U.S. Department of State
Slovenia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
January 30, 1998
- Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person
- Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties
- Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
- Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
- Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
- Section 6 Worker Rights
Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic.
Power is shared between a directly elected President, a Prime
Minister, and a bicameral legislature. Since Slovenia's independence
from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, free, fair, and open elections
have characterized the political system. In 1997 elections were
held to elect both a president and representatives to Parliament's
upper house. Constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary
are respected by the Government in practice.
The police are under the effective civilian control
of the Ministry of the Interior. By law the armed forces do not
exercise civil police functions.
The country has made steady progress toward developing
a market economy. The first phase of privatization is now complete,
and sales of remaining large state holdings are planned for 1998.
Trade has been diversified toward the West and the growing markets
of central and eastern Europe. Manufacturing accounted for most
employment, with machinery and other manufactured products comprising
the major exports. Labor force surveys put unemployment at approximately
7 percent, but registration for unemployment assistance is twice
that number. Inflation has remained just below double-digit levels.
Real gross national product grew 2.9 percent in 1997. The currency
is stable, fully convertible, and backed by substantial reserves.
The economy provides citizens with a good standard of living.
The Government respects the human rights of its citizens,
and the law and judiciary provide adequate means of dealing with
individual instances of abuse. An Ombudsman deals with human
rights problems, including citizenship cases. Minorities are
generally treated fairly in practice as well as in law. However,
5,000 to 10,000 non-Slovene (former Yugoslav) residents are without
legal residency status due to the Government's slow processing
of their applications for Slovene citizenship.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of
the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman treatment
as well as "humiliating punishment or treatment," and
there were no reports of such treatment.
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards
and were not the subject of complaint by any human rights organization.
The Government permits prison visits by human rights
monitors and the media. In 1996 the Council of Europe sent a
commission to review prison conditions. The Government accepted
its report and implemented the recommendations for improvements.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, deprivation
of liberty, and the use of exile, and the Government respects
these provisions in practice.
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 have been brought, detention may be prolonged for
a maximum of 2 years. The law also provides safeguards against
self-incrimination. These rights and limitations are respected
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary,
and the Government respects this provision in practice.
The judicial system comprises district courts, regional
courts, a court of appeals, and the Supreme Court as the highest
court. Judges, elected by the State Assembly (Parliament) on
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 State Assembly.
The nine-member Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality
The Constitution provides in great detail for the right
to a fair trial, including provisions for: Equality before the
law, presumption of innocence, due process, open court proceedings,
guarantees of appeal, and a prohibition against double jeopardy.
Defendants by law have the right to counsel, without cost if
need be. These rights are respected in practice, although the
judicial system is so burdened that justice is frequently a protracted
process. In some instances, criminal cases have been reported
to take 2 to 5 years to come to trial. The problem is not widespread,
and defendants are released on bail except in the most serious
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. These rights and
protections are respected in practice, and violations are subject
to effective legal sanction.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties,
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of thought, speech,
public association, the press, and other forms of public communication
and expression. Lingering self-censorship and some indirect political
pressures continue to influence the media.
The press is now a vigorous institution emerging from
its more restricted past. The media span the political spectrum.
The major media do not represent a broad range of ethnic interests,
although there is an Italian-language television channel as well
as a newspaper available to the ethnic Italian minority who live
on the Adriatic Coast. Hungarian radio programming is common
in the northeast where there are about 8,500 ethnic Hungarians.
Bosnian refugees and the Albanian community have newsletters
in their own languages.
Four major daily and several weekly newspapers are published.
Two major daily newspapers with overtly partisan stances ceased
publication due to a level of readership insufficient to support
their costs of operation. The major print media are supported
through private investment and advertising, although the national
broadcaster, RTV Slovenia, enjoys government subsidies, as do
cultural publications and book publishing. There are seven television
channels, four of which are independent private stations. Numerous
foreign broadcasts are available via satellite and cable. All
major towns have radio stations and cable television. Numerous
business and academic publications are available. Foreign newspapers,
magazines, and journals are widely available.
