Discrimination against Roma continued and little progress was made towards realizing Roma pupils’ right to education. Slovakia continued to be the subject of a race equality infringement procedure by the European Commission.
In March, Prime Minister Fico’s party, Direction-Social Democracy, won the parliamentary elections, while losing its overall majority, and formed a four-party coalition government. The far-right party, People’s Party – Our Slovakia, entered Parliament for the first time with 14 seats. On 1 July, Slovakia assumed the rotating six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Discrimination – Roma
Police and security forces
There was concern over the continued lack of effective investigation and lengthy proceedings in several cases of excessive use of force by police against Roma. In July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Slovakia had failed to adequately investigate allegations of police ill-treatment of a Roma man in detention in 2010.
In August, the government announced that the Law on Police would be amended to move the Department of Control and Inspection Service (SKIS) under the Prosecutor General’s office – rather than it being under the Ministry of Interior – in order to increase SKIS’ independence. However, a fully independent and transparent police accountability mechanism was not in place at the end of the year.
Several investigations into police ill-treatment of Roma were pending at the end of the year. In November, the investigation by the SKIS into the alleged excessive use of force by police during an operation in the Roma settlement of Vrbnica in April 2015 resulted in criminal charges being brought against the police officer who led the raid. However, the SKIS found that there was insufficient evidence to charge other police officers involved; the decision was appealed by the Roma families in December.
SKIS’ investigation into police officers’ conduct during an operation in the Roma settlement at Moldava nad Bodvou in June 2013 was discontinued in March 2016. The victims, supported by the European Roma Rights Centre and the Centre for Civil and Human Rights, appealed against this decision; the case was pending before the Constitutional Court at the end of the year.
Following the Public Prosecutor’s appeal, the acquittal of 10 police officers accused of ill-treatment of six Roma boys at a police station in Košice in 2009 was quashed in April and the case sent back to the District Court.
Right to education
An amendment to the Schools Act prohibiting the placement of children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds in “special” schools solely based on their socioeconomic background came into force in January.
However, Roma children continued to be over-represented in “special” schools and classes for children with “mild mental disabilities” and were placed in ethnically segregated mainstream schools and classes. Despite ongoing infringement proceedings, initiated by the European Commission in 2015 against Slovakia for breaching the prohibition of discrimination set out in the EU Racial Equality Directive in relation to the access to education of Roma, there was no evidence of the government taking any effective measures to prevent or tackle the issue. This was highlighted by the European Commission in its annual assessment of Roma integration plans, as well as by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
A public interest case, initiated in 2015 by the Centre for Civil and Human Rights against the Ministry of Education and the municipality of Stará Ľubovňa for the segregation of Roma children at a primary school, was dismissed by the District Court in Bratislava on 6 October 2016. The Centre appealed against the decision; the case was pending at the end of the year.
In February, the Košice II District Court ruled that the Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Košice unlawfully subjected a Roma woman to a forced sterilization in 1999. The woman had been subjected to the procedure without her informed consent after giving birth through a caesarean section. It took Slovak courts over 10 years to conclude the case and award the victim €17,000 in compensation. An appeal by the hospital was pending at the end of the year.
Counter-terror and security
Anti-terrorism provisions introduced into the Constitution, the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as several other laws, came into force in January. They include the extension of the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 96 hours for individuals suspected of terrorism-related offences.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Despite placing “sustainable migration” high on its agenda during its EU presidency, Slovakia continued to oppose mandatory relocation quotas for refugees from other EU member states but expressed a willingness to accept 100 refugees from Greece and Italy by the end of 2017 on a voluntary basis. Only three families were relocated from Greece by the end of the year.
In August, the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights and the State Trade Inspectorate concluded that the owners of a guesthouse in Bratislava discriminated against three Turkish students. The owners had rejected their booking request based on a policy of “not accepting people from Turkey or Arab countries due to security reasons”.
Prime Minister Fico continued to publicly associate Muslims and refugees with terrorism and used anti-migrant rhetoric. The People’s Party – Our Slovakia organized anti-Roma and anti-immigration marches in January, March, June, July and October.