ERA Stands in Solidarity with The People of Slovenia Who Defend Human Rights, Open Society and Democracy
We are closely following the developments in Slovenia with great concern. The rapid rise of state autocracy, police brutality and authoritarian rule in the country is endangering the livelihoodof all those who disagree with the politics of Janez Jansa.
Upon his appointment as a Prime Minister last year, Mr Jansa has announced a war on culture. In the past year, his government changed the heads of the most significant museums in Slovenia. It is widely seen as an attempt to control the key cultural institutions to direct the narratives towards a more conservative and nationalistic direction.
At ERA, we are receiving messages of worry and concern from our fellow activists from Slovenia regarding the rise of human rights violations, forceful evictions, the massive use of police force, and chemical weapons against the country’s critical public. There are documented cases of fining homeless persons for not "obeying" the Covid-19 measures and being outside after police curfew, blocking enrollment of a new generation of students to the university, massive rise of online hate speech including racism, sexism, misogyny from politicians including Jansa and his supporters, and the disappearance of discourses about human rights.
In October last year, the non-governmental organisations operating at Metelkova Street 6 in Ljubljana received an amicable termination of the lease and an order to vacate the building by 31 January 2021. The Ministry of Culture alsothreatened to enforce the courts’ eviction, should the cultural workers, activists and researchers fail to do so. The open dialogue between the Ministry and the tenants never took place, and they have never received a proposal for premises elsewhere. That makes it quite clear that this is nothing less than a direct attack on civil society and independent culture to prevent the influence of the critical public.
In the meantime, the threats and hate attacks against Autonomous Cultural Centre Metelkova tenants are increasing. The neo-nazi group “Yellow Jackets” paraded around Metelkova carrying a sign “Let’s demolish Metelkova” and threatened with further violence on social media. The police failed to identify and prosecute the attackers even though they are identifiable on social media.
Instead of protecting them, the police continued with intimidation of the ACC Metelkova tenants. On Monday, 8 February 2021, a group of 30 to 40 special police force officers in full combat gear banged on closed, locked entrance doors of Metelkova spaces for several minutes, under the explanation that that was a “regular control” of bars.
Metelkova is not only a symbol of independent culture and queer history. It represents the heritage of the civil society movement that promoted democratisation and demilitarisation of society ever since the 1980s. Therefore, the attack on Metelkova is not just for intimidation of the current tenants, but it is an attack on the values that promote peace, democracy, diversity, solidarity, dialogue and critical thought. It is a violent attempt to erase the history of resistance that this place celebrates so proudly and silence the critical voices in Slovenian society.
The police’s invasion of ACC Metelkova was a violent response to the peaceful funeral procession in the city centre as a protest to the recent closure of Autonomous Factory Rog (AT Rog). On 19 January 2021 AT Rog was forcefully evicted by the Municipality of Ljubljana. Without any warning and any legal basis, the police together with neo-nazi linked private security companies demolished and seriously damaged the premises, the equipment, tools and personal belongings of the tenants.
AT Rog was a centre for a social, cultural and political gathering. This centre nurtured direct social work and support, migrant solidarity networks and grass-root political research and action. AT Rog was the pride of Ljubljana’s citizens who have been supporting it with donations ever since its establishment in 2006. The attack on AT Rog is an attack on solidarity, community values and open society.
The attacks on AT Rog and ACC Metelkova come as a culmination of a constant increase of violent rhetoric against migrants, artists, antifascists, open and free society, against all those who hold different beliefs from theirs. The ongoing violent campaigns of intimidation are coming by groups who do not hide their neo-nazi ideology that goes unpunished. The state fails to take appropriate measures against the hate speech, providing a sense of security and legitimacy to their efforts and political ideas.
“Under the far-right government, the police changed from an autonomous, professional organisation to a violent gang that generates conflicts and tensions instead of carrying out their fundamental duties such as: ensuring the security of individuals and communities, respect for human rights and fundamental freedom, and strengthening the legal state.” - statement by Club Monokel.
At ERA, we worry that without proper legal consequences, Slovenia’s situation will continue to deteriorate the fundamental human rights and freedoms and prevent all people from living their lives free and in dignity.
Therefore, we urge the government of Slovenia to respect the guaranteed rights of association and peaceful assembly. We call upon them to respect the historical and cultural value that Metelkova and AT Rog have for Slovenia and the region. That history must be celebrated and not destroyed and revised. Finally, we call upon the European Commission and the broader international community for urgent actions against the attacks on human rights, civil society and democracy in Slovenia. The respect of the European values must not stay on paper only. It needs to be implemented in practice as well.
LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey