Press release concerning the opinion of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality
The Peace Institute and Legal-informational center for non-governmental organizations – PIC (Slovenian NGOs) assess the opinion of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality on the complaint claiming that in the case of removal of the Roma family Strojan in the autumn 2006 the authorities were acting in discriminatory way, as biased and unprofessional. On 23 March 2009 the Advocate assessed that in this case “it is not possible to confirm unequal treatment on the basis of ethnicity”. The Advocate of the Principle of Equality is an equality body in Slovenia, competent for examining complaints in cases of alleged discrimination.
The complaint was filed on 29 January 2007 by Slovenian non-governmental organizations Peace Institute and PIC who claim that the treatment by the representatives of the government in power at the time and the police violated the prohibition of discrimination.
The purpose of the complaint was not only to obtain the opinion whether discrimination occurred, but also to verify whether the Advocate, which functions within the Government Office for Equal Opportunities, is capable of an independent and impartial assessment of discriminatory acts committed by state authorities, including government representatives.
Considering the contents of the opinion it can be concluded that the Advocate is not capable of such independent and impartial assessment. This is demonstrated by the following professional errors: in his opinion the Advocate ignored most of the allegations of the claimants; he required more information from numerous state bodies, but in his opinion only those are mentioned that show the Roma family in a negative way; he avoided assessing individual discriminatory acts and instead put the events in a broader context, and thereof tried to justify the treatment of the police and the government with political arguments; the biased selection of words show that he agrees with the explanation of the minister of interior at that time; he states that the intent of unequal treatment should be assessed even though according to legal theory it is the result and not the intent that is relevant in the assessment of discriminatory actions; as a guidance for assessment the Advocate used a question whether the living conditions of the family after the removal worsened which is absurd since these conditions could not get any worse then they were before; at the same time this means that in the case of settling the family in a luxury hotel no discrimination could ever be found regardless of the method with which the removal was carried out; the Advocate also non-critically agrees with the argument of the state bodies that they would definitely act in the same way even if the family was Slovenian and lived in the same circumstances, which is not possible to accept or believe; in the opinion he also stated that the statement that minister of interior Mate made (“The Roma will never return again”) could be made by anyone, and ignores the fact that it was the representative of the repressive ministry and the executive branch of the authority who said that, and that his statement shows discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity.
The opinion is the reflection of noncritical justification of the treatment by the government at that time and its contents are completely contrary to the findings of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia and human rights NGOs that this was a case of discrimination.
Besides, the opinion was issued two years and two months after the complaint was indicted and that is totally unreasonable from the protection of the rights of the victims of discriminations’ point of view.
Taking all this into account the above the two NGOs assess the opinion as unprofessional and biased. Therefore we call upon the Advocate of the Principle of Equality Mr. Domen Zupan (who is also the president of the local committee of the youth branch of the previous ruling party) to resign and upon the authorities to change the regulation of the institution of the Advocate in a way that the appointment procedure will ensure impartiality and independence of decisions and prevent the appointment of the party functionaries to this function. The Advocate of the Principle of Equality should be independent from the government and other state bodies, and his or her competency should be strengthened.
Mag. Neža Kogovšek, ll.m.
01 / 234 77 20