Ljubljana related

23 Jul 2020, 07:50 AM

STA, 22 July 2020 - After a year and a half of calls for redefining rape in the penal code, the Justice Ministry said on Wednesday that legislative changes had been drafted. Their aim is to embed the consent standard in criminal law.

The changes would make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence, including those during which the victim did not physically resist the perpetrator or say no out of fear or shock or any other circumstances preventing such action

Related: Shock Case Shows How Coercion Defines Rape in Slovenia, Not Lack of Consent

The amendments thus enable a transition from the coercion-based definition of rape to the consent-based standard, including the affirmative consent and veto models. Coercion or force would become aggravating circumstances.

The ministry's statement came in response to claims by a feminist NGO, March 8 Institute, that in a year and a half no progress had been made to amend the definition of rape in the penal code.

The ministry said this was not the case as it had held meetings with a number of NGOs, the most recent one in June, with all the participants agreeing that the consent-based standard had to be implemented.

Related: Statute of Limitations for Sex Offences Extended to Between 30, 90 Years

But in response, 8 March Institute pointed out that the participating NGOs had insisted to scrap the veto model and enforce only the affirmative consent standard, known as "only yes means yes", which the ministry did not green-light.

In January 2019, March 8 Institute launched a petition, signed by more than 6,000 people, demanding a redefinition of rape. The effort came as a response to a court case in which a man was acquitted of rape because the victim was asleep and unable to resist.

The public consultation period for the amendments runs until 25 August.

07 Mar 2020, 10:43 AM

STA, 5 March 2020 - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed amendments to the penal code on Thursday to extend the statute of limitations for gravest sexual offences to between 30 and 90 years.

The amendments, proposed by New Slovenia (NSi) in a bid to establish a zero-tolerance policy on sexual offences, were backed by 86 votes to none.

Under the existing penal code, such criminal acts become statute-barred in 10 to 30 years, depending on the length of the prison sentence the offence carries.

The outgoing government, which had been planning more extensive changes in the area, agreed with the proposal as well.

Related: Shock Case Shows How Coercion Defines Rape in Slovenia, Not Lack of Consent

The legislators also backed the Democrats (SDS)-sponsored proposal to set down that the constitutional review procedure, launched by at least a third of MPs, would continue even if the MPs' terms are terminated in the meantime. Moreover, parliament

The amendment to the constitutional court act won the backing of 88 votes, with none against it.

Under the current solution, in case the procedure's initiators lost their MP status and the number of them fell below a third of all MPs (30), the Constitutional Court would put a stop to the procedure.

Many review claims had been thus dropped because the court did not hand down a ruling before the end of the National Assembly term.

Parliament also endorsed an amendment to the property code law in a 47:37 vote to introduce a new definition of animals - they are no longer things, but sentient living beings.

10 Feb 2020, 10:47 AM

STA, 6 February 2020 - The parliamentary Justice Committee unanimously decided on Thursday to table an amended proposal to change the sexual abuse provisions of the penal code. The reform, proposed by New Slovenia (NSi), envisages the statute of limitations for gravest sexual offences to be tripled.

According to the initial NSi proposal, sex offences would never become statute-barred, with the party aiming to help establish a zero-tolerance policy on such acts.

Under the existing penal code, such criminal acts fall under the statute of limitations in 10 to 30 years, depending on the expected prison sentence.

After submitting the proposal, NSi acknowledged that different types of sexual violence should fall under different statute of limitations categories and tabled the amended document, envisaging gravest sexual offences to become statute-barred in 30 to 90 years.

The parliamentary legal service said that the party had thus acknowledged its reservations.

Justice Minister Andreja Katič said that the outgoing caretaker government agreed with the proposal as well, adding that such changes had been already planned by the ministry.

She highlighted that a task force at the ministry had been drafting more extensive changes to the penal code, also in relation to sexual offences.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court judge Marjeta Švab Širok called for the issue to be tackled as part of a systemic reform of criminal law.

20 Jan 2020, 10:48 AM

STA, 18 January 2020 - Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore called on sexual abuse victims within the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church to report the crimes and dismissed accusations of Church inactivity, as he spoke for the Odmevi news show on Friday evening.

Urging the victims to report abuse cases, Zore said that such actions would help "remove all that does not belong in the Church".

The Dovolj.je (It's Enough) NGO, a Catholic civil society group dedicated to fighting sexual abuse in the Church, has recently accused the institution of its persistent failure to tackle sexual abuse allegations against members of the clergy or even its systemic cover-up.

The group has thus urged a couple of senior clerics to step down, including Zore, Slovenia's top cleric.

