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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 11 OCT 1994 22:31:27 GMT

    Slovenia gets its first ombudsman

    HONEST YES, BUT STILL THE FORMER MINISTER OF POLICE

    Summary: Slovenia has got its first protector of human rights, in other other words and as called everywhere in the world - its first ombudsman. President Kucan proposed and the Parliament elected Ivan Bizjak for the post, a mathematician, Vice-president of Christian Democrats, and - what is most bizzare of all - the former Minister of the interior! Bizjak is well-known as an honourable man who never got involved in any political or other scandals. One of the major reproaches addressed to him in the Parliament even, was that he was against free choice in deciding about childbirth. Despite his virtues, it is assumed that his nomination is more the matter of political bargaining aimed at giving the Christian Democrats a significant post, after the resignation of L. Peterle from the post of the minister of the interior.

    Nowadays, in Slovenia, everything appears to be entangled into politics. Even the choice of the first protector of human rights in the beginning of october, thus resembled more a political act, or better still, a political bargain, than what it should be in normal circumstances - looking for a person, an ombudsman, who is high above any political marketing. The first ombudsman in Slovenia is Ivan Bizjak, the Vice-president of Slovenian Christian Democrats, who was the Chiarman of the Chamber of Municipalities in the previous convocation of the Parliament, and later the minister of internal affairs in the Government of Janez Drnovsek.

    The Slovenian Parliament adopted the Law on the Protector of Human Rights in December last year. According to the Constitution, the central activity of the ombudsman is protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms which are violated either by the state or its agencies, local self-governing institutions (municipalities and other local communities), that is, by bearers of public offices. The Slovenian Constitution offers the possibility of nomination of separate protectors of human rights for different sectors, but this possibility was not used so far. It was determined only that the Ombudsman will have two to four assistants, while he himself was nominated for the term of six years. The protector must be completely independent in his work, and the proceedings he initiates, completely confidental and free of charge for the complainants.

    Ivan Bizjak resigned from the office of the Minister of Internal Affairs last spring because of the incident when four policemen raided the home of an Austrian arms merchant. Even at that time there were rumours that Bizjak could be the possible candidate for the function of the protector of human rights, and soon after that, the official proposition in that sense came from the office of President Kucan, and this raised quite a lot of noise. On the day Bizjak was elected (with the majority of only one vote), his function of the Vice-President of his political party was suspended, of course, which means that he will have to get rid of this "burden" as soon as possible. It is also clear that the political public will watch carefully who he will choose to be his deputies. Especially, whether they will be men from the ranks of Christian Democrats. Namely, Slovenian experience with the ministers shows that, as soon as they got to power they surrounded themselves with men from their parties. It should be taken into account that in six-years' time, when the term of his expires, Ivan Bizjak will be a very important personality for his party.

    So far the personality of Ivan Bizjak has never been stained, not by a single scandal. As a politically and privately moderate man, he never got involved in any political hubbub. This engineer of mathematics is just the opposite of numerous choleric politicians who are rading the Slovenian political scene. In his activities both in the Parliament and the Government, he proved to be a generous, tolerant, wise, unbiassed, objective man who always spoke in favour of respecting human rights.

    His conviction that one must learn to live with differences which are a fact, always came to the surface in all his public appearances. In the past year, even while he was the minister of the interior which might be even more significant, he constantly spoke about human rights which must not remain just empty words written in the Constitution and the law, but implemented in everyday life. He was a successful minister of the interior, or if we quote one of the Slovenian journalists: none had even heard for him until "his own" policemen lay the scandal at his door and he had to resign. One should not forget his role in revealing unlawful actions of men in the Defense Ministry headed by Janez Jansa at the time, which contributed the most to removing him from the office. Even then Bizjak remained independent in relation to the stance of his party which continued supporting Jansa.

    But, there are reproaches as well. He probably gathered most of them when he spoke against the free choice of mothers in deciding about childbirth. Numerous women deputies in Parliament reminded him of that and expressed their doubts about his capabilities to be impartial in his approach to resolving all cases he will encounter in his future work.

    Despite the virtues of this candidate, everything still reminds of a political bargain. President Kucan nominated Bizjak among a number of candidates just a few days after Joze Skoljc was elected Chairman of the Slovenian Parliament without the approval of Christian Democrats, which was the cause of the official resignation of Lojze Peterle. This was a severe blow for Christian Democrats, so some people believe that President Kucan wished to smooth down the coalition conflict between Liberal and Christian Democrats with this move.

    TANJA HROVATIN,AIM