Slovenia Held to Account for Practice of "Erasure" by European Court

On 13 July 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in the case of Kuric and others v. Slovenia (application no. 26828/06), ruled that the “erasure” of the applicants from the Slovenian Register of Permanent Residents and the resulting severe repercussions this had for their private and family life constituted a violation of Article 8 (private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR also found that Slovenia violated Article 13 of the ECHR as it failed to provide the applicants with an effective remedy before a domestic authority.

The eleven applicants had their names “erased” from the Register of Permanent Residents on 26 October 1992. The “erasure” meant that the applicants were denied the opportunity of gaining citizenship and consequently some of the applicants became stateless. They also complained that the removal of their names from the register had serious and negative consequences for them. This included eviction from their homes, discriminatory treatment in access to healthcare and even expulsion from Slovenia.

In finding a violation of Article 8 the ECtHR held:

“[T]he prolonged refusal of the Slovenian authorities to regulate the applicants' situation comprehensively, in line with the [Slovenian] Constitutional Court's decisions, in particular the failure to pass appropriate legislation ... and to issue permanent residence permits to individual applicants, constitutes an interference with the exercise of the applicants' rights to respect for their private and/or family life, especially in cases of statelessness.”

The Equal Rights Trust acted as a third party intervener in the case, submitting that the “erasure” of the applicants and its consequences breached Article 14 (non-discrimination) of the ECHR in conjunction with Article 8 as well as Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (peaceful enjoyment of possessions). However, the Court failed to examine the Article 14 claims concluding that in light of its ruling in relation to Article 8 it was not necessary to rule on this part of the applicants claim.

While the finding in favour of the claimants in this case is a significant victory for all those “erased” from the Register of Permanent Residents, it is regrettable that, reverting to an older approach preceding its Article 14 jurisprudence of the last ten years, the Court ruled that it was unnecessary to examine the claim of discrimination in this case.

ERT research reveals a strong link between discrimination and statelessness. Statelessness is often a consequence of discrimination (as in the case of the “erased”), and stateless persons are also likely to be discriminated against. Consequently, the failure of the ECtHR to consider discrimination on Article 14 grounds is a missed opportunity to develop authoritative legal standard on the equality and non-discrimination of stateless persons.

To read the full judgment, click here.

To read ERT’s submission to the ECtHR, click here.

To read recent ERT report on statelessness, click here.