Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic. Power is shared among a directly elected president (head of state), a prime minister (head of government), and a bicameral parliament composed of the National Assembly (lower house) and the National Council (upper house). On June 3, the country held parliamentary elections. Observers considered the elections free and fair.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.
The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were few reports that government officials employed them.
The Office of the Ombudsman for the Protection of Human Rights made numerous unannounced visits to prisons and police stations with representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In most instances, observers noted a marked reduction in complaints of excessive use of force compared with 2017.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Physical conditions were generally acceptable and have recently improved, according to the Office of the Ombudsman for the Protection of Human Rights. There were some reports of inmate mistreatment, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and overcrowding in prisons. There were no reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised significant human rights concerns.
The National Preventive Mechanism on Prevention of Torture visited prisons, social-care homes, hospitals, and other facilities. Local NGOs reported overcrowding in social-care homes, especially in closed departments for mentally ill persons. Prison guard trade unions and others stated that prison staffing was inadequate.
Physical Conditions: Local NGOs reported prison overcrowding remained an issue. The government was building a prison for men in Ljubljana and expanding capacity of a prison for women. The National Preventive Mechanism monitoring group stated prisons lacked adequate numbers of guards and other personnel. Local NGOs reported a lack of rehabilitation activities for prisoners, including employment for those who want to work.
Administration: Authorities investigated accusations of inhuman conditions and documented the results in a publicly accessible manner.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted local and international human rights groups, media, and other independent international bodies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, to monitor prison conditions. The Office of the Ombudsman for the Protection of Human Rights, together with numerous human rights groups and other NGOs, conducted visits to all prisons. The government allowed designated NGOs to monitor the treatment of prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Police performed the country’s basic law-and-order functions, including migration and border control, under the direct supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. The National Investigation Bureau and the Border Police fall under the general police administration in the Interior Ministry. The armed forces are responsible for national defense and are under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. The government, the Parliamentary Oversight Commission, the relevant district court, the ombudsman, the Court of Audits, and the Budget Supervision Office oversee the Intelligence and Security Agency.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the armed forces, police, and the Intelligence and Security Agency, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Police generally made arrests with warrants issued by a prosecutor or judge based on evidence. Authorities may detain suspects for 48 hours before charging them. The law requires authorities to inform suspects of their rights immediately after arrest and to advise detainees in writing within six hours (or within three hours for minor offenses) of the reasons for their arrest. Suspects must have prompt access to a judge to assess whether they qualify for release on bail or should remain incarcerated pending trial. Authorities generally released defendants on bail except in the most serious criminal cases. The law provides for prompt access to immediate family members and recognizes detention under house arrest.
Upon arrest, detainees have the right to contact legal counsel of their choice and the right to counsel during interrogations, and the government protected these rights. While indigent defendants have the right to an attorney provided at public expense, the government did not establish a formal system for providing such legal counsel. The NGO Legal Information Center and the government’s Free Legal Aid Office made free counsel available to indigents. In a 2017 report, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed concern that persons unable to pay for a lawyer could not, as a rule, benefit from the right of access to a lawyer from the very outset of their detention. The report noted, “ex officio lawyers would only be appointed if such an appointment was considered ‘in the interests of justice’ and, if appointed, they would meet detainees only after police questioning, very briefly before the court hearing.”
Pretrial Detention: Once authorities charge a suspect, the law provides for up to four months’ pretrial detention, depending on the severity of the alleged crime. An investigative judge must certify the charges. After trials begin, judicial authorities may extend the total detention period for up to two years. Authorities must release persons detained more than two years while awaiting trial or pending conclusion of their trial.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and to legal counsel.
Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence, not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and to appeal. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination. These rights extend to all defendants.
According to NGOs and advocacy groups, the judicial system was overburdened and lacked administrative support, at times resulting in delays in the judicial process. The government made progress in improving the efficiency of the judiciary, reducing the court backlogs, and lowering the average processing time. A report published in March by the European Commission noted a reduction in the backlog of cases and improved efficiency in the judicial system.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Individuals may appeal court decisions involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) once they exhaust all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.
The government has laws whereby all former persons who were citizens of the former Yugoslavia or Allied nations may recover property confiscated by fascist or Nazi occupying forces. Cases involving property confiscated after 1945-46 are subject to restitution procedures under the Criminal Procedure Act. Cases involving property that was nationalized are subject to restitution procedures under the Denationalization Act of 1991. The Denationalization Act requires claimants to have had Yugoslavia citizenship at the time the property was confiscated and excludes, with some exceptions, property confiscated before 1945.
Although some heirs of Holocaust victims may seek restitution of confiscated property through these laws and mechanisms, NGOs and advocacy groups reported the government did not make significant progress on the resolution of Holocaust-era claims. This includes both former citizens who were required to renounce Yugoslavian citizenship as a condition for emigrating and Holocaust survivors from Yugoslavia and their heirs, who did not return and thus never had Yugoslav citizenship. Some cases involving the restitution of property seized during the communist era (especially from 1946 to 1958) remained unresolved. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) engaged the government regarding Holocaust survivors and their heirs who were not eligible to file claims based on Slovenian law.