Zore said that such accusations were general statements reflecting an exaggerated reaction, since the Church had been active in addressing the issue.

He pointed out that it had dealt with every single case that was brought to its knowledge, involving the police and providing support for the victims.

The Ljubljana archbishop stressed that there had not been any reports of alleged cover-ups, adding that the Ljubljana Archdiocese had received a couple of sexual abuse reports since the summer.

Zore said that the issue had been weighing him down, since it was difficult to carry the burden and faith of the victims, their abuse and turmoil, but he was also burdened by the faith of the perpetrators since the Church had to take care of those priests as well.

"You cannot just simply write them off," he said, adding that the situation had tarnished the reputation of innocent priests as well.

Igor Vovk, a senior member of the Dovolj.je (It's Enough) group, told the press this week that the Church kept adopting and updating recommendations on how church workers should deal with allegations of sexual abuse, but "everything remains dead ink on paper".

The only one who has seriously dealt with the situation so far is Murska Sobota Archbishop Peter Štumpf, who stripped a priest of his status upon finding out he has been accused of sexual abuse, Vovk added.

Štumpf expressed support for Zore this week, though, declaring that "if Archbishop Zore resigns, Archbishop Štumpf resigns as well" and praising Zore's efforts in tackling the issue.

16 Jan 2020, 09:22 AM

STA, 15 January 2020 - A Catholic civil society group dedicated to fighting sexual abuse in the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church has called for the resignation of Slovenia's most senior cleric, Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore, due to the church's persistent failure to tackle sexual abuse allegations against members of the clergy.

The church keeps adopting and updating recommendations on how church workers should deal with allegations of sexual abuse, but "everything remains dead ink on paper", said Igor Vovk, a senior member of the Dovolj.je (It's Enough) group and director of the Catholic pro-life NGO Zavod Iskreni.

The group has so far received 38 reports by victims against 22 priests. And while some have been handled adequately, in particular in the Murska Sobota Diocese, others continue to be ignored, it said.

It highlighted the case of priest Jože Planinšek, the director of the pastoral and youth centre Saint Joseph Home in Celje, who had been reported by five victims for sexual assault dating between 1990 and 2010. "He is still doing his job as if nothing has happened," priest Janez Cerar said.

Roman Završek, an attorney, said five criminal charges had been filed against the priest. Four have been thrown out due to the statute of limitations and one is still being processed.

The group had asked the Slovenian Lazarists, of which he is a member, to ignore the statute of limitations in internal church procedures but the request has been ignored. It has therefore urged the head of the Slovenian Lazarists, Tomaž Mavrič, to step down as well.

In general, a lot of cases of sexual abuse have become statute-barred under church law, which is why Dovolj.je is urging the church to ignore the statute of limitations at least in the specific cases brought to their attention.

Dovolj.je also wants the church to disband its task force for the resolution of sexual abuse claims since it is not doing its job and is trying to downplay the allegations. Instead, the Slovenian Bishops' Conference should form an independent commission with lay members.

The Slovenian Bishops' Conference rejected the call for the archbishop's resignation as "unfounded" and said it was under his chairmanship of the conference that the church has continued taking action against sexual abuse.

It listed instructions on zero-tolerance to sexual abuse adopted in April 2019 and recently updated guidelines for conduct in the event of sexual abuse claims which require that bishops report any suspicion of sexual abuse to law enforcement - precisely the guidelines that Dovolj.je labelled as dead ink on paper - as important steps in this direction.

All our stories on rape in Slovenia can be found here

30 Dec 2019, 11:44 AM

STA, 25 December 2019 - Almost two years after a feminist NGO launched #jaztudi, the Slovenian version of the #metoo campaign, the rate with which victims are sharing their stories has come to a steady trickle. Nevertheless, the campaign has left an indelible mark in society. Not only has it raised awareness about consent and inequality, it has spurred legislative change.

Nika Kovač, the president of March 8 Institute, which launched the campaign in March 2018, believes that the campaign broached broader issues of gender inequality. "I feel that addressing issues of gender inequality raised awareness [about inequality] in general."

A vital shift has taken place, Kovač said. "It has become clear that sexual violence and harassment are pervasive in our society, albeit often unseen," and the campaign created room to address sexual violence in a better and fairer way.

The testimonies reflect the normalisation of sexual harassment in society to the extent that victims feel like they are being overly sensitive for sharing their stories, says Kovač.

Many seem to downplay the severity of what they had suffered, as if sexual violence were normal, something not important enough to be raised to attention, although it was one of the most horrifying experiences of their lives.

In January 2018, the NGO launched a petition demanding a redefinition of rape in the penal code. The effort came as a response to a court case in which a man was acquitted of rape because the victim was asleep and unable to resist (with more details here).

