MINELRES: Justice Initiative Seeks Relief for Slovenia's "Erased" Citizens
Tue Oct 23 18:13:40 2007
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Open Society Justice Initiative
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JUSTICE INITIATIVE SEEKS RELIEF FOR SLOVENIA'S "ERASED" CITIZENS
~ Brief for European Court Highlights Statelessness ~
Strasbourg, October 16, 2007 — The Open Society Justice Initiative
submitted comments to the European Court of Human Rights this week
highlighting the plight of thousands of residents of Slovenia who were
unjustly "erased" from the government's register of citizens in 1996.
The comments were submitted in the case of Makuc and Others v. Slovenia.
In the case, 11 long-term residents of Slovenia are challenging the
Slovene government's stripping them of legal status. The government's
action, which followed Slovenia's succession from Yugoslavia, left them
no meaningful opportunity to obtain Slovene citizenship.
"This is a pivotal opportunity for the European Court to rectify the
Slovene government's arbitrary denial of nationality," said Robert O.
Varenik, acting executive director of the Open Society Justice
Initiative. "Slovenia's actions effectively rendered most of these
applicants stateless, in violation of international law."
After the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the emergence of an independent
Slovenia, the new state adopted laws allowing residents to apply for
Slovene citizenship. However, the citizenship application process was
cumbersome and the government did not publicize it effectively. As a
result, thousands of legal residents of Slovenia did not apply. In 1996,
the Slovene government literally erased the names of 18,305 residents
from its register of citizens. These names were placed on a register of
foreigners residing illegally in Slovenia. Since then, these "erased"
citizens have been denied social services including health care and
schooling, and some have been rendered stateless.
The Justice Initiative's brief argues that the Slovene government's
action violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights,
which protects individuals' right to sustain the personal, social, and
economic relations that link them to the society in which they
habitually reside. It also argues that the erasure in Slovenia was
discriminatory because it disproportionately affected ethnic minorities,
especially Roma. A copy of the brief is available here.
"Although the European Convention does not explicitly recognize the
right to nationality, Slovenia's actions are still constrained by human
rights law and the country must be held accountable under existing
standards," said Varenik.
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The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute , pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines
litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination
of knowledge to secure advances in the following priority areas:
national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information
and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja,
Budapest, and New York.
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