Some Holocaust survivors and their relatives, along with Slovene deportees, reclaimed pre-1945 confiscated property through 1945-1946 restitution legislation. Most Holocaust-era claims are categorized as heirless property for which there is no provision in law for restitution or compensation. In March the WJRO and Ministry of Justice agreed to launch a joint research project to compile a historical record as complete as possible of heirless, formerly Jewish-owned properties in the country. In September research teams commenced the project and intend to complete it in 2019.
Some remaining non-Jewish confiscated properties appeared to be untouchable because the parties occupying the sites were politically influential and thwarted attempts to reach a negotiated settlement. For example, since 1993, close ties between the local government’s administrative unit and Radenska d.d., a major mineral water producer, stymied a foreign family’s claims to the Radenci Spa property located on the family’s ancestral lands. Although the Supreme Court rejected the family’s claim in 2015, the litigants appealed to the Constitutional Court, which returned the case to lower courts, where it remained pending consideration at year’s end.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and laws prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits hate speech, which it defines as incitement to hatred, violence, and intolerance based on nationality, race, religion, gender, skin color, social status, political or other beliefs, sexual orientation, and disability in a way that could threaten or disrupt public order. The penalty for conviction of hate speech is up to two years’ imprisonment. The penal code also prohibits the expression of ideas of racial superiority and denial of the Holocaust. Due to extensive criteria necessary for the prosecution of hate speech, police or prosecutors investigated only several dozen cases during the year; of the cases prosecuted, there were no reports of convictions.
There were some highly publicized instances of alleged hate speech. For example, the Ministry of Culture reported the weekly publication Demokracija to the media inspectorate for its August cover showing a photo of seven black hands groping and touching a white woman with the title, “With Migrants Comes the Culture of Rape.” The inspectorate referred the case to police, and as of October it remained pending.
In November Prime Minister Marjan Sarec called on state-owned companies to consider removing advertisements from media sources that spread hateful content. Some NGOs, political parties, and journalist associations hailed Sarec’s call as an important step towards combatting hate speech, while others condemned it as inadmissible political pressure on media and corporate autonomy.
The hotline “Spletno oko” (“Web Eye”) received several hundred reports concerning potential cases of hate speech, but there were no reported prosecutions or convictions for online hate speech.
Several media outlets have required journalists to observe certain guidelines in their private social media interactions.
Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The print and broadcast media, like online newspapers and journals, as well as book publishers, are subject to the laws prohibiting hate speech, libel, and slander.
Violence and Harassment: Journalist associations expressed concern regarding a number of threats and insults against journalists and urged journalists to report threats to police.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Slovenian Association of Journalists and media analysts observed that standards of journalistic integrity suffered because of economic pressure; nonstandard forms of employment, such as freelance or student status; and reduced protections for journalists, leading some to practice self-censorship to maintain steady employment.
Journalists and media representatives stated existing media legislation does not address the problem of excessive concentration of ownership in the media, which limited the diversity of views expressed.
Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, Including for the Media: Based on a proposal from journalist associations and Transparency International, in January parliament passed an amendment to the Public Information Access Act that protects journalists from liability for administrative costs incurred by third parties in rejected freedom of information access requests.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 79 percent of individuals in the country used the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Citizenship: Based on a 2012 decision by the ECHR, in 2013 the government introduced a system for providing just satisfaction (i.e., restitution for damages) for the “erased” citizens of other former Yugoslav republics denied the right to reside legally in the country in the 1990s. To date, more than 10,300 “erased” individuals have regularized their legal status in Slovenia. An additional 3,000 were presumed deceased, and approximately 12,000 were believed to be living abroad with no intention of returning to the country.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
In 2017 the Government Office for the Care and Integration of Migrants began operations. By law this office is responsible for ensuring the country meets its international commitments to provide services and protection to refugees, migrants, and displaced persons by coordinating the efforts of national authorities, NGOs, and other organizations. The office provided material support and accommodation to assist refugees through its asylum center and branches, managed reception and support assistance programs, and engaged with NGOs and international organizations to provide services and resettlement options to migrants. It offered medical services and psychological counseling, oversaw integration services for refugees and immigrants, cooperated with legal representatives of unaccompanied minors, and assisted police in deportation proceedings for those whose asylum claims were denied.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
The local Amnesty International (AI) chapter stated that in early June Slovenian border authorities rejected without due process the asylum applications of at least 51 applicants and sent them back to Croatia. AI detailed its findings based on interviews with 70 individuals in late June near the Bosnia-Croatia border. Among those interviewed, 58 individuals said they reached Slovenia, where 51 individuals (mostly families from Syria, Iran, and Iraq and single men from Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt) said they intended to seek asylum. These individuals claimed Slovenian border police failed to provide interpreters and denied or ignored their requests for asylum, forcibly returning them to Croatian police, who then deported them to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On July 19, former ministry of interior state secretary Bostjan Sefic publicly rejected AI’s allegations and stated border officials behaved professionally and in accordance with all required national and European legislation with respect to human rights and the right to international protection. Slovenian police also rejected accusations of forcibly returning asylum applicants to Croatian police and explained that the returns involved individuals who abused procedures by announcing an intention to file asylum applications but failed to do so.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The Dublin III regulation obligates the country, as a member state of the EU, to consider all EU countries as safe countries of origin and transit. Under the regulation the government may return an asylum seeker entering from another EU country to the country in which the person first entered the EU; however, pursuant to a decision by the ECHR, the government did not return asylum seekers to Greece.
