The Ministry of Interior, which was responsible for internal security, maintained effective control of the police. By law, the armed forces did not exercise civil police functions. Members of the security forces occasionally committed human rights abuses.
The country continued its transition from a centrally planned to a market economy. The population was approximately 2 million. Manufacturing accounted for most employment, with machinery and other manufactured products constituting the major exports. GDP growth was estimated at 3.2 percent and inflation at 5.5 percent for the year.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; although there were a few problems in some areas, the law and the judiciary provided effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. Police in several cases allegedly used excessive force against detainees. Credible sources alleged that media self-censorship existed as a result of indirect political and economic pressures. Violence against women was a problem. National minorities (including former Yugoslav residents without legal status) reported some governmental and societal discrimination. Trafficking in women through and to the country for sexual exploitation was a problem.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, human rights observers alleged that police in several cases used excessive force against detainees. The Criminal Code does not separate out torture as a criminal act, but such crimes are prosecuted based on the nature of each incident (i.e., severe physical injury, extreme injury, or extortion of a statement).
The report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) on its September 2001 visit to the country noted that it received some allegations of physical ill-treatment by police, relating essentially to the disproportionate use of force at the time of apprehension. In a few isolated cases, the physical ill-treatment was alleged to have occurred while the person concerned was being transferred in a police vehicle or during questioning by police officers. The alleged ill-treatment consisted primarily of slaps, punches, and kicks. The report noted that the majority of persons met by the CPT delegation who were, or recently had been, detained by police indicated that they had been treated correctly at both time of arrest and during questioning.
Prison conditions generally met international standards; however, jails were overcrowded. Male and female prisoners were held separately, juvenile offenders were held separately from adults, and convicted criminals were held separately from pretrial detainees.
The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers and the media, and such visits took place during the year. The Human Rights Ombudsman and his staff also conducted periodic prison visits.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions.
Police are centrally organized under the supervision of the Police and Security Bureau of the Ministry of Interior. The Bureau oversees the drafting of basic guidelines, security policy, and regulations governing the work of the police and exercises special inspectorial authority in monitoring police performance, with an emphasis on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Police duties include protection of life, personal safety, and property; prevention and investigation of criminal offenses and detection and arrest of perpetrators; maintenance of public order; management and control of traffic on public roads; protection of national borders and border crossings; enforcement of immigration law; protection of certain state structures, individuals, and facilities; and, protection of classified data. The General Police Administration, headed by the General Director of the Police, has overall responsibility for the execution of police duties and directly oversees activities at the national level. Regional police duties are under the jurisdiction of Police Administration Units, whose Directors report to the General Director. Local police tasks fall to individual Police Stations, whose Commanders report to the Director of the relevant Police Administration.
Police corruption and abuse initially were investigated internally. If there was evidence of wrongdoing, the officers involved could be referred to the Ministry of Interior or the prosecutor's office, depending on the severity of the breech. There was anecdotal evidence to suggest that police officers were sometimes subject to informal sanction, such as being transferred to a new, less desirable, assignment, in lieu of being formally disciplined.
The authorities must advise detainees in writing within 24 hours, in their own language, of the reasons for the arrest. Until charges are brought, detention may last up to 6 months; once charges are brought, detention may be prolonged for a maximum of 2 years. Persons detained in excess of 2 years while awaiting trial or while their trial is ongoing must be released pending conclusion of their trial (see Section 1.e.). During the year, there were 1,158 persons in pretrial detention. The problem of lengthy pretrial detention was not widespread, and defendants generally were released on bail, except in the most serious criminal cases. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination.
On September 9, Koper Mayor Boris Popovic was arrested on a series of white collar crime-related charges. Popovic was placed in pretrial detention, a decision that was considered highly unusual for any case involving similar charges for a sitting mayor, prompting allegations that the arrest and detention were politically motivated. On October 7, the Supreme Court ruled Popovic's detention unjustified and he was immediately released. Trial procedures were continuing at year's end.
The Constitution prohibits forced exile, and the Government did not employ it.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. The judiciary generally provided citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.
