Property Rights Violations by Slovenian Government

The following is the letter sent on June 6, 1996 to John F. Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (Department of State, 2201 C Street, N.W.Washington DC 20250)

Property Rights Violations by Slovenian Government

Dear Mr Shattuck:

I have read the Department of State Report Slovenia Human Rights Practices, 1995, prepared by the Department of State in March 1996 as published on the Internet I note that, as in the previous years, your report does not deal with the country's performance in the area of property rights.

On June 5, 1996 I made an inquiry in this connection with Mr Jim Bigus, Deputy Office Director in your Bureau, who said that the above reports are prepared in response to a Congressional mandate and that Congress did not require that the matter of the human right to own and enjoy property be included in the Department of State reports. Although Mr Bigus did not identify the legislation in question it appears that 22 USC 2304 (b) is the statutory authority to which he referred. That statute, however, calls for a "full and complete report ... with respect to practices regarding the observance and respect for internationally recognized human rights in each country proposed as a recipient of security assistance." It would seem that since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17, states:

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others, and
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property

your report on human rights practices should include a description on how this particular human right is observed.In case of the Republic of Slovenia. Serious complaints have been lodged against its governments failure to comply with the so-called Law of Denationalization. Although the newly founded republic passed a law to the effect that restitution of confiscated property would be made, there is evidence that the government's bureaucracy, which is by and large staffed by former communists or their descendants, is systematically and deliberately obstructing the implementation of this law to such extent that it has been rendered virtually ineffective. This has been amply documented by the Association of the Owners of Confiscated Property, the Slovenian World Congress, and the Centre for Research Into Communist Economies (The South Slav Journal, v. 16, Spring-Summer 1995, p.88). It is disconcerting that the Department of State shows nointerest in reporting on this issue, particularly because there is evidence of discriminatory treatment of those claimants who are now citizens of the United States and who should receive restitution of their property under the Slovenian denationalization law of 1992. As a general observation I would add that the entire human rights report on Slovenia reads as if the staff used as its source material the public relations handouts provided by the Slovenian government and did no independent research and evaluation.

There certainly have been reports on arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, reports on discrimination, based on national origin and political influences, and directives to the judges in court proceedings. One such report was submitted to the International Helsinki Federation meeting on November 7, 1996 by the spokeswoman of the Helsinki Monitor Slovenia. I am aware that the author of the report has been primarily focusing on the cases of former members of the Yugoslav People's Army who may have been involved in overtly hostile acts against the Republic of Slovenia. However, I believe that such reports should be evaluated and discussed rather than ignored by your analysts.

In summary I am requesting that the Department of State look into the situation of how the property claims of American citizens aretreated by the government of Slovenia and take appropriate steps toensure that these are settled expediently and fairly.