Freedom of Movement: Local NGOs reported unjustifiable limitations on the movement of asylum seekers residing in government-operated integration houses and asserted that no legal grounds existed for these limitations. The NGO Legal Information Center filed a proceeding against the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants on this issue, which was pending at year’s end.
Local NGOs criticized as inappropriate the government’s housing of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers alongside adults in the police-managed Foreigners Home in Postojna. Determining the age of unaccompanied asylum seekers remained a challenge.
Employment: Asylum seekers outside of EU resettlement and relocation programs often waited six or more months for their cases to be adjudicated and were barred from working during the initial nine months of this period, although many reportedly worked illegally. Local NGOs criticized this restriction, asserting it made asylum seekers vulnerable to labor exploitation due to their illegal status, lack of knowledge of local labor laws, and language barriers.
Durable Solutions: In 2016 the government approved an EU plan to relocate 567 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece and to resettle 20 refugees from other non-EU countries. The government also agreed to resettle 40 Syrian refugees from Turkey. As of September, the country had resettled 27 individuals from Turkey. Individuals accepted for resettlement received the same integration services as refugees as well as a three-month orientation program to familiarize them with the country.
Of the 567 refugees that the country agreed to accept in 2016 under the EU relocation plan, 253 lived in the country. In this group 244 have acquired refugee status, and most lived in private homes. In August the government announced the country had fully honored its commitments under the EU relocation plan but was unable to resettle all 567 migrants because Greece and Italy did not submit the necessary documentation. The government provided housing and sufficient resources to meet refugees’ basic needs.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, but the Ministry of Interior did not maintain separate statistics for refugees and those who qualified for subsidiary protection. In the first eight months of the year, the Government Office for Support and Integration of Migrants accepted and housed 2,222 applicants for international protection status. As of late August, there were 523 persons with international protection status in the country.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: On June 3, the country held parliamentary elections in which the Slovenian Democratic Party won the plurality of votes. The List of Marjan Sarec won the second most votes and formed a five-party coalition that assumed office on September 13. Observers considered the elections free and fair.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. The government’s cabinet includes four women ministers. The constitution provides for the National Assembly to include one member each from the Hungarian and Italian minorities.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal and civil penalties for corruption, conflicts of interest, and illegal lobbying by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption, and the public viewed official corruption to be a problem.
Corruption: Despite the country’s well-developed and comprehensive legal framework for identifying and combating corruption, critics asserted implementation and prosecution efforts remained inadequate. Civil society groups claimed conflicts of interest; failure to report outside activities, bribes, and lack of governmental transparency persisted throughout the country’s political and economic spheres, particularly in the fields of energy, construction, and health care.
On the initiative of the principal opposition party, the parliament established several commissions to monitor and combat corruption in the public sector. One commission uncovered evidence suggesting that prices for public procurement of medical equipment far exceeded market prices. No indictments or convictions resulted from these findings. In August authorities indicted 15 individuals for alleged involvement in a scheme whereby medical professionals received kickbacks from medical equipment suppliers for purchasing their products.
Civil society groups and NGOs expressed frustration regarding what they described as the ineffectiveness of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC). Responding to a July 4 Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) report outlining gaps in the country’s anticorruption efforts, the CPC asserted that inadequate funding complicated implementation of GRECO’s recommendations. One of GRECO’s central recommendations was for the government to adopt a code of conduct for members of the National Assembly and National Council, including guidance on conflict of interests, gifts, and misuse of information and public resources, along with credible mechanisms for supervision and sanctions. In its July 4 report, GRECO concluded that Slovenia had not fully implemented this recommendation.
Financial Disclosure: The highest-level officials in the government, the parliament, and the judiciary, or approximately 5,000 of the country’s 170,000 public employees, are subject to financial disclosure laws. There are administrative sanctions for failing to respect these provisions. The government did not make this information available to the public, but it may become part of the public record in other procedures (e.g., criminal or tax cases). The CPC may issue advisory opinions regarding prosecution.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides for an independent human rights ombudsman to monitor violations of human rights. Individuals may file complaints with the independent ombudsman to seek administrative relief in the case of a human rights violation by the government. The independent ombudsman was effective, adequately resourced, reported to parliament annually on the human rights situation, and provided recommendations to the government. The equal opportunities ombudsman’s office, which began working in 2017 with the role of raising awareness and helping prevent all types of discrimination, reported that a lack of resources and personnel limited its effectiveness.