Slovenia Found Responsible by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights for Violations of Rights of the ‘Erased’ People
On 26 June 2012 the Grand Chamber of ECHR delivered a judgment finding the Republic of Slovenia responsible for violating their right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), right to effective remedies (Article 13) and prohibition of discrimination (Article 14).This landmark judgment is a result of a long-lasting joint effort of a team which worked with the support of Open Society Foundations.
The applicants in this case were from a group of ‘erased’ people who were in 1992 unlawfully deprived of their legal status after Slovenia declared its independence. Consequently, they suffered extreme hardship due to prolonged failure of the statue to regularize their legal status in line with the Slovenian Constitutional Court decisions and provide other remedies the violations.
As the violations affected a larger group of people (the official number of the erased people is 25.671), the Grand Chamber conducted a pilot-judgment procedure, ordering the state to set up an ad hoc compensation scheme for the erased people. Namely, the court noted that not even one erased person managed to successfully claim compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages before Slovenian courts, which indicated a systemic problem in the legal system of Slovenia that needs to be remedied.
The applicants in this case were represented by an Italian law firm Lana Lagostena-Bassi. Andrea Saccucci, attorney and professor of international human rights law, who handled the case in the name of the law firm, worked in close cooperation with the Peace Institute, a Slovenian non-profit research organization. Peace Institute has been working on the issue of erasure for over ten years, which was entirely made possible by long-term support of the Open Society Foundations.
The reactions of the Slovenian government observed in the first two weeks after the delivery of the judgment, revealed a lack of capability to face the facts and accept responsibility for the violations. Prime Minister Janez Janša, who was a member of the government also in 1992 when the erasure was executed, stated on 28 June that “Slovenia does not have the money for compensations”. Further, the Minister of Interior Vinko Gorenak(who was in 1992 a member of the cabinet of the then Minister of Interior Igor Bavčar) named the erased people “cheats” and wrote on his blog on 1 July that“first all cheats will be eliminated” from the compensation scheme and then “all the other individuals who have possibility suffered any injustices will be dealt with individually at the constant consideration of the financial resources.” The statements clearly show the lack of respect for the European Court and its judgment which found that a violation has been caused to all of the erased people.
Lev Kreft, Director of the Peace Institute
Neža Kogovšek Šalamon, Head of projects on the issue of erasure