In theory and practice, the media enjoy full freedom
in their journalistic pursuits. However, for over 40 years Slovenia
was ruled by an authoritarian Communist political system, and
reporting about domestic politics may be influenced to some degree
by self-censorship and indirect political pressures.
The election law requires the media to offer free space
and time to political parties at election time. Television networks
routinely give public figures and opinion makers from across the
political spectrum access via a broad range of public interest
The Constitution provides for autonomy and freedom for
universities and other institutions of higher education. There
are two universities, each with numerous affiliated research and
study institutions. Academic freedom is respected, and centers
of higher education are lively and intellectually stimulating.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for the rights of peaceful
assembly, association, and participation in public meetings, and
the Government respects these rights in practice. These rights
can be restricted only in circumstances involving national security,
public safety, or protection against infectious diseases, and
then only by act of the National Assembly.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution explicitly provides for the unfettered
profession of religious and other beliefs in private and in public,
and the Government respects these rights in practice. No person
can be compelled to admit his religious or other beliefs. There
is no state religion. About 70 percent of the population adheres
to the Roman Catholic faith, and 2.5 percent to the Orthodox.
There are also Protestant congregations, especially in the eastern
part of the country. Clergy, missionaries--some from abroad--churches,
and religious groups operate without hindrance.
The appropriate role for religious instruction in the
schools continues to be an issue of debate. The Constitution
states that parents are entitled "to give their children
a moral and religious upbringing...." Before 1945 religion
was much more prominent in the schools, but now only those schools
supported by religious bodies teach religion.
d. Freedom of Movement Within
the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides that each person has the right
to freedom of movement, to choice of place of residence, to leave
the country freely, and to return. Limitations on these rights
may be made only by statute and only where necessary in criminal
cases, to control infectious disease, or in wartime. In practice,
citizens travel widely and often.
The Constitution provides for a right of political asylum
for foreigners and stateless persons "who are persecuted
for their stand on human rights and fundamental freedoms."
The Government cooperates with the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organization
in assisting refugees. The Government provides first asylum (or
"temporary protection") to refugees, and in 1991 granted
this status to 70,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Only 7,000 refugees with temporary protection status remained
by July 31. On that date, the Government abolished temporary
protection status for 2,303 refugees, requiring them either to
return to their homeland or to apply for the status of foreigner
(placing on them the burden of financial support). The remaining
refugees received extended temporary protection status until April
30, 1998 (or until June 30, 1998 if their residence of origin
remains occupied by hostile forces). More than half of the 2,303
refugees whose temporary protection status lapsed have voluntarily
returned to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are no reports
that the Government returned any refugees against their will.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights:
The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens have the right to change their government,
voting by secret ballot on the basis of universal suffrage. Slovenia
has a mixed parliamentary and presidential system. The President
proposes a candidate to the legislature for confirmation as Prime
Minister, after consultations with the leaders of the political
parties in the National Assembly.
There are no restrictions on the participation of women
or minorities in politics. Of the 90 members of Parliament, 8
are women. There are no women in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister's
Office has an active agency for monitoring and promoting the participation
by women in public life.
The Constitution stipulates that the Italian and Hungarian
ethnic communities are each entitled to at least one representative
in the Assembly, regardless of their population.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding
International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Independent human rights monitoring groups promote
respect for human rights and freedoms and freely investigate complaints
about violations. The Government places no obstacles in the way
of investigations by international or local human rights groups.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in 1994 deleted
Slovenia from the group of Yugoslav successor states monitored
by the UNHRC for human rights abuses.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race,
Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equality before
the law, and the Government observed this provision in practice.
According to the 1991 census, the population (excluding refugees)
is approximately 2 million, of whom 1,727,018 are Slovenes and
the remainder persons of 23 other nationalities. There are 54,212
Croats, 47,911 Serbs, 26,842 Muslims, 8,500 Hungarians, and 3,064
The Constitution provides special rights for the "autochthonous
Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities," including the
right to use their own national symbols, enjoy bilingual education,
and other privileges. It also provides for special status and
rights for the small Romani communities, which are observed in
The awareness of spousal abuse and violence against
women is on the rise. There are two shelters for battered women,
which are partially funded by the State; a third was expected
to open during the winter. The existing shelters operate at capacity
(about 30 beds combined) and turn away numerous women every year.
