SUN, 25 MAY 1997 21:30:26 GMT
AIM Ljubljana, 16 May, 1997
- Although violation of human rights in Slovenia cannot be compared with their violation in various totalitarian regimes, there are still certain unresolved issues in Slovenia due to which the authorities should be concerned -
Do not at any cost go to your native place to get potatoes and other vegetables, because it may cost you your citizenship! This is the lesson which could be drawn from the story of the life of air force pilot M.K., retired for two decades already, who has permanent residence in Slovenia, but Slovenian ministry of internal affairs nevertheless claims that he does not live in this country. What has actually happened?
In May 1991 (a month before proclamation of Slovenian independence), Mr M.K. travelled with his wife to his native place in B&H to collect, from a stretch of land they cultivated, some vegetables and take them home to Slovenia. His only "mistake" was that he had left home when it was still in Yugoslavia, and returned by the time Slovenian independence had already been proclaimed and when the boarder had already been established. In other words, he happened to be in B&H when the war in former SFRY started, and since he had no papers he could not return home in time. The ministry of internal affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, despite all facts and despite knowledge that M.K. has a large family in Slovenia, "established" that Mr. M.K. does not live in Slovenia.
This is only one of the many similar stories members of nations and ethnic groups from other republics of former Yugoslavia could tell, but especially people (of other, but also Slovenian nationality) who used to be employed in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). Although almost six years have gone by since the conflict between the Slovenian territorial defence units and those of the former JNA, there are still persons in Slovenian state administration who seriously violate the fundamental rights of people who were drawn into the war conflict not by their own free will. Their problems have for a few years already been monitored by two organizations for human rights - the non-governmental Helsinki Monitor, headed by Neva Miklavcic-Predan, which was the first organization in Slovenia which offered assistance to this category of inhabitants, and the Office of Guardians of Human Rights of Ivan Bizjak nominated by the goverment. The ones and the others warn that majority of violations of human rights occurred in issuing citizenship, relating to problems of foreigners, housing units which belonged to the former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and pensions.
The main problem is certainly unfounded rejection of appeals for citizenship. Many people have lost their jobs because they had waited for resolution of their requests for citizenship several years, and have in this way actually been pushed into a vicious circle. According to Slovenian laws, a person who is not employed, that is, the one who cannot support oneself by one's work, cannot become a citizen. It therefore happens that it is easier for a foreigner who has just moved to Slovenia to get a citizenship than for those who have lived here, either alone or with their families, for decades. The worst is for those who are claimed to have "participated in the aggression against Slovenia". And all kinds of things can be implied by such terminology. The Ministry of internal affairs has been busy establishing responsibility for participation in military conflicts with the JNA in very strange ways. Many witnesses were anonymous and their testimonies resembled gossip rather than evidence. During the first couple of years, courts, and even the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia just coonfirmed everything they had got from the police. Increased pressure of the agencies for protection of human rights as well as a part of the Slovenian public interrupted this practice, so that nowadays decisions of the ministry of internal affairs are annulled more and more often.
But, the question of citizenship is not the only problem. All social and economic rights of new foreigners in Slovenia are another problem. Slovenia has not resolved their status systematically at all, although it would be necessary to do it. Many Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Muslims, Yugoslavs, Albanians... who have lived in Slovenia for several decades, are not its autochtonous population, so cannot have the status of minorities. Those who have remained here after dissolution of Yugoslavia, but have not used (either because they did not wish to or could not) the offer of the new Slovenian state to comparatively simply acquire the citizenship and all the other necessary papers, are nowadays having problems. Many have been struck out from the register of permanent population, many have even been deprived of their papers by the authorities, so that some have lost their permanent residence and therefrom the right to pension or social insurance. Many who have not been able to resolve the issue of permanent residence permits as foreigners in Slovenia, have not been successful because in issuing permits for permanent residence, the bureaucrats of the ministry of internal affairs stick to the criteria which refer to acquiring citizenship, which is not only quite contrary to international norms, but also to common sense. Another absurdity has also often occurred, about which the guardian of human rights Ivan Bizjak is also warning. Slovenian administration had given firm promises to many that they would become citizens of Slovenia if they brought a certificate that they were not citizens of any other country any more (say, of Serbia, Croatia, B&H...). Some have done it and have been left without any citizenship, because Slovenia, despite promises, has never issued them papers on citizenship. The administration explained it with alleged change of regulations during the procedure.
One of the problems are military housing units, which AIM has already written about on several occasions. After proclamation of independence of Slovenia, housing units which belonged to the JNA were at first taken over by the ministry of defence. Afterwards, this ministry made problems mostly to persons (Slovenians and others) who were given tenancy rights by the JNA during the moratorium and before it. It is interesting that some of them have been evicted, and some have not. According to what criteria it was done, and still is, it has been impossible to find out to this day. About 700 families are still living in complete legal and therefore, existential uncertainty. Misfortune has forced these people to get self-organized and they will probably claim their rights through the European Court for Human Rights, which will not bring any favourable points to Slovenia in its current efforts to become part of Europe. For Slovenian authorities - at least for that reason if they are not at all concerned about the destiny of their inhabitants - should be interested in having these problems resolved. But, for the time being it does not seem that they will be especially excited about it. It will probably be much more difficult to cure the headache than to prevent it, though.
Janja Klasinc AIM