More than 5,000 people signed the petition demanding that rape no longer be defined as a sexual act perpetrated by force but a sexual act perpetrated without consent.

"In response to the ruling ... the expert public, politicians and civil society joined forces in a wish to change unjust criminal legislation."

"The Ministry of Justice decided to redefine rape, I believe this is one of the biggest changes for the better made by the #jaztudi campaign," said Kovač.

Justice Minister Andreja Katič said at a debate on violence against women in late November that she wanted the penal code to change so as to penalise any sexual act without clear consent of both partners. The ministry is yet to present a draft of the legal changes.

Kovač said that the NGO was reserved about #metoo at first because of the sensationalism it caused in the US, where #metoo largely became a part of pop culture mainstream and failed to show different perspectives.

What is more, "in Slovenia, the [global] #metoo campaign did not trigger a spontaneous response it got in many countries around the world."

The March 8 Institute therefore decided to take a different approach and collect and post anonymous stories online, which are available at www.jaztudi.si. Victims can share their stories through the website, which also provides helpful links.

The response surpassed the NGO's expectations. It received more than 150 stories, and more are still coming in, albeit at a slower pace.

The stories collected show that sexual harassment often takes place in places that should be safe, like at home, at school, at the doctor's office.

Very often, the abusers are people close to the victim, people in position of power, coaches, teachers, superiors. "Testimonies also reveal that other people, who know what is happening, remain silent, dismissing or ignoring the problem."

Most of the victims who shared their stories were women, nine of them (6%) were men and one transsexual. 51.3% of the victims were abused as minors.

"The testimonies highlight the structure, the workings of a society that enables and reproduces sexual violence and harassment," said Kovač.

In the face of rising populism, members of the NGO have faced threats, but that comes with the territory, says Kovač, adding also that the campaign had not received negative press from mainstream media.

12 Dec 2019, 10:21 AM

STA, 11 December 2019 - Opinions varied as stakeholders discussed a proposal from New Slovenia (NSi) for sex offences not to become statute-barred. While the NSi believes this would help victims who decide to speak about their experience at a later age, the justice minister argued victims should report such crimes as soon as possible.

Wednesday's debate on the parliamentary Justice Committee was opened by its vice-chair, Meira Hot of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who said that the goal was to get a wide range of opinions on the proposal from the conservative opposition party.

Hot discussed a number of questions related to the topic, including how sex offences influence the long-term mental health of the victims, and how their age affects their ability to face such acts.

Justice Minister Andreja Katič said that a task force at the ministry was drafting more extensive changes to the penal code, also in relation to sexual offences.

Under the existing penal code, only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity never become statute-barred. Other criminal acts fall under the statute of limitations in 10 to 30 years, depending on the envisaged prison sentence.

When it comes to criminal offences against sexual integrity, the time period after which an act becomes statute-batter starts after the victim reaches the age of 18.

Katič said that extending this period from 20 or 30 years alone would not contribute to a better status of the victim and would not solve the issue of proving a sexual offence.

"Our goal must be that victims report a criminal act as soon as possible," she said, warning against rushed and partial changes of legislation.

NSi leader and MP Matej Tonin meanwhile called for support for the proposal, which he sees as a "clear message that we are a society which has zero tolerance to such acts".

As the proposal was filed in July, Tonin also said the problem was that it took very long for the victims to speak about their experience. "When sexual abuse happens in early childhood, victims usually subconsciously suppress it.

"They are ready to face it perhaps only decades later, when it is too late in certain cases, as criminal acts become statute-barred," he added.

Violeta Neubauer of Women's Lobby of Slovenia said that the proposed change would not lead to the women experiencing sexual violence losing fear from reporting it.

Neubauer also believes the "police, prosecution and courts, or even lawyers, would change their manner of doing things so that victims would not experience secondary victimisation any more."

Katja Zabukovec Kerin of the Association for Non-Violent Communication added the elimination was not enough, and that the mindset and legal practice should also be changed.

"It's still believed paedophiles only like children too much. Education and awareness-raising is not enough. Legislation needs to be changed, right now," she added.

The NSi's proposal is supported by the Association Against Sexual Abuse. "This is only one of the needed measures in the prevention and prosecution of criminal acts against sexual integrity," said Manca Bizjak of the association.

11 Dec 2019, 12:57 PM

STA, 11 December 2019 - A priest from the Murska Sobota diocese has been found guilty of sexual violence by the Vatican's top doctrinaire body and ordered to undergo therapy, in the latest chapter of a case that has caused a huge rift in a rural parish in eastern Slovenia, several media have reported.

