija pred Evropskim sodiščem za človekove pravice (1994–2016) / Slovenia before the European Court of Human Rights (1994-2016)« je rezultat večmesečnega dela skupine študentov in njihovega mentorja, ki so jo pro bono pripravili v okviru nastajajoče Klinike o Evropski konvenciji o varstvu človekovih pravic in temeljnih svoboščin. Kot prva takšna publikacija v slovenskem javnem prostoru predstavlja in analizira nastop in rezultate Slovenije pred ESČP od leta 1994, ko je Slovenija postala država pogodbenica, do konca leta 2016.

Documentary on Tito’s Murder Squads

German TVs “Bayerischer Rundfunk” and “Deutsche Welle” have recently aired an excellent documentary on “Tito’s Murders Squads – The Killing of Yugoslav Exiles in Germany”. The title refers to the killings and liquidations of the political opponents (of Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian Slovenian nationality) of the former Yugoslav communist regime in 1970s and 1980s in West Germany by the Yugoslav secret police. A documentary webpage is available here and you can watch the documentary here. 

The European Court of Human Rights, and Slovenia

The European Court of Human Rights recently published statistics for 2014, specifying a number of violations by Article and State. The Russian Federation, Turkey and Romania top the statistics for number of the Court’s judgements, followed by Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ukraine and more and less surprisingly also Slovenia. The ranking is similar when examining only judgements where the Court found at least one violation of the European Convention. It is not necessary to emphasise that Slovenia is by far the smallest country among the above and therefore carries the title of “champion” of the number of ECtHR judgements per inhabitant. For example, with a population that is 23 times bigger Spain has only received 6 judgements, 4 of which found violations.

The annual report for 2013 shows that by the end of that year the European Court had found a violation of at least one Article of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in 275 cases against Slovenia. If we add the figures from 2014 to this, when the ECtHR found violations in 29 cases, the ECtHR has thus far found that since 1994 Slovenia has violated the European Convention in 304 cases. Again, this puts the country on top of the list of judgements finding violations by the number of inhabitants. Most judgements relate to violations of the prohibition on inhumane and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial within a reasonable period of time, and the right to an effective remedy. It therefore seems that the situation regarding the protection and realisation of human rights in Slovenia is not improving but, on the contrary, generally becoming worse. It seems that in the past year its position has further cemented. These statistics are more than alarming and call for careful and serious consideration. They have reached the level of seriousness that state institutions in Slovenia can no longer just sweep them under the rug if they wish to be seen as caring about improving the human rights situation in the country.

Why is the number of European Court judgements finding such violations so high in Slovenia in particular, why has the protection of human rights there not improved, and why has it even deteriorated over the past year? Problems cannot be solely ascribed to a lack of knowledge of the European Convention and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, but are most likely also due to a lack of awareness about the seriousness of the problem. This absence of serious treatment of such systematic and global problems arises from all branches of power in Slovenia, especially the judiciary, as well as from the authorities, which should work for the better protection of human rights in Slovenia.

Neglect of this general and systematic problem is therefore reflected in the institutional malnutrition of government bodies that represent Slovenia in front of the European Court of Human Rights, and in the absence of institutions that should be responsible for implementing the European Convention and for enforcing European Court of Human Rights judgements. A few years ago Croatia, which is also facing many difficulties, although to a smaller extent than in Slovenia, established a special office representative of the Republic of Croatia to the European Court of Human Rights, which not only represents the country but is also responsible for enforcing the European court’s judgements against Croatia in the Croatian legal system. If nothing else, this institution highlights the commitment of the Croatian state with respect to the European Convention and the implementation of the ECtHR’s judgements.

Ignorance, indifference, unequal treatment and hypocrisy are often difficulties frustrating the effective protection of human rights in Slovenia. These problems are certainly not insurmountable. The holders of judicial office should be properly educated in order to gain insights into the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. Of course, problems may arise if individuals are reluctant to learn about the European court’s case law and apply it in their subsequent work or they receive signals from their superiors that such a reference is undesirable. The administrative part of the executive branch of government could have done more to disseminate the Convention and the other documents in the field of human rights protection.

What is more, the Slovenian legal order faces massive problems in the execution of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, no institution effectively coordinates (with the exception of payment of just satisfaction) the execution of judgements so that the majority, apart from some of that court’s most notorious judgements, remain unexecuted. General and individual measures have not been taken and put in force in the majority of cases. Moreover, among both the lay and professional public, an erroneous view has emerged that that a judgement of the European Court only generates international legal obligations and that the Slovenian legal system does not need to comply with them.

The more than 300 judgements since the beginning of Slovenia’s ratification of the European Convention clearly show that the Slovenian legal system and Slovenian society in general have failed to carry out systematic and all general and individual measures to ensure the effective protection of human rights. Tip-toeing away from these problems is no longer possible since that only leads to maintenance of the catastrophic status quo, creates new problems and exacerbates the already poor record of human rights protection. The 1,700 complaints before the European Court still pending against Slovenia illustrate the latter. Slovenia has already paid several million euros in compensation to complainants who have succeeded before the European Court. State institutions in Slovenia need to start with real work in order to eliminate violations and reduce the number of complaints and judgements to finally achieve the effective protection of human rights.

ECHR in Croatia and Slovenia

Akademski forum_dec2014_SI-HR-1-2Jean Monnet Academic Forum took place last week at the Graduate School of Government and European Studies at Brdo pri Kranju on the topic of implementation of the European  Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Slovenia and Croatia (with Goranka Lalić Novak and Vedran Đulabić as guests). The Forum was convened within the bilateral Slovenian-Croatian research project on the implementation of the ECHR in the Croatian and Slovenian legal order in terms of both procedural and substantive human rights. Both countries have faced difficulties in implementing ECHR and executing Court’s judgments. The bilateral project investigates if and how Croatian and Slovenian administrative and judicial authorities apply the ECHR. It identifies if the Croatian and Slovenian Constitutional Courts in their decisions apply and refer to the European Convention and the European Court of Human Rights. This research project focuses also on the question of what added value the ECHR provides for the constitutional protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Croatian and Slovenian legal order.

Jean Monnet Forum on fair trial guarantees in Slovenia

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Interesting discussion on fair trial guarantees in Slovenia took place on 25 November 2014 at the Jean Monnet Academic Forum of the Graduate School of Government and European Studies in Kranj with two excellent lawyers : Marko Šorli, judge at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, and Ivan Kukar, attorney at law.