In parliamentary elections on 17 June, the Direction-Social Democracy (Smer) party won the most votes. To secure a ruling majority, it formed a coalition with the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the People's Party-Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. As both coalition partners, particularly the SNS, were deemed to have promoted ethnic or racial prejudices and hatred, Smer's membership of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament was suspended.
On 3 February, the Constitution was amended to increase the powers of the Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsperson), including the right to bring cases before the Constitutional Court when laws and regulations threaten human rights and basic freedoms. Another amendment specified the duty of all public security forces to co-operate with the Public Defender.
Exclusion of Roma
Roma faced discrimination in access to housing, education and employment, according to the final report on the human rights situation of the Roma, Sinti and Travellers in Europe by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, published in February. The Commissioner expressed concern that Romani children were unjustifiably placed in special schools. He recommended that the government of Slovakia establish mechanisms to enable women who had been sterilized without informed consent to obtain compensation.
Concerns that Romani children were being taught in segregated classes in primary schools and were over-represented in special schools were expressed by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in a report in May on Roma and Travellers in public education.
The Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities published its second opinion on Slovakia in June. Although it found improvements in inter-community relations and intercultural understanding, prejudice and intolerance towards certain groups persisted, and hostile attitudes toward the Roma needed to be addressed. The Roma generally faced serious disadvantages, including in education, employment, housing and health care, and their involvement in public affairs was insufficient.
Almost 75 per cent of Romani households depended on aid from the state, municipalities or charitable organizations, according to a UN Development Programme report released in October. The report recommended a public debate in Slovakia on the introduction of temporary affirmative action measures for Roma, and that consideration be given to extending compulsory school attendance from the current age of 15 to 18 years.
In the first reported court case brought under the 2004 Anti-Discrimination Law, on 31 August the District Court of Michalovce ruled that a café in Michalovce had discriminated against three Roma activists from a local non-governmental organization, Nová Cesta, by denying them access in an incident in 2005. However, the court failed to specify the grounds of discrimination.
In February the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture published a report of its visit to Slovakia in 2005, noting among other things allegations that the police ill-treated detainees at the time of arrest and in custody. The Committee recommended that priority be given to police training, particularly in high-risk situations such as the apprehension and interrogation of suspects, and for measures to enable people who alleged police ill-treatment, or their lawyer or doctor, to request a forensic medical examination.
The Committee also reported that "net beds" were still widely used at the time of its visit in facilities for people with mental illnesses and disabilities. It recommended that comprehensive scientific research be commissioned into the use of "net beds" in psychiatric establishments and alternative methods of managing patient care.
Racially motivated attacks
Members of ethnic minorities continued to be subjected to racist attacks. Police investigations sometimes appeared dilatory or failed to acknowledge the racist motives of the attackers.
• On 13 July, three young men, one of them under the age of 18, reportedly attacked three students from Angola near student hostels in Bratislava's Mlynská Dolina district, shouting racist and Nazi slogans. Police were still investigating the alleged attackers at the end of 2006.
• Reports of an attack on an ethnic Hungarian girl in Nitra on 25 August provoked an outcry and protests by the Hungarian government. A police investigation concluded that she had fabricated her account. A court ruling on her complaint was pending.
• On 9 September, three masked men attacked a Romani family at their home in Sereï, injuring a girl and a 57-year-old man. The police detained the perpetrators and confirmed that the attack was racially motivated.
Trafficking of women
In January, the government adopted a National Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking for 2006-2007, to address the trafficking of women from Slovakia to other countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation and other sexual abuse. Romani women and girls were particularly vulnerable to such crimes.
In September, the police in the Czech Republic detained and brought charges against 16 people for trafficking women from Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
AI country reports/visits
• Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)
AI representatives visited Slovakia in March and September.