Following letter was delivered personally to Premier Drnovšek by US Congressmen
Porter and Hoyer of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, a
of the US Congress headed by Senator Alfonse D'Amato. As the US Congress prepares its concurrent Resolution on property restitution in former Communist country it formally warns Slovenia about violation of human rights in Slovenia.
Text of the letter follows
Text of the letter follows
May 22, 1998
The Honorable Janez Drnovsek
Ljubljana, Republic of Slovenia
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
We appreciate the opportunity to express our concern regarding respect for the rule of law and property rights in Slovenia. In particular, we urge your government to take immediate steps to ensure that the legal rights of all persons, including American citizens, to their family's properties are respected under Slovenia's property restitution program.
We appreciate the extraordinary challenges each post-Communist country faces in trying to undo the past wrongs inflicted by Communist regimes in Europe. Among the most complicated issues for new democracies to address are claims by individuals and religious communities for the return of wrongfully confiscated property. Nonetheless, if a country chooses to enact restitution or compensation laws, as Slovenia did in 1991, the process must be just, fair, and nondiscriminatory. Once a restitution or compensation law is adopted, the government must further ensure that the law is implemented effectively and according to the rule of law.
The Commission was contacted recently by two groups of people whose properties were confiscated by Communists-one group consists of American citizens, formerly Yugoslav citizens, and the other is a Ljubljana-based group that claims to represent 200,000 Slovenian citizens. According to these organizations. Slovenia's Denationalization Law employs a broad eligibility criterion that permits claims from most former Yugoslav citizens, or their heirs, regardless of current citizenship. Nevertheless, despite clear mandates in the law requiring action on filed claims within one year, the vast majority of the claims are still pending without resolution seven years after the Denationalization Law was passed and five years after the filing deadline. Of the approximately 40,000 applications filed by the 1993 deadline, only thirty-five percent of the individual claims filed had been resolved by the end of 1997; sixty-five percent of the claims had received no action or only dilatory action. Individuals who have contacted the Commission maintain that, while enactment of the Denationalization Law was a significant democratic initiative, serious problems persist in the Slovenian Government's willingness to implement the law. Essentially, the government has not shown the political will to return property and has failed to take the administrative measures needed to implement the legislation. As a result, the Denationalization Law has not been implemented in accordance with the rule of law.
Prompt resolution of these cases is imperative on a moral level for the sake of the former Yugoslav population, many of whom are already quite elderly, that suffered under Communist tyranny. Slovenians deserve to enjoy the rule of law. We urge your government to implement the Denationalization Law effectively, and swiftly, and to restore private property rights in Slovenia as recognized under contemporary international law and the Slovenian Constitution. Doing so will demonstrate Slovenia's commitment to the rule of law, will move Slovenia forward in the establishment of a free market economy, will encourage foreign investment and, perhaps most important, will close a painful chapter in Slovenia's Communist past.
Our Commission is actively engaged In the issue of property claims stemming from Fascist and Communist-era confiscations. As you may be aware, the Commission held a hearing in 1996 regarding, the issue of properties confiscated by formerly Communist regimes. Further hearings are anticipated this year. Legislation has been introduced in Congress by Members serving on the Commission which urges the governments of post-Communist countries to pass and effectively implement laws that provide for restitution of, or compensation for, plundered property.
Mr. Prime Minister, in your effort to address the very complex and difficult issue of property restitution, we ask that Slovenia ensure that all those with legitimate claims, whether current or former citizens, be given fair and equitable treatment and that their claims be adjudicated in accordance with the rule of law.
STENY H. HOYER, M.C. Ranking Member, JOHN EDWARD PORTER, M.C.