A study visit to Slovenia was organised on 6-8 May by the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and the Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office within the framework of the project "Promoting the ratification of the OPCAT in Latvia and strengthening the Ombudsman's Office as the future effective NPM" financed by the Open Society Assistance-Foundation. Representatives of the Latvian Ministry of Justice, Office of the Representative of the Government of the Republic of Latvia before International Human Rights Organisations, the Latvian Prison Administration, and the co-ordinator of the LCHR project participated in the visit.
The study visit was aimed at learning about the Slovenian "NPM+" model, its strengths, problems and potential. The participants met Mr. Peter Pavlin from the Slovenian Ministry of Justice in order to understand the way how national legislation was amended in the process of the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and creating the NPM; why Slovenia chose the "NPM+" model; what additional tasks and obligations the ratification of the Optional Protocol brings for State institutions. A full day was devoted to discussions with the leadership and the staff of the Slovenian NPM about the issues related to the creation and modalities of work of the NPM. Participants to the study visit were introduced to the Bureau of the Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman and had a working lunch with Ms. Vlasta Nussdorfer, the Human Rights Ombudsman of Slovenia. The final presentation was made by Ms Lucija Božikov, the head of the Treatment Department of Slovenian Prison Administration, telling about the situation in Slovenian prisons and the way of co-operation between the Slovenian Prison Administration and the NPM. The last day included a visit to the Ig women’s prison. The members of the NPM together with participants of the study visit talked to the director of Ig prison, and conducted a full monitoring visit to the prison, including interviews with the inmates.
In 2007 when acceding to the OPCAT, Slovenia made a formal declaration, stating that the competencies and the duties of the NPM will be performed by the Human Rights Ombudsperson and in agreement with him/her also by NGOs registered in the Republic of Slovenia and by the organisations, which acquired the status of humanitarian organisations in the Republic of Slovenia. Such a model of the NPM was a novelty at the moment of its creation however, since then more and more countries have taken on the Slovenian experience.
As Slovenia has many similarities with Latvia, e.g. the size of the population, the structure of the Ombud institution, etc., it was considered to be useful to get acquainted with the challenges met during the creation and the work of the NPM, to get to know how the representatives of the Ombudsman's bureau assess the "NPM+" model after several years of work, and what in their opinion are advantages and deficiencies of that model. After seven years of work, people who perform the work of the NPM within the Ombudsman's bureau have concluded that the NPM should be a separate, rather independent department within the Ombudsman's bureau, and the employees of that department should be involved exclusively in tasks of the NPM. The creation of such a department is already in process. It was also acknowledged that it would be more useful to conclude agreements with specific experts in the field rather than with NGOs or humanitarian organisations, since the organisations are not always able to ensure constant quality of monitoring in longer periods of time.
The Head of the Treatment department of the Slovenian Prison Administration, the Director of Ig prison, as well as staff of the Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman bureau acknowledged that the situation in the Slovenian prisons has changed since the creation of the NPM in terms of improving the situation of prisoners, giving a different perspective to prison staff and administration about their own work, as well as by supporting the needs of the Slovenian Prison Administration in their dialogue with the government.