Dear Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We, the citizens of the Free Territory of Trieste, are here on behalf of Triest NGO.
I would like to thank UNPO for giving us the opportunity to speak at this forum, on behalf of all those members of the organization who are deprived of their linguistic rights. These violations, contrary to Human Rights of self-expression consist of blatant restrictions, prohibitions of the use of native language in education. These unlawful activities interfere in people relations with their own territory’s administration and, in some not so seldom cases, affecting their private life and well being.
Linguistic rights are not simply cultural rights – they are basic human rights that are regarded not only as a means of communication, albeit being of great importance, but also the binding glue of the fabric of their cultural, social structure and values.
A community should not be forced to lose its traditional language just because it is a minority or because political/military forces and governments have arbitrarily set a border on a map.
For centuries, Trieste city and its surrounding has been at the crossroad of three different cultures: the Latin, the Germanic and the Slavic but we can also recall the presence of Hungarians, Greeks and Turkish. In the last 150 years, there have been many border changes. Some people migrated following the repressions that accompanied those changes.
A community should not be forced to lose its natural historical living space, their home, to a significant Italian, Slovenian or Croatian speaking community. Likewise, several small Italian communities inhabit cities now under Slovenian and Croatian administration of the Free Territory of Trieste.
In our country, the FREE TERRITORY OF TRIEST, the Slovenian and Croatian speaking community faced significant discrimination in the interwar period. In 1920 the use of their natural language was prohibited, surnames and people first names were forcibly substituted with poor translations or changed in their entirety, to sound ‘Italianized’, the result of the evil intention of obliterating any ethnicity that did not conform to their fascist ideology of race. By the way we remind that even people speaking Italian language had their surnames changed due to Slovene, Croatian or other different origin.
Original historical toponym names of streets and squares that have been so identified for centuries were also renamed to names of Italian cities and historical Italian persons.
After WWII with the application of the Peace Treaty, in 1947 Zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste was guaranteed the use of Slovenian in public acts and Croatian was a possible option if requested. Soon after, though, in late 1954, after the passage of the Zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste to a simple provisional Italian civil administration, the use of the Slovene language was limited again as in prewar era.
While in the Zone B of the Free Territory of Trieste the same followed, for the then Italian-speaking minority. Despite the guarantees offered by the Italian Government to the slavofonic community and Yugoslavia to the italofonic community, it took several years to only “approach”, but not implement fully the “equality of rights and treatment to the inhabitants of the two zones.”
After much struggle, in the 1990s, some administrative and constitutional decisions established that the protection of a linguistic minority implied that the people belonging to it should never be forced to use a language that is not their native one when interacting with the public administration, including during criminal proceedings and in interactions with police forces of administrators. Nonetheless, there is a lot of significant limitations to the possibility to use the natural language or, more broadly, to achieve full equality, even more so, especially in the Zone A of Free Territory of Trieste. However the original pre WWII fascist laws for names and surnames of people remain as status quo. With the only possibility to have one’s family name return to its root, with the provision that proof/evidence of the maleficence must be proven by the victim; a hard burden case since prewar records have been misplaced by the malefactor.
In the written report we have deepened the present status of affairs of minorities under Italian administration. Since the Permanent Status of the Free Territory of Trieste (Annex VI to the Peace Treaty with Italy) proclaimed that the official languages are Italian and Slovene, the administrator just in 2001 put in force a law known as “protection” to the Slovenian minority, which in reality restricts our rights territorially similarly to segregation/apartheid, yet at the same time in public offices there are still no personnel adequately prepared to the use the minority language since job posting to these offices are not made in the minority language.
We thus demand that the Special Report we prepared for the body of independent judges and lawyers of the United Nations, to be used as evidence to investigate further the status of our complaints as of 11 March 2002 and 4 November 2004, and to have such egregious body of law express its impartial assessment on the legality of the Italian judiciary in cases involving the rights of the Slovenian minority.
As a consequence of the validity of the Peace Treaty of 1947, where it is stated that the Republic of Italy has lost its sovereignty over Trieste and its Territory since September 16th, (Article No. 21, sub-paragraph 2; we find that the Italian State is in full violation of such Treaty continuing with impunity of the UN to self proclaim unilaterally its sovereign dominion over the Territory of Trieste maintaining the letter of intent of prewar fascist laws in place.
Time is of the essence – there is a lot of abuse of rights on the Slovene ethnic group under Italian administration of the Free Territory of Trieste, likewise there are many restrictions on other minorities across the border of the Free Territory of Trieste in cities of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. You can read all the further information on the documents we handed out.
The world need to secure us better protection, so we can all continue to live, work and learn in our language in our own home, the Free Territory of Trieste, without feeling like second class citizens.
We also recall the fact that an official citizenship of Free Territory of Trieste is not obtainable and that Italy, Slovenia and Croatia force their citizenship to people living the Area of FTT despite of the Peace of Treaty.
Thank you President and Members of this assembly for the opportunity to speak on this issue.
Geneva, 25th of November 2015