In 2009, when the only law that took into account the special position of the erased people in Slovenia (the Act Regulating the Legal Status of Citizens of Former Yugoslavia Living in the Republic of Slovenia; ZUSDDD) was being drafted, some NGOs in Slovenia were invited to present their suggestions for measures this law should include.
Proposals of non-governmental organisations
The NGOs advocated that the most appropriate solution would be returning permanent residency statuses automatically to all erased persons, because they were all affected in the same way. In other words, since the state authorities did not to revoke the legal status upon assessment of individual circumstances of each person, such circumstances should not be assessed when returning the status either.
If this was not possible and the Government would insist on the legal requirements that the erased persons should meet, then these requirements should be so broad that any erased person, who so wished, could acquire the legal status. Namely, narrowing of the requirements would cause exclusion of certain groups of the erased people who would remain unable to acquire the legal status.
The NGOs also warned that assessing the fulfilment of requirements is time consuming and causes protracting the proceedings; that evidence of fulfilling certain requirements simply do not exist, so that it may occur that the only available evidence would be a statements of the applicants, and that in such a case the erased people would unjustifiably continue to carry the burden of proof of fulfilling the criteria. This required considering an option of reversed burden of proof (by which the state should prove that the erased person does not fulfil the criteria and not the other way around). Besides, the NGOs warned that it would be inappropriate to impose administrative fees for regaining the legal status.
The NGOs also urged for other remedies for the injustices to be adopted. Their position was that the adoption of the law on legal statuses should only be the first step to correct the wrongs, which must be followed by further steps for integration and rehabilitation of victims. These steps are necessary so that those erased people who were absent for a long time could have the opportunity to return, if they so wished, and start a new life in Slovenia.
Have the proposals been taken into consideration?
The comments of the NGOs have partially been taken into account, namely in the part where they demanded such broad requirements for acquiring the status, which would not exclude certain groups of the erased. However, this problem was not entirely avoided because other requirements have been added, particularly the one by which an erased person who was absent from Slovenia has to prove he or she made an attempt to return to Slovenia in five to ten years of their absence. For more information on these requirements see unresolved issues.
Other NGO comments were not taken into account. Lodging an application for a permanent residence permit under ZUSDDD entails paying a very high fee. The burden of proof remains solely on the erased people who are obliged to provide numerous pieces of evidence to confirm their statements, such as written documents, witnesses, statements, certificates. Supplying such evidence is time-consuming, especially considering that many times certificates from other successor states of the former Yugoslavia are required, which also requires acquiring international verifications, translation of documents, etc.
Taking all of these circumstances into account it is not surprising that the process of acquiring a permanent residence permit, if the issued decision is positive, lasts at least nine months. If the decision is negative, the procedure extends several times due to lodging of complaints to the Ministry of the Interior and seeking judicial redress.
In retrospective, we can say that the effects of the NGO recommendations for legislative measures were two-fold. On one hand, Slovenian authorities have finally, after seven years, expressed the required political will and carried out the decisions of the Constitutional Court of 1999 and 2003, which was an important step in terms of respecting the principle of the rule of law.
At the same time it cannot be ignored that the decisions of the Constitutional Court have been carried out in a minimalistic way, and that their enforcement cannot be considered as complete correction of injustices caused by the erasure. Namely, the Constitutional Court did not refer or decide upon all of the injustices suffered by the erased people, therefore, the enforcement of the two decisions did not address these injustices. Many injustices are still waiting to be corrected. The same could be concluded also for the statuses as the current legislation does not permit their return to all the erased residents who would want or need their lost legal status in Slovenia.