Andrej Zrim, a priest at the Murska Sobota parish, has been "found guilty in an out-of-court criminal procedure of sexual violence against minors and adults in accordance with the instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", reads a short notice carried in the diocese bulletin in Murska Sobota last Sunday.

"He has been ordered to take certain measures, including apologising to the victims and the parish community. He is prohibited from returning to parish service without the bishop's explicit approval, and banned from giving mass in public until the appropriate therapy is successfully concluded."

Zrim had been deposed as Ljutomer parish priest in April 2018 under instructions from a task force for resolving sexual abuse cases at the Slovenian Bishops' Conference.

But the decision, executed by Murska Sobota Bishop Peter Štumf, proved highly controversial and split the Ljutomer parish, according to the newspaper Dnevnik and domovina.je, a conservative news portal.

A camp supporting the priest started sending out anonymous and public letters in his defence and some alleged that Zrim was the victim of revenge by the bishop.

The supporters stepped up in his defence despite the priest having been convicted of assault on a minor 15 years ago and having a reputation in the local community for using severe corporeal punishment methods in Sunday school.

What therapy exactly the priest is supposed to undergo remains unclear, but Bishop Štumf indicated in a statement for Dnevnik it may be some kind of psychotherapy.

He mentioned a German Benedictine priest, Anselm Grün, as an example of "an extraordinarily successful psychotherapist" and several institutions in Italy.

Dnevnik said Zrim had never shown remorse and was a repeat offender, which raises questions about the effectiveness of any sort of psychological counselling for paedophiles.

The case against the priest was brought by three families, who decided to use Church channels instead of going to the police. However, Dnevnik reported that the police may yet take up the case as a matter of official duty considering the latest revelations.

21 Nov 2019, 14:12 PM

STA, 19 November 2019 - A 38-year old man from Morocco who came out of prison at the end of September after serving a two-year prison sentence for robbery, is suspected of raping two students in Ljubljana, the newspaper Dnevnik reported on Tuesday.

He was brought before an investigating judge at the end of October, and was remanded in custody.

According to the Ljubljana police department, one crime was committed at a student dorm in the Bežigrad borough and the other about ten days later in the city centre.

The man was arrested based on a suspect description immediately after the second rape in the second half of October, the police told the paper. Both victims, a 22-year-old and a 23-year-old, positively identified the man, Dnevnik reported.

The 38-year-old already had a criminal record, having served two years for a robbery committed in June 2016 and receiving suspended sentences for theft. He had also been sentenced to three months for another case of theft.

According to Dnevnik's unofficial information, the man requested international protection in Slovenia a few years ago but his motion was denied.

After he was convicted he could have been ordered to leave the country, but was obviously not and also spent some time in one of northern European countries, according to the paper.

09 Aug 2019, 16:35 PM

STA, 9 August 2019 - Victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment or rape in Slovenia usually knew the perpetrator from before, and a majority of abuses happened while they were still minors, show more than 150 anonymous testimonies a local NGO has collected since March 2018 under the #JazTudi campaign.

When the victims spoke up about the abuse, they were usually met with silence, the 8 March Institute said as it presented the testimonies to the press on Friday.

The majority of the testimonies came from women, but also six men and a transsexual, with the youngest victim aged 17 when they told their story and the oldest one 63.

"Many of the victims told their story for the first time. They did not do so to spread anger but to spread the word so that such things do not happen again," Nika Kovač, who heads the 8 March, said.

Half of the participating victims said they had experienced a sexual assault before the age of 18, and some 25% were sexually abused before they turned 15.

While a quarter of the victims were raped, the abuse the majority experienced was inappropriate touching. There were also several cases of flashing in public.

Sexual harassment is also rather common, and is most often related to precarious forms of work. "The higher post the perpetrator has, the worse sexual harassment," said Kovač.

Since more than half of the victims knew the abuser from before the assault, the testimonies debunk the myth that sexual violence happens mostly in dark streets, according to Kovač.

It happens between the walls of their homes, and "it is worrying that when the victims tell about it to their family members, they get no support."

They are usually met with silence, receiving support from their relatives only in 15% of the cases.

At the beginning of 2019, the 8 March Institute launched an online petition demanding legal changes to how rape is defined, having collected more than 5,500 signatures.

Under the Penal Code, rape occurs when a perpetrator coerces the victim into sexual intercourse with force or with serious threats.

"But rape is everything that involves sexual intercourse without consent," said Mojca Lukan from the 8 March.

She said initiatives for sexual crimes not to get stature-barred are important, but the main issue is the legal definition of rape.

The Justice Ministry has already set up a task force to draft changes, but no NGO has been invited to take part, Lukan stressed.

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