Parliament rejected the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. Concerns persisted over widespread discrimination against the Roma including in education and allegations of unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police and the lack of an independent oversight mechanism to investigate allegations of unlawful use of force.
In March, voters elected Slovakia’s first female president on an anti-corruption platform.
In March, a businessman was charged with ordering the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée in 2018. In April, a former soldier was charged with carrying out the killings. The journalist had been investigating various allegations of irregularities in public procurement, some of which involved the businessman charged with ordering his murder. Several months before his death, Ján Kuciak had filed a criminal complaint against the same man, alleging he had made direct threats against him.
Discrimination – Roma
In August, the Constitutional Court awarded compensation to a group of Roma, represented by the Centre for Civil and Human Rights NGO, for the delays they had experienced in a 13-year search for justice against discrimination. They had first turned to the courts in 2006 after staff at a village pub in eastern Slovakia refused to serve them because of their ethnic origin.
Police and security forces
Allegations of excessive use of force by the police against Roma persisted, alongside a lack of independent scrutiny.
In June, the Public Defender of Human Rights criticized the failure of the police inspectorate to investigate allegations that police had used excessive force during an operation in the Roma settlement of Moldava nad Bodvou in June 2013, resulting in injuries to over 30 individuals including children. In the absence of a domestic remedy, eight of the Roma brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights which was ongoing at the end of the year. The Public Defender also raised concerns about police investigations into six of the victims for allegedly falsely accusing the police of wrongdoing.
Right to education
In January, the Government updated action plans for the 2020 Roma Inclusion Strategy, one of the objectives of which is to address the racial school segregation of Roma. Despite these commitments, concerns over racial discrimination against Roma children in education persisted. A report commissioned by the Ministry of Finance identified systemic shortcomings and continuing discrimination of Roma in access to education (as well as employment and healthcare). It raised concerns that Roma children were often educated in separate classes in mainstream schools, and that over half of the pupils in “special schools” for children with mental disabilities were Roma and/or recipients of welfare.
Similar concerns were expressed during the year by other bodies, including the European Commission, which escalated the infringement proceedings against Slovakia for breaching the EU’s equality legislation in October. The Commission gave the government two months to take measures to address the systematic discrimination and segregation of Roma children in education; otherwise, it could decide to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU. In November, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)called on the government to take immediate steps to increase the integration of Roma children who are currently in special schools and classes into mainstream education.
In June, the Centre for Civil and Human Rights raised concerns over the ongoing failure of the government to take responsibility for forced sterilizations of Roma women, and ensure the survivors have access to remedy. A 2018 proposal by the Public Defender of Human Rights to adopt special legislation providing a framework for adequate compensation to the victims of these violations had not been actioned by the end of the year. In November, the CESCR called on Slovakia to ensure full, independent and transparent investigation of cases of forced sterilization of Roma women, and to provide remedies to all victims thereof.
In March, the parliament refused to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). NGOs working with survivors of domestic violence raised concerns at the authorities’ continued failure to adequately address domestic violence and provide sufficient funding for support services.
Attempts in Parliament to further restrict access to and to criminalize abortion continued. In September and October, the Parliament rejected four such proposals, including one from the far-right People’s Party, Our Slovakia, which would have shortened the permitted limit until which an abortion could be performed from 12 to eight weeks. In December, amidst protests of rights organizations, the MPs rejected another draft legislation that would have forced women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound scan of the embryo or foetus. The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe called on the parliament to reject the law, which would jeopardize human rights.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In August, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) intervened against a separation of an Afghan asylum-seeking family and prevented the authorities from transferring the mother and four children to the Netherlands, under the Dublin III Regulation. An NGO, Human Rights League, campaigned on the case.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In July, a year after the Slovak authorities extradited Aslan Yandiev to the Russian Federation, he was sentenced to 19 years‘ imprisonment. Two of the three witnesses withdrew their statements on grounds that they had been extracted under torture. Amnesty International had been among those denouncing his extradition, as there was evidence that he would face real risks of torture and other ill-treatment if returned, in violation of Slovakia’s obligations under international law.