News 09 Jul 13

Ex-Yugoslavs ‘Erased’ From Slovenia Seek Compensation

Former Yugoslav citizens who were stripped of their residency rights in Slovenia at the start of the war because they were not Slovene have two weeks left to file for compensation.

Marija Ristic

People who lived in Slovenia but whose residency rights were illegally removed at the beginning of the war in the former Yugoslavia – known as the ‘erased’ – have until July 24 to request compensation or the return of possessions and property from the authorities in Ljubljana.

Igor Mekina, director of the Slovenian NGO Civic Link, said that data gathered so far shows that more than 26 000 people from ex-Yugoslavia had their residency rights taken away in Slovenia in 1991 and 1992 because they were “of other ethnicity”.

“These people lost their permanent residency in Slovenia. The police at the time were taking their documents in the streets, entering their apartments. They lost the right to work, social care, everything. They simply stopped to exist for Slovenia,” Mekina said.

“Their status at the time was worse than that of refugees who fled to Slovenia because of the war, for example. Refugees had at least some documents, while the ‘erased’ didn’t have even that,” he added.

When Slovenia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in June 25, 1991, only those who had Slovenian citizenship in the old state got the new one.

Citizens of the other countries of the former Yugoslavia who were at the time legal residents of Slovenia were taken of the residency list and their documents and property were taken away.

Aleksandar Todorovic, a Serb who lived in Slovenia in 1991, said that he and his family were barely survived the years after their legal status was taken away.

“I couldn’t do anything. I could even buy a sweet for my child. I was afraid to go out, I was running away from the police all the time,” Todorovic said.

“Even my child was denied any rights. Years afterwards, we managed to prove that I am her father, because for the Slovenian state I simply didn’t exist,” he adds.

Milan Culibrk, who was stripped of his residency at the same time as Todorovic, said that other former Yugoslav countries should be blamed for not helping their own citizens to protect their rights.

“States in the region are very passive; they pretend that this is only a Slovenian problem. Our states forgot us, we don’t have information what is happening in Slovenia, nor how to obtain our rights,” Culibrk said.

In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Slovenia had violated the rights of six people who appealed because their residency rights were removed in 1992, and ordered the country to pay them 20,000 euro each in compensation.  

After their victory, another 648 lawsuits were filed against Slovenia at the Strasbourg court.

Natasa Kandic, coordinator of the regional fact-finding commission about the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia, RECOM, said that the issue was “the most severe violation of human rights in Slovenia”.

“It is clear that these people were erased because of their ethnic background,” Kandic said.

To receive compensation, those affected first need to send a request to the authorities in Ljubljana by July 24 and then file a lawsuit at the Strasbourg court, Kandic explained.

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