The judicial system consists of district courts, regional courts, courts of appeals, an administrative court, and the Supreme Court. A nine-member Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of legislation, treaties, and international agreements and is the highest level of appeal for administrative procedures. The speed with which the Constitutional Court considered various cases during the year caused some to question its impartiality. Judges, elected by the National Assembly (Parliament) upon the nomination of the Judicial Council, are constitutionally independent and serve indefinitely, subject to an age limit. The Judicial Council is composed of six sitting judges elected by their peers and five presidential nominees elected by the Parliament.
The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Constitutional provisions include equality before the law, presumption of innocence, due process, open court proceedings, the right of appeal, and a prohibition against double jeopardy. Defendants by law have the right to counsel, and the Government provides counsel for the indigent. These rights were generally respected in practice, although the judicial system was overburdened and as a result, the judicial process frequently was protracted. In some cases, criminal trials reportedly have taken from 2 to 5 years to conclude (see Section 1.d.).
Eligibility to file a denationalization claim depends on the citizenship of the claimant at the time the property was nationalized; however, current citizenship is not a factor in how the claims are processed. The Government did not track the claims of non-citizens separately from those of citizens. Claims filed by individuals who were not resident in the country took longer to resolve because they commonly did not have local legal representation actively engaged in monitoring their cases and because it took longer for them to gather and submit required supporting documentation. Court backlogs also contributed to delays in resolving claims for denationalization of property.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for the protection of privacy, "personal data rights," and the inviolability of the home, mail, and other means of communication, and the Government generally respected these rights and protections in practice.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice; however, there were reports that indirect political and economic pressures continued to influence the media, resulting in occasional self-censorship. There were credible reports that advertisers pressured media outlets to present various issues in certain ways, which resulted in little separation of marketing and editorial decision-making.
The press was active and independent; however, major media did not represent a broad range of political or ethnic interests. The major print media were supported through private investment and advertising, although cultural publications and book publishing received government subsidies. Numerous foreign broadcasts were accessible via satellite and cable. All major towns had radio stations and cable television. A newspaper was published for the ethnic Italian minority living on the Adriatic coast. Bosnian refugees and the Albanian community had newsletters in their own languages. Foreign newspapers, magazines, and journals were widely available. Minority language television and radio broadcasts were available.
Six national television channels were available. Three were part of the government-subsidized RTV Slovenia network, and three were independent, private stations.
The election law requires the media to offer free space and broadcasting time to political parties at election time. Television networks routinely provided public figures and opinion makers from across the political spectrum access to a broad range of programming and advertising opportunities.
Under the direction of the Maribor Prosecutor's office, nine individuals were arrested in mid-September in connection with the 2001 beating of investigative journalist Miro Petek. A special Parliamentary Commission continued to examine whether government officials properly executed their responsibilities in relation to the case.
On February 25, the National Assembly adopted the Law on the Access to Information of Public Character to provide free public access to all such information controlled by state or local institutions and their agents.
The Government did not restrict access to the Internet or academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice. These rights may be restricted only by an act of Parliament in circumstances involving national security, public safety, or protection against infectious diseases.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.
There were no formal requirements for recognition as a religion by the Government. Religious communities must register with the Government's Office for Religious Communities if they wish to be legal entities, and registration entitles such groups to value-added tax rebates. In response to complaints from several groups that the Office had failed to act on their registration applications, the Secretary General of the Government clarified registration procedures and instructed the Office to process outstanding applications. As of September, the Office had approved 3 out of 10 pending applications.
The appropriate role for religious instruction in schools continued to be an issue of debate. The Constitution states that parents are entitled to give their children "a moral and religious upbringing." Only those schools supported by religious bodies taught religion.
The law provides for denationalization (restitution or compensation) of church property--church buildings and support buildings, residences, businesses, and forests--nationalized after World War II by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. By the end of September, the Government had finalized 32,614 (86 percent) of the 38,156 denationalization claims filed. During the year, the Government reallocated existing resources, including judges, to reduce the backlog.
Societal attitudes toward the minority Muslim and Serb Orthodox communities generally were tolerant; however, some persons feared the possible emergence of Muslim fundamentalism.
Interfaith relations were generally amicable, although there was little warmth between the majority Catholic Church and foreign missionary groups that were viewed as aggressive proselytizers.
