Article 17 of the 1991 Constitution of Slovenia provides that "Human life is inviolable." Article 18 prohibits torture, stating that: "No one may be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment."
Article 42 governs the rights of assembly and association, providing in part that:
The right of peaceful assembly and public meeting shall be guaranteed. ...
Legal restrictions of these rights shall be permissible where so required for national security or public safety and for protection against the spread of infectious diseases.
The Constitution does not address the use of force by law enforcement agencies.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||Yes|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
The 2013 Police Tasks and Powers Act governs use of force by the Slovenian Police. Article 13(1) stipulate that in carrying out their duties, "police officers shall respect and protect the right to life, human personality and dignity and other human rights and fundamental freedoms." According to Article 13(3):
Police officers may never cause, incite or permit torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 15 addreses the principle of legality: "In performing police tasks, police officers may exercise police powers pursuant to the law, within the scope specified by the law and in a manner defined by the law or implementing regulations adopted on the basis of and pursuant to the law."
Article 16 of the 2013 Act is entitled the principle of proportionality, although it also encompasses elements of the international legal principle of necessity:
(1) When various police powers may be employed for the effective performance of a police task, police officers shall employ only those powers whereby the police task can be carried out with the least damaging consequences.
(2) Police officers may employ harsher police powers only in the event that the exercising of more lenient police powers has been ineffective or would be impossible owing to the circumstances and for ensuring the safety of life, personal safety or protection of property.
(3) Police officers shall immediately cease exercising police powers when the reasons for exercising them cease to exist.
Article 82 governs the use of chemical irritants, prohibiting use "for the purpose of controlling passive resistance, unless the use of other, more lenient means of restraint does not suffice to bring such resistance under control." A similar prohibition exists with respect to the use of a police baton. In addition, according to Article 84(2):
Police officers may not intentionally strike blows to vital parts of the human body such as the head, neck or genitals, unless this is necessary because a person directly threatens the lives of police officers or other people.
Articles 96 and 97 governs the use of firearms. According to Article 96(1):
When performing official tasks, police officers may use firearms only if otherwise unable
- to prevent an unlawful assault directed concurrently against themselves or any other person that endangers lives, or
- to prevent a person who in circumstances indicating elements of the commission of a criminal offence has in his possession a firearm ready for use, explosives or other dangerous objects or substances for endangering the life of one or more persons.
(2) An assault on police officers or any other person referred to in indent one of the preceding paragraph shall also be deemed to be a situation in which a person reaches for a weapon or any other dangerous object or substance, pulls them out or tries to do so or holds them in a position indicating the possibility of an imminent assault.
(3) Before using their firearms, police officers shall, if in view of the police officers' or other people's safety circumstances allow, caution the person against whom the firearms are to be used by calling out "Freeze! Police! I will shoot!" and fire a warning shot in a safe direction.
This is more permissive than international law allows.
Article 97 sets out special conditions for the use of firearms. Under paragraph 1, if "a person against whom police officers are allowed to use firearms is fleeing or retreating towards a group of people or is in the midst of them, a police officer may only shoot if the person in question is directly threatening people's lives". Paragraph 2 states that: "In the event that a person against whom police officers are allowed to use firearms is in the vicinity of the state border or is approaching it, police officers shall shoot so that the projectile does not fly over the state border."
Slovenia has no dedicated independent civilian police oversight body. Primary responsibility for investigations is accorded to the Ministry of Interior's Police Internal Investigations Division. The Human Rights Ombudsman may investigate complaints against the police but only as a last resort after all other avenues have been pursued.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Slovenia, the Human Rights Committee did not address police use of force.
In the context of the 2014 Universal Periodic Review of Slovenia under the UN Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe referred to the fact that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment had received a few isolated allegations of excessive use of force by hooded members of police special units in the context of arrest, and recommended that no more force than is strictly necessary should be used when effecting an arrest. The the European Committee also noted that there can never be any justification for striking arrested persons once they have been brought under control.
Franciska Stefancic v. Slovenia (2017)
Mr Štefančič died in the course of an intervention initiated in order to take him to a psychiatric hospital by force. The European Court of Human Rights accepted that Mr Štefančič’s threats and visits to the State Prosecutor’s Office justly gave rise to concern for his mental health and the safety of the people he threatened. It was not disputed between the parties that force was used on Mr Štefančič with a view to bring him to the psychiatric hospital. In this connection, the Court pointed out that Mr Štefančič could be deemed to be vulnerable because of his particular medical needs in view of his mental illness. His
vulnerability was compounded by a defenceless situation in which he found himself during the intervention. Considering that the domestic authorities were aware of Mr Štefančič’s condition, they were required to demonstrate special care in the choice of methods used to manage his behaviour and to take him to the psychiatric hospital....
The Court was "mindful of the fact that the intervention in question was performed with the purpose of ensuring the security of others, taking into account the seriousness of threats Mr Štefančič made on different occasions". At the same time, the Court considered "that in cases where force is used on persons with mental health issues, the Government must demonstrate that that force was necessary for the purpose of securing the health and well-being of the individual concerned.... Likewise, the Government must provide a plausible explanation for any injury sustained in the course of those procedures, particularly any act or omission which resulted in the death of an individual." The Court assessed the necessity and proportionality of the force used on Mr Štefančič.
As regards the cause of death, the Court noted that
the forensic report established that Mr Štefančič died as a result of asphyxiation caused by aspiration of gastric contents. Although the applicant alleged that her son had been strangled by the police officers, the Court has no reason to doubt the accuracy of the expert report as regards Mr Štefančič’s immediate cause of death, a detailed explanation having been provided in that regard. As to the cause of his vomiting, the forensic pathologist concluded that it had most likely been induced by a blow or pressure to the stomach during the struggle to restrain him.
The forensic pathologist proceeded from the assumption that Mr Štefančič had started to vomit during that struggle, concluding that his active resistance had prevented the intervention team from turning him onto his side or lifting him up into a vertical position in order to clear his respiratory tract. Only once he had lost consciousness was it possible to provide him with medical help, but by then, the medical staff could not have done anything to prevent his death. ... Assuming that the hypothesis advanced by the forensic pathologist was correct, it inevitably gives rise, firstly, to the question of causality, and, in so far as an affirmative finding would be made in that regard, the question of whether the force applied to Mr Štefančič was justified in the circumstances of the case. However, the Court notes with concern that neither the question of whether there was a causal link between the force used against Mr Štefančič and his death nor the question of necessity and proportionality of that force have been addressed by the domestic authorities.
They did not examine the seriousness of Mr Štefančič’s injuries sustained during his struggle with the police, including those which could have supported the hypothesis that the vomiting had been induced by blows or pressure to the stomach. Nor were the police officers questioned by independent authorities about the force they had used to subdue him and secure the handcuffs on him. ... In this connection, it is worth noting that one of the medical technicians stated that the force used on Mr Štefančič might have been excessive, given that he had not been particularly aggressive and had not physically attacked anyone.... Although agitated and resistant to the idea of hospitalisation, Mr Štefančič did not respond with aggression until force was used on him....
The Court held that
the omissions in the investigation of Mr Štefančič’s death do not allow for a conclusion whether the use of force was absolutely necessary and proportionate, which includes the question of whether it was adapted to the vulnerable state of Mr Štefančič ..., and whether the intervention was conducted so as to minimise the risk to Mr Štefančič’s life.