The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, has ended a nine-day visit to Slovenia urging continued progress in important legislative and policy changes to protect the rights of minorities, especially the Roma community.
Geneva, April 13, 2018.- “The government has created and strengthened a number of important mechanisms and legislations to empower and protect minorities, but implementation needs to be improved in some respects,” said Mr. de Varennes.
“Hungarian and Italian minorities enjoy a number of rights that are guaranteed by the constitution and legislation. This is a good example in terms of providing a positive protection environment for those particular communities,” the Special Rapporteur noted.
Mr. de Varennes added that the Roma community continued to be the most vulnerable and exposed and required immediate practical steps by the government to address some pressing issues.
“The Roma community faces ongoing difficulties over legalizing settlements, accessing drinking water, sanitation and electricity and difficulties in obtaining employment, housing and public services. The Roma people continue to be disproportionately the targets of hate speech, which the authorities also need to tackle more aggressively and effectively,” said the UN expert.
“While there has been some progress on the legislative level including the adoption of the Roma Community Act of 2007, to which new amendments are being considered, the most serious challenges such as the legal status of Roma settlements need to be addressed more directly and comprehensively,” the Special Rapporteur noted.
The Special Rapporteur stressed the need to remove the distinction between autochthonous and non-autochthonous Roma communities when it comes to implementation of programmes. He also stressed that “all relevant bodies and mechanisms need to ensure a fair and wide representation for all components of the Roma and Sinti communities”.
“In order to address many of these issues, it is important to ensure the collection of appropriate information on various minorities including the Roma. This type of data is currently lacking and would be critical in devising strategies, policies and programmes when dealing with the rights of minorities in areas such as education, health and employment,” Mr. de Varennes stressed.
The UN expert also stated that it was essential that Slovenia put in place comprehensive national legislation to protect the rights of all minorities, including communities from the former Yugoslavia, while respecting the constitutional rights already in place for the Hungarian, Italian and Roma minorities. He made clear that it was also important to address issues related to those communities, particularly in the fields of education, culture, media and language.
The Special Rapporteur added that his visit included the deaf and hard of hearing communities as they are members of a linguistic minority and pointed to the importance of the use of sign language in areas such as education as a medium of instruction. He said it was important to accept sign language and to recognize it officially, as was increasingly occurring in a number of countries.
“One of the issues that I also explored is hate speech. Although incidents remain relatively low, it is an aspect that needs to monitored and data systematically collected,” Mr. de Varennes added.
“Slovenia is advanced in terms of existing mechanisms and independent institutions that deal with issues pertaining to human rights and minorities, including the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Advocate for the Principle of Equality. However, those entities still need to be expanded and strengthened with all resources necessary.”
The Special Rapporteur will present a detailed report on his visit to a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council.