While there are no governmental restrictions on the Muslim community's freedom of worship, services commonly were held in private homes under cramped conditions. On December 8, 34 years after the project was originally proposed, the Ljubljana Municipality Council approved zoning changes that would permit construction of a mosque and cultural center. This decision met with considerable controversy on a variety of grounds, provoking intolerant statements from a number of local politicians and city officials. On December 23, opponents of the project registered their intention to pursue a referendum on the Council decision; collection of signatures was expected to begin in January 2004. Several other religious communities expressed concern over excessive delays and lack of transparency in municipal building permits.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2003 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government generally respected them in practice. Limitations on these rights may be made only by statute and only where necessary in criminal cases, to control infectious disease, or in wartime.
The Constitution provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status to persons who meet the definition in the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In practice, the Government provided protection against refoulement and granted refugee status or asylum, although there was some concern that border police did not consistently inform individuals of their rights as potential refugees. The Government cooperated with the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. Since potential refugees viewed the country as a transit point rather than a destination, few stayed long enough to be processed as refugees. As a result, the Government provided refuge or temporary protection to only a small number of persons fleeing persecution or civil conflict refugees. During the year, the country granted refugee status to 17 persons and humanitarian refugee status to an additional 20 persons. The issue of the provision of temporary protection did not arise during the year.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens generally exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. The November-December 2002 presidential elections were the most recent elections at the national level. Reform of the country's political and economic structure led to an invitation in 2002 to join the European Union (EU) in May 2004.
There were no restrictions on the participation of women or minorities in politics. There were 12 women in the 90-seat Parliament and 3 women in the 40-seat National Council. A total of 3 of 16 cabinet ministers were female.
The Constitution provides the "autochthonous" (indigenous) Italian and Hungarian minorities the right, as a community, to have at least one representative in the Parliament. However, the Constitution and law do not provide any other minority group, autochthonous or otherwise, the right to be represented as a community in Parliament. On June 2, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a report recommending that the Government consider taking further measures to ensure that all groups of minorities are represented in Parliament.
Twenty distinct Roma communities, each designated autochthonous at the local level, are entitled to a seat on their local municipal councils. At year's end, all but one municipality (Grosuplje) was in compliance with the law in this regard.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international independent 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.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equality before the law regardless of race, sex, disability, language, or social status. The Constitution provides special rights for the autochthonous Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities, and for the small Roma community; these provisions were generally respected in practice.
Violence against women occurred and was underreported; however, awareness of spousal abuse and violence against women increased. SOS Phone, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that provided anonymous emergency counseling and services to domestic violence victims, received thousands of calls throughout the year. The Government partially funded 3 shelters for battered women, which operated at capacity (approximately 40 beds combined) and turned away numerous women. In cases of reported spousal abuse or violence, the police actively intervened and prosecuted offenders.
Prostitution is illegal but decriminalized. Anti-trafficking authorities and NGOs informally estimated that as many as 80 bars and clubs across the country could be engaged in prostitution. Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem (see Section 6.f.).
The law does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment; however, it may be prosecuted under sections of the Criminal Code that prohibit sexual abuse. Sexual harassment and violence remained serious problems.
Government policy provides for equal rights for women and there was no official discrimination against women or minorities in housing, jobs, or education. Under the Constitution, marriage is based on the equality of both spouses, and the Constitution stipulates that the State shall protect the family, motherhood, and fatherhood.
In rural areas, women, even those employed outside the home, bore a disproportionate share of household work and family care, because of a generally conservative social tradition. However, women frequently were active in business and in government executive departments. Although both sexes had the same average period of unemployment, women frequently held lower paying jobs. On average, women's earnings were 89 percent of those of men.
The Constitution stipulates that children "enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms consistent with their age and level of maturity," and the Government is committed to protecting children's rights and welfare.
The Government provided compulsory, free, and universal primary school education for children through grade 9 (ages 14 and 15). Ministry of Education statistics showed an attendance rate of nearly 100 percent of school-aged children. The Government provided universal health care for all citizens, including children.
During the year, police investigated 198 counts of criminal sexual attacks on minors; however, there was no societal pattern of abuse of children. The law provides special protection for children from exploitation and mistreatment. Social workers visited schools regularly to monitor any incidents of mistreatment or abuse of children.
Trafficking in girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem (see Section 6.f.).
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, and in practice the Government generally did not discriminate against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of other state services.
The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and the Government generally enforced these provisions in practice. Modifications of public and private structures to ease access by persons with disabilities continued, although at a slow pace.
