Roma continued to face discrimination and violence at the hands of both state authorities and private individuals, and were still largely denied equal access to education, housing and health.
Despite assuming the Presidency of the Decade for Roma Inclusion 2005–2015 in June, Slovakia failed to acknowledge serious structural deficiencies in the country’s educational system which continued to segregate many Roma children into an inferior system.
In April, Slovakia ratified the Revised European Social Charter with the exception of Article 31 on the right to housing. The amendment to the penal law that introduced the concept of crimes of extremism entered into force in September. The amendment was criticized by Slovakian NGOs, who argued that the definition of extremism is vague and that the amendment does not address the structural causes of the problem. The law was adopted in June despite a veto by the President.
Citing grounds of procedural deficiencies, in July the Supreme Court annulled the November 2008 decision of the Ministry of Interior to ban a right-wing group known as the Slovak Brotherhood (Slovenská Pospolitosť). The Ministry had declared the group unconstitutional and illegal in spreading national, racial, religious and political hatred. The Ministry announced it would issue a new ban.
The Slovak Brotherhood organized a series of rallies between August and December conveying anti-Roma messages. One of the group’s leaders, Marián Kotleba, was charged on 22 August with defaming nationality, race and belief.
Discrimination – Roma
In September, the UN Human Rights Council raised concerns under the Universal Periodic Review about the situation of the Romani minority in Slovakia, including the disproportionate enrolment of Romani children in special schools.
In May, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended that data be collected to monitor the impact of public policies on minorities, including Roma. Due to lack of data disaggregated by ethnicity and gender, the government was unable to assess the composition of different types of schools.
Although discrimination and segregation are prohibited by legislation, effective legal and policy measures that would ensure implementation in practice were still not in place. Romani children continued to be segregated in schools and classes providing inferior education.
In May, ECRI urged Slovakia to take measures to remove Roma children who had no disabilities from special elementary schools and integrate them into mainstream education. It also urged that allegations of discriminatory practices against Roma in schools be investigated, and that policies be introduced to prevent placing children from minority groups in separate classes.
In September, the Roma Education Fund reported that the proportion of Romani children attending special schools was almost 60 per cent, and the proportion in special classes with substandard education in mainstream schools was 85.8 per cent. It called on the government to abolish special primary schools for children with mild mental disability.
- The special school in Pavlovce nad Uhom underwent further inspections in 2009. In 2008, 99.5 per cent of the pupils were Roma, and were often transferred to the school without any assessment. An inspection carried out between April and May demonstrated that there were still many Romani children in the special school who had never been diagnosed with mental disability. The State School Inspectorate recommended that the school’s director be dismissed; he resigned in November.
In May, ECRI urged the government to take urgent measures to protect Roma from being forcibly evicted, and to ensure that measures to improve housing conditions consider the need to integrate Roma with the general population.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development and the municipal authority of the town of Sabinov were found to have discriminated against Roma by evicting them from municipally owned apartments in the town centre. Both the ministry and the municipality appealed against the decision.
In October, the Ostrovany municipality began building a wall dividing the Roma settlement from the rest of the village. The initiative was criticized by the government’s Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities, who said that construction of the wall raised concerns about segregation and potential violation of the law.
Forced sterilization of Romani women
In a response to the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review, Slovakia announced that it had adopted legislative measures, including requiring health workers to seek informed consent for sterilization and the definition of a new criminal offence of “illegal sterilization”. However, according to the Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa pre občianske a ľudské práva), the Ministry of Health Care failed to issue any implementing guidelines on sterilizations and informed consent for health workers. In addition, the authorities were still failing to carry out thorough, impartial and effective investigations into all cases of alleged forced sterilizations.
In April, in the case of K.H. and others v. Slovakia, the European Court of Human Rights found Slovakia in violation of the right to private and family life and the right to access to court. The case involved eight Romani women who suspected that the reason for their infertility might be that a sterilization procedure was performed on them during their Caesarean delivery in hospitals in eastern Slovakia. The women were refused full access to the official documentation relating to their medical treatment. The Court ruled that the state must give access to files containing personal data, and must permit copies to be made. The government requested that the case be reviewed by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
Torture and other ill-treatment
There were some positive developments in legal cases regarding police officers accused of torture, and at least one further report of ill-treatment by officers was received.
- In September, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentences of six former police officers who were convicted of ill-treatment and the unlawful death of Karol Sendrei, a 51-year-old Romani man who died in police custody in 2001. The two officers principally responsible were sentenced to eight and a half years’ imprisonment.
- Seven police officers were accused of ill-treating six Romani boys in Košice police station in April, after a newspaper published graphic video footage of the abuse. In May, the General Prosecutor informed Amnesty International that racial motivation would be considered.
Counter-terror and security
In December, Mustafa Labsi, an Algerian national, escaped from the camp for asylum-seekers in the village of Rohovce. He was detained in Austria, where he was still held at the end of the year pending his return to Slovakia. Mustafa Labsi had been convicted in his absence in Algeria of crimes of terrorism and sentenced to life imprisonment. Algeria requested his extradition in 2007. In 2008 the Constitutional Court in Slovakia had ruled that he could not be deported to Algeria where he faced serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment.
In October the regional court in Bratislava upheld a decision by the Migration Office to reject Mustafa Labsi’s application for asylum. In December, his lawyer appealed against the judgement to the Supreme Court.
Right to health
In June, parliament adopted an Amendment to the Law on Health Care and Health Care Services, introducing a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion on request. This breaches WHO guidelines which state that waiting periods unnecessarily delay care and decrease safety. The Amendment also stipulated that personal data such as identity numbers should be collected to record the women seeking abortions.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Slovakia in September.
- Slovakia: Joint open letter regarding case of police abuse of Romani boys
- Slovakia: Roma children still lose out – segregation persists in Slovak schools despite new law
- Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcome on Slovakia: Amnesty International urges enhanced protection of the human rights of Roma