The Slovenia Times

New Penal Code Brings Life Sentence



Despite the obstruction of opposition and an appeal by the President, the new penal code was adopted by representatives with 49 votes in favour. It includes modifications of more than half of the articles of previous code and as well introduces numerous innovations. Certainly, the most important is the introduction of lifelong imprisonment, intended for the criminal acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Those who shall commit two or more criminal offences of premeditated murder now also face the possibility of lifetime imprisonment.

Another important innovation is the reinstatement of special register of persons who commit sexual criminal offences against juveniles. Data from this register will be available to all institutions and associations that are involved in the teaching, education and tutelage of children and youth.

The new penal code will give special emphasis on protection of workers' rights. For instance, attempts of employees aimed to prevent women from having children, will be considered a criminal offence.

The same goes for harassment in the workplace (so-called mobbing), which shall now be sanctioned with up to three years of imprisonment.

One interesting innovation is an option that enables judges to sentence a convict to an alternative to prison, for example humanitarian or community-oriented work.

Tough on crime?

The greatest criticism was prompted by the introduction of life sentence. One must have in mind that the highest sentence of previous penal code was thirty years of imprisonment. Nevertheless, Minister Šturm tried to convince public that Slovenia is obliged to accept lifetime imprisonment because of provisions of the ratified Rome Agreement. Later, it was proved that such argument is incorrect, as provisions derived from Article 80 of Rome Statue do not require implementation life sentence.

However, public opinion on this matter was divided. Advocates of life sentences argued that severe punishment is necessary to prevent crime and assure (emotional) retribution to the victims of a crime. Opponents of lifelong imprisonment appealed to humanistic legacy, human rights and empirical research. Criminological research questions the efficiency of severe punishment as empirical evidence show that increases of state repression, usually marked by higher sentences and ever more (over)populated prisons, do not significantly reduce crime rates. One obvious example is the United States, which has very high crime rates despite long sentences or (in some states) even the death penalty.

Background of new penal code

In 2005, the Slovenian Research Agency made a public invitation for the preparation of new penal code to which Institute of Criminology at Faculty of Law in Ljubljana applied. A team of legal experts within the project of "Modern Orientation of Criminal Law" aimed at developing a platform for modifications of previous penal code. However, Minister Šturm did not wait for the results of the research, but instead presented the National Assembly a questionable amendment to the new penal code. The amendment was written in a very short time period of six months by only three legal experts: Professor Vid Jakulin, Professor Ivan Bele and a judge of the Supreme Court, Mitja Deisinger.

The Ministry of Justice emphasized that the amendment to new penal code represented better and more adequate solution to problems in the field of criminal law. It included modifications of more than half of the articles of previous penal code. As such, the amendment introduced numerous changed that have stirred up public controversy. Most problematic were the possibility of life sentences and the registry of paedophiles.

The majority of legal experts strongly opposed introduction of new penal code. Few denied that Slovenian legislation needs some changes, especially because of international conventions and changing social environment. However, they emphasized that these changes were not extensive enough to represent a necessity for introduction of a new penal code.

More critical voices warned that we certainly do not need a new code, as previous one was more than sufficient. It is particularly interesting that a similar viewpoint was taken by the Government Office for Legislation, which stated that in every comparable legal system and state it would be highly unusual to put in motion amendment to new penal code after only thirteen years of existence of the previous one.


The brief history of new penal code's evolution was marked by opposition and resistance. Legal experts expressed their disagreement with the amendment to new code in letters that were sent to Minister of Justice, but the effort was fruitless, as the arguments were not taken into consideration. Further, the adoption of the new penal code was briefly delayed by a veto from National Council. Finally, the National Assembly successfully adopted the new code that shall come into force on 1st November. With higher sentences and enhanced social control, Slovenia is now in the same league as those western countries that, under the banner of war against crime and terrorism, reduce fundamental rights and freedoms.


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