According to the 2002 census, minorities made up approximately 17 percent of the population and included 35,642 Croats, 38,964 Serbs, 21,542 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), 10,467 Muslims, 6,243 Hungarians, 6,186 Albanians, 3,246 Roma, and 2,258 Italians.
The Constitution provides for the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons "irrespective of national origin, race, sex, language, religion, political or other beliefs, financial status, birth, education, social status, or whatever other personal circumstance."
The Constitution provides special rights and protections to autochthonous Italian and Hungarian minorities, including the right to use their own national symbols and have bilingual education and the right for each to be represented as a community in Parliament (see Section 3). The Roma minority does not have comparable special rights and protections. The Constitution provides that "the status and special rights of Gypsy communities living in Slovenia shall be such as are determined by statute." By year's end, Parliament had not enacted laws to establish such rights for the Roma community; however, the Government and Roma representatives have discussed possible legislation for several years. A study on measures to combat discrimination in the country, released in May and funded by the European Community (EC) action program to combat discrimination, estimated that 40 percent of Roma in the country were autochthonous.
Ethnic Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Kosovar Albanians, and Roma from Kosovo and Albania were considered "new" minorities; they were not protected by the special constitutional provisions for autochtonous minorities and faced some governmental and societal discrimination. In its June 2 report on Slovenia, the CERD expressed concern that discriminatory attitudes and practices against the Roma may persist and that the distinction between "indigenous" Roma and "new" Roma may give rise to new discrimination.
Regularization of status for non-Slovenian former Yugoslav citizens remained an issue. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) reported that of the 211,830 applications for citizenship received since independence, as of September, 194,507 were approved, 6,542 were refused, 3,825 were being processed, 3,659 were awaiting processing, and 3,297 were rejected for technical reasons such as insufficient documentation. The MOI reported that 12,991 applications for permanent residence have been received since 1999. Of these, 10,980 were approved, 303 were refused, 518 were being processed, 1,069 were stopped while in process, and 121 were rejected for technical reasons.
Approximately 2,300 persons granted "temporary refugee" status after fleeing the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia normalized their status by applying for permanent residency during a 6-month window in 2002-2003 (see Section 2.d.). Some Yugoslavs residing in Slovenia at the time of independence opted not to apply for citizenship in a 6-month window in 1991-92. Subsequently, their records were "erased" from the population register in a move characterized by some as administrative and by others as ethnically motivated. In April, the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional portions of the 1999 law governing the legal status of former Yugoslav citizens, because the law does not recognize the full period in which these "erased" persons resided in the country, nor does it provide them the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. At year's end, Government efforts to resolve the Court's concerns through new legislation remained in progress, despite considerable controversy.
The NGO European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) reported that Roma frequently lived in settlements apart from other communities that were characterized by lack of basic utilities such as electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation. The ERRC also reported that some local authorities developed segregated substandard housing facilities to which Romani communities were forcibly relocated. The ERRC reported that Roma children frequently attended segregated classes or schools and that, in some instances, Roma children were segregated in schools for children with mental disabilities. In its June 2 report, the CERD expressed concern over the practice of educating some Roma children at vocational centers for adults and others in special classes; the Committee encouraged the Government to promote the integration of Roma children into mainstream schools. The May report funded by the EC action program to combat discrimination noted that the enrollment of Roma children to primary schools for children with special needs was ten times higher than the average for the country, reportedly because of their inadequate knowledge of the Slovenian language. The Government attempted to expand education of Roma children both through enrichment programs and their inclusion in public kindergartens.
Roma also reported discrimination in employment, which in turn complicated their housing situation, and they were subject disproportionally to poverty and unemployment. The May report funded by the EC action program to combat discrimination noted that the unemployment rate among Roma was 87 percent.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution stipulates that trade unions, their operation, and their membership shall be free, and workers exercised these rights. All workers, except police and military personnel, were eligible to form and join labor organizations.
Unions formally and in practice were independent of the Government and political parties, although individual union members held positions in the legislature.
The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and there were no reports that it occurred.
There were no restrictions on unions joining or forming federations and affiliating with international union organizations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Government exercised a dominant role in setting the minimum wage and conditions of work; however, in the private sector, wages and working conditions were agreed upon in the 2003-2005 general collective agreement between the labor unions and the Chamber of Economy. This "Social Agreement" included provisions on issues such as wage policy, employment, training, social dialogue, equal opportunity, and taxation. Collective bargaining remained limited.
