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ECtHR holds Slovenia responsible for the ‘Erasure’

by EUDO CITIZENSHIP/CITSEE expert Jelena Dzankic

The ruling in the case of Kuric and others v. Slovenia (application no. 26828/06), of the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) has concluded that the “Erasure” from the Slovenian Register of Permanent Residents of eight out of the eleven applicants constituted a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which protects private and family life. In the ruling delivered on 13 July 2010, the ECtHR also found Slovenia in breach of Article 13 of the ECHR, due to the failure of the state authorities to provide the applicants with an effective remedy before a domestic authority.

The applicants contended that their names had been removed from Register of Permanent Residents on 26 February 1992. The removal of 18,305 citizens (data published by the Slovenian government) from the Register occurred at the time of the Yugoslav dissolution. The ‘erased’ were citizens of the other republics of the former Yugoslavia who resided in Slovenia at the time of its independence, but who did not obtain Slovene citizenship under Article 40 of the 1991 Citizenship Act. The ‘erased’ were ‘new minorities’, which included ethnic Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Kosovans or Roma, that is, mostly people who at the time of the Yugoslav dissolution possessed the federal citizenship and the citizenship of a republic other than Slovenia but had long term factual residence in Slovenia. While some of the ‘erased’ had no interest in obtaining Slovenian citizenship, others were unaware that they were not Slovenian citizens, or their applications were rejected on the grounds of the belief that they posed a threat to public order or the security of Slovenia (Article 40, para.3). In some instances, the ‘erased’ were persons who had been granted citizenship of Slovenia, but whose citizenship was subsequently withdrawn by the state authorities.

The consequence of the ‘Erasure’ for the applicants was that they were denied access to Slovenian citizenship, thus leaving some of them de facto stateless. The applicants also maintained that the removal of their names from the Register of Permanent Residents had multiple negative effects on their lives, including expulsion from Slovenia, eviction from their homes, and discrimination in access to healthcare or other social provisions. On the basis of the evidence provided in support of these claims, the ECtHR ruled that Slovenia was in breach of Articles 8 and 13 of the ECHR, and that it was bound to undertake the appropriate measures to enable the applicants to exercise their right to a private and/or family life and to ensure them access to effective remedies in this respect.

In view of this ruling, the ECtHR has been criticised by the Equal Rights Trust (ERT, a third-party intervener in the case), because the Court ruled that no separate violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) had occurred in conjunction with Article 8 of the ECHR. This approach contrasts sharply to the use of Article 14 in the recent Finci and Sejdic v. Bosnia and Herzegovina case on the exclusion of members of the Jewish and Roma minorities from political participation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, noted in the CITSEE blog. In their reaction to the judgment, ERT claimed that the ECtHR failed to adopt a groundbreaking decision, which could have developed into an ‘authoritative legal standard on the equality and non-discrimination of stateless persons’ (ERT 2010).

Sources and further readings:

ECtHR Judgment

ERRC Report on Roma in Slovenia

ERT’s submission to the ECtHR

ERT report on statelessness

EUDO Report on Slovenia