In cases of reported spousal abuse or violence, the police are
active in intervening, and criminal charges are filed.
Equal rights for women are a matter of state policy.
There is no official discrimination against women or minorities
in housing, jobs, education, or other walks of life. Marriage,
under the Constitution, is based on the equality of both spouses.
The Constitution stipulates that the State shall protect the
family, motherhood, and fatherhood.
In rural areas, women, even those employed outside the
home, bear a disproportionate share of household work and family
care because of a generally conservative social tradition. However,
women are frequently encountered in business and in government
Equal pay for equal work for men and women is the norm.
Although both men and women suffer from the loss of work and
both sexes have the same average period of unemployment, women
are still found more often in lower paying jobs.
The Constitution stipulates that children "enjoy
human rights and fundamental freedoms consistent with their age
and level of maturity." Moreover, special protection from
exploitation and maltreatment is provided by statute. Social
workers visit schools regularly to monitor for any incidents of
mistreatment or abuse of children.
The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's
welfare through its system of public education and health care.
There is no societal pattern of abuse against children
People With Disabilities
The disabled are not discriminated against, and the
Government has taken steps to facilitate access to social and
economic opportunities. In practice, modifications of public
and private structures to ease access by the handicapped continue
slowly but steadily.
Minorities make up about 12 percent of the population;
most are nationals of the former Yugoslavia. The Hungarian and
Italian ethnic communities (under 1 percent) enjoy constitutionally
provided representation in the National Assembly. Minorities
are generally treated fairly in practice as well as in law. However,
5,000 to 10,000 non-Slovene (former Yugoslav) residents are without
legal residency status due to the Government's slow processing
of their applications for Slovene citizenship.
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution stipulates that trade unions, their
operation, and their membership shall be free and provides for
the right to strike. Virtually all workers, except the police
and military personnel, are eligible to form and join labor organizations.
In 1993 the National Assembly for the first time passed legislation
restricting strikes by some public sector employees. However,
after government budget-cutting, some public sector professionals
(judges, doctors, and educators) have become increasingly active
on the labor front.
Labor has two main groupings, with constituent branches
throughout the country. A third, much smaller, regional labor
union operates on the Adriatic coast. Unions are formally and
actually independent of the Government and political parties,
but individual union members hold positions in the legislature.
The Constitution provides that the State shall be responsible
for "the creation of opportunities for employment and for
There are no restrictions on unions joining or forming
federations and affiliating with like-minded international union
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The economy is in transition from the former Communist
system, which included some private ownership of enterprises along
with state-controlled and "socially-owned" enterprises.
In the transition to a fully market-based economy, the collective
bargaining process is undergoing change. Formerly, the old Yugoslav
Government had a dominant role in setting the minimum wage and
conditions of work. The Government still exercises this role
to an extent, although in the private sector wages and working
conditions are agreed annually in a general collective agreement
between the "social partners:" the labor unions and
the Chamber of Economy. There are no reports of antiunion discrimination.
Export processing zones have been established in Koper,
Maribor, and Nova Gorica. Worker rights are the same in these
zones as in the rest of the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced and bonded labor, including
by children, and there were no reports of forced labor by adults
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children.
The minimum age for employment is 16 years. Children must remain
in school until the age of 15. During the harvest or for other
farm work, younger children do work. In general, urban employers
respect the age limits.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage is $358 (Sit 59,150) per month effective
in July, which provides a decent standard of living for the average
worker and family. The workweek is 40 hours. In general businesses
provide acceptable conditions of work for their employees. Occupational
health and safety standards are set and enforced by special commissions
controlled by the Ministries of Health and Labor. Workers have
the right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without
jeopardizing their continued employment.