The Economic and Social Council, comprised of government officials, managers, and union representatives, negotiated public sector wages, collective bargaining rules, and major regulatory changes. Of the 40 members of the upper chamber of Parliament--the National Council--4 represented employers, 4 represented employees, and 4 represented farmers, small business persons, and independent professional persons. If a labor dispute is not resolved, it initially is heard by district-level administrative courts and may be appealed to the Supreme or Constitutional Court, depending on the nature of the complaint.
The Constitution provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right. The law restricts strikes by some public sector employees, primarily the police and members of the military services. Other public sector professionals, such as judges, doctors, and educators, continued to be active in labor issues.
Export processing zones (EPZs) exist in Koper, Maribor, and Nova Gorica. Worker rights in the EPZs are the same as in the rest of the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor
The law prohibits forced or bonded labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see Section 6.f.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum age for employment was 16, although during the harvest season or for other farm chores, younger children did work. Urban employers generally respected the age limits.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The monthly minimum wage was approximately $456 (103,643 tolars), which provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. A new labor law took effect in January, which reduced the workweek to 40 hours and increased the minimum annual leave to 20 days. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for monitoring labor practices and has inspection authority; police are responsible for investigating any violation of the law.
Special commissions controlled by the Ministries of Health and Labor set and enforced standards for occupational health and safety. Workers had the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their continued employment.
Laws and regulations governing worker rights, wages, and working conditions did not generally differentiate between citizens and non-citizens.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, and trafficking of women through and to the country was a problem. In the absence of a law against trafficking, the Government continued to investigate and prosecute traffickers under laws against pimping, procurement of sexual acts, inducement into prostitution, rape, sexual assault, bringing a person in slavery or similar conditions, and the transportation of slaves. Enslavement convictions carry sentences of 1 to 10 years' imprisonment. Persons also can be prosecuted for rape, pimping, procurement of sexual acts, inducement into prostitution, sexual assault, and other related offenses. The penalty ranges from 3 months' to 5 years' imprisonment or, in cases involving minors or forced prostitution, 1 to 10 years' imprisonment. Regional police directorates had departments that investigated trafficking and organized crime.
The country was primarily a transit, and secondarily a destination, country for women and teenage girls trafficked from Southeastern, Eastern, and Central Europe to Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. The country was also a country of origin for a small number of women and teenaged girls trafficked to Western Europe. Victims were trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation.
Government officials generally were not involved in trafficking, although there was anecdotal evidence that some tolerated trafficking at the local level.
The Government has not fully established a system of shelter and protection for victims and witnesses. There is a National Coordinator for Trafficking in Persons and an interagency anti-trafficking working group that based its activities on the national strategy to combat trafficking. The working group, which included parliamentary, NGO, and media representatives, established standard operating procedures for first-responders to ensure that victims receive information about the options and assistance available to them. During the year, a cabinet-level decision enhanced the working group's status and authority.
A study conducted during the year by the International Organization for Migration office identified five common deceptive practices used to recruit women trafficked to the country from Eastern Europe and the Balkans: (1) through offers of employment with no indication of work in the sex industry; (2) through media advertisements promising high wages; (3) through offers of employment in entertainment and dancing; (4) through offers of marriage; and, (5) regarding the conditions under which women will undertake prostitution. Women who were victims of trafficking reportedly were subjected to violence. Organized crime was responsible for some of the trafficking. In general, victims trafficked into the country were not treated as criminals; however, they usually were voluntarily deported either immediately upon apprehension or following their testimony in court.
In September, the domestic NGO Kljuc, in cooperation with the EU and several ministries, established the first shelter devoted to trafficking victims. Kljuc signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Interior that provided victims immunity from prosecution and temporary legal status, including work permits and access to social services. Kljuc also worked to raise public awareness of the trafficking problem, provide legal assistance, counseling, and other services to trafficked women, and improve cooperation among NGOs in the region.
To deter trafficking, the Ministry of Interior produced pamphlets and other informational materials for NGO-run awareness programs to sensitize potential target populations to the dangers of and approaches used by traffickers. The Ministry also worked with NGOs to provide specialized training to police and to assist the small